Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it’s nice to have the comforts of home as you travel the highways and byways. Trailblazer checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
This month, we chatted with four-time Indy 500 winner, Helio Castroneves.
By Cele & Lynn Seldon
With a run at being the greatest of all time this summer at the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves is obviously excited about the possibilities. With four wins already under his belt, the São Paulo, Brazil, native and now-Florida resident is tied with four other racers as the winningest driver in IndyCar history. And a win at the race over Memorial Day weekend would catapult him into history. “It would be amazing,” he told us recently by phone. “Nobody on the planet has done this. Records are made to be broken and I know lots of people who would love to see history in the making. For me, it would be outstanding.”
These are understandable words coming from a man who started racing go karts in 1987 at the tender age of 12 and progressed to car racing at 16, with his first Indy win in 2001. And, to top it off, he’s also a Dancing with the Stars mirror ball trophy winner for his performance with professional dancer, Julianne Hough, in the fifth season of the long-running show. That’s what we call a true renaissance man. We caught up with Castroneves a month before his attempt at his fifth IndyCar win to talk about his career and his new American Coach RV.
You are going for your fifth Indy win next month. How are you feeling about that?
I’m feeling fantastic. I’ve got an incredible team. I’m surrounded by great people. We’re going to fight for it. I cannot guarantee the end result because that’s out of my control. I can only give my
100 percent best.
Did you ever imagine that when you first started go-karting when you were a boy that anyone would ask you a question like that?
Yes I did. I still have that passion about this sport. This is all I’ve been doing my entire life. I just love it. Weekends off for me-it’s just not right. I’ve got to be right there with the smell of the oil, the noise of the car. Those are the things that I enjoy.
And how about your win on Dancing with the Stars? What was that like?
That was great! It was very hard work. I have to say that people underestimate those dancers. They are incredible athletes. I knew how hard it would be, but not that much. I discovered muscles in my feet that I never knew existed. I had an amazing time.
I understand speedskater and Dancing with the Stars winner Apolo Ohno encouraged you to participate. Had you been a dancer previously?
In ten minutes, he described how Dancing with the Stars changed his life. He had won so many Olympic medals and people recognized him afterwards because of Dancing with the Stars. In those ten minutes, I decided that I would try it, knowing I’d be eliminated first. I thought, I’m just going to go for it and have a good time. And it happened just like he said it would. I had won two Indy 500s and people didn’t even realize that I was a race driver. They thought I was a dancer that could drive a car, not a race driver that could dance.
How did you first get into RVing?
It was in 2014. I’ve been racing way longer than that-since 1998-and I’ve seen teammates and other drivers being on the RV side. I didn’t think I was ready. It was just me and I wanted the hotels and to leave the track. In 2014, my daughter and my wife started coming to the races and it was becoming more of a hassle. They needed a place to stay, and it was absolutely awesome. You just finish
the race, and you are right there.
When did you get your first RV?
I got my first RV in March 2016.
What are you diving now?
I’m now in a 2018 45-foot customized American Eagle from American Coach.
[Author’s Note: Although Castroneves didn’t mention it in detail, his American Eagle features enviable amenities like white cabinetry in the kitchen; modern, teak-style cabinetry elsewhere; custom bunk beds, each with its own TV and an electric shade that can be lowered for privacy; massaging captain’s chairs in the cab; heated tile flooring throughout; a full-size stainless steel refrigerator; dishwasher; quartz countertops; his-and-her vanities in the master bath; a walk-in waterfall shower; and a stacked washer and dryer.]
What’s your favorite thing about staying in your RV versus a hotel room?
The convenience of it being right there. You’re saving so much on travel time. If you just want to zone out, if there is a lot going on, you can have time for yourself. It’s a great reset button, especially at the racetrack.
What are your three favorite things onboard?
The bunk beds for my daughter, especially the electronic curtain that hides the bunk beds. My daughter is a bit of a mess, and no one can see.
I like the double sink in the master bathroom. Nothing is shared. Not that I mind sharing. But sometimes women have a tendency to migrate. And the color of the wood. It’s a caramel color. It’s so modern. But it’s cozy modern versus cold modern.
What do you enjoy doing in the RV?
Most of the time I’m on the phone or doing email. When the family is together, we watch a movie. It’s very comfortable.
Do you cook onboard?
It’s pretty simple. Sandwiches. We sleep in it, too, usually at racetracks. But we’ve also stayed at rest areas.
Do you drive it from place to place or do you have a driver?
I have a driver.
Have you ever driven it?
I did. It was very scary. It’s too big for me. I’m more used to the small cars. It’s too close to the other cars. I’m sweating too much. I prefer to be a passenger. The ride is amazing! It’s better than your ordinary car—it’s so smooth.
When you aren’t racing (or dancing), what do you enjoy doing?
I’ve sort of retired from dancing. I usually spend time with the family.
I also own a dealership with Jeff Penske, my former boss – I raced with Penske
for over 20 years, and his nephew in New Holland, Pennsylvania. We have seven brands including Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Isuzu. I travel to Brazil. I now have a place in Columbia. I go to recharge, and I come back energized.
Editor’s note: Castroneves was interviewed for this article ahead of the Memorial Day weekend Indianapolis 500. Castroneves finished 7th in the 2022 Indy 500. With four total Indy wins in his lifetime, he’s considered one of the best.