Helio Castroneves is one of several drivers that are set to contest both the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and NTT IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, which falls on the same weekend as the Florida endurance classic.
The highly publicized clash on March 18-20 has caused several DPi teams, including Wayne Taylor Racing, to revise its Michelin Endurance Cup driver lineup, although members of Meyer Shank Racing are planning to undertake both events with the help of private jets.
Castroneves and team co-owners Mike Shank and Jim Meyer are scheduled to be in Sebring on Thurs. March 17 for practice before flying to Texas for IndyCar practice and a qualifying session for double-duty participants only on Friday afternoon.
They’ll then return to Sebring in time for Saturday’s around-the-clock race, which starts at 10:40 a.m. ET, before making the trip back to Texas in time for the 375-mile race on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
The four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, who is making a full-season return to IndyCar this year with MSR, said he’s ready for the task.
“I’m excited because I’ve never done that before,” Castroneves told Sportscar365.
“This opportunity with MSR to do both… First I’ve never won in Sebring and I definitely want to accomplish that on the IMSA side.
“Having this opportunity to do both I feel is going to be very busy, no question.
“Spending three-and-a-half years with IMSA and going back with IndyCar, every time you’re behind the steering wheel, you’re learning something.
“That’s why I took this task. I want to do it. Mike was like, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Mike, as long as you take me there and bring me back I have no problem!’
“It will be exciting and fun. It will be something different that hasn’t happened before. Why not?”
Castroneves is expected to be joined by Jimmie Johnson and potentially Scott Dixon in pulling double duty between Sebring and Texas.
According to a team spokesperson, Chip Ganassi Racing has not yet made a decision on whether the five-time IndyCar Series champion will take part in the Sebring race in the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-V.R.
It’s known that both Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud will not be pulling the double, instead focusing on IndyCar that weekend, while the status of Kyle Kirkwood, who is Vasser Sullivan’s third driver in its GTD Pro class Lexus RC F GT3, as well as being a full-time driver with AJ Foyt Racing, is unclear.
Johnson, meanwhile, is understood to be currently scheduled to both according to Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson.
“I think the two series got together with the schedules and we can get the most out of Jimmie,” Nelson told Sportscar365.
“He’s got to go to Texas [on Friday]. Rocky (Mike Rockenfeller) will qualify for us and then [Jimmie] will come back for the warmup.
“I think it’s going to work. If I were to lay out an ideal plan that wouldn’t have been it. But when we got our plan together, then these others things started changing.
“I think we’re there to win and if you miss a little practice, you’ve got a few hours in the race to get current. The end of the race is what it’s about.
“With how professional our drivers are and how much progress Jimmie has made, I think we’re going to be fine.”
Both MSR and Action Express will have the added complications of having several of its drivers splitting time between the IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship races at Sebring.
Oliver Jarvis and potentially Tom Blomqvist — both of Castroneves’ co-drivers in the No. 60 MSR Acura ARX-05 — will be taking part in the 1000 Miles of Sebring in LMP2 entries, while Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi are confirmed at both Action Express and Toyota Gazoo Racing.
“Rocky will be our baseline,” Nelson said. “The other guys will come in, Conway in the 31 and Kamui in the 48, and Jimmie in the 48 as well, they’ll miss some of the practice and some of the debriefs.
“But as professional as they are, I’m not worried.”
Castroneves added: “It will be a lot of mileage for sure but I feel it’s going to be awesome. We want to take advantage of this opportunity and hopefully do well in both.”