Helio Castroneves was inspired during a tour of the multi-faceted Honda Manufacturing of Alabama facility April 8 in Lincoln. Can you picture the “Dancing with the Stars” champion driving a minivan around South Florida? Odyssey minivans are produced at the expansive facility – along with the Pilot Sport Utility Vehicle, Ridgeline pick-up truck, Accord V-6 sedan and V-6 engines — and one with a 523-horsepower engine was on display.
“I’m a father now, so I need to look for this kind of car, instead of the Lamborghinis and Ferraris,” said Castroneves, whose daughter, Mikaella, is 3½ months old. “I think a lot of moms and dads would love to have that car with that much horsepower.” He joined fellow IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Alex Tagliani, Sarah Fisher, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti in greeting associates in every area, signing autographs and posing for photos.
It was one of multiple plant visits throughout the season for drivers. The next is April 19 at Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, Calif. “We were on the assembly line of the Odyssey and Ridgeline and I thought it was very interesting (about how) they make the engine blocks from scratch – from really raw materials – to what you see on the streets,” Castroneves said. There have been other recent life changes for the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion. He recently moved from Coral Gables, Fla., to Ft. Lauderdale, and he’s putting the finishing touches on a book to be published June 1.
“I moved close to my buddy Gil de Ferran, who has kept me out of trouble,” Castroneves joked. “Really, I just wanted to start fresh with my daughter and my future wife – my family. I’m extremely happy, and I think now the sky is the limit.”