INDYCAR drivers among Florida residents affected by Hurricane Irma


Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves had plenty on his mind Friday, and it wasn’t just how his car performed in a test Team Penske conducted Thursday for next week’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – a race that could bring him the career bucket-list achievement that has, so far, eluded the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

If it weren’t for the monster Hurricane Irma that is threatening his home, and those of several other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers who live in South Florida, and better travel luck, he’d have more time to think about the racing task at hand.

Unfortunately, though, Castroneves was stranded Friday evening in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after his flight to Atlanta was postponed due to mechanical issues and thinking about the ramifications of Irma, which is expected to make land fall in his adopted American home Sunday morning.

“I was supposed to be in the air right now,” Castroneves said by phone from DFW. “It’s been a little drama, but I hope all of my fellow drivers are OK. I understand Juan Pablo (Montoya) left and went to Orlando. Carlos (Munoz) has left already. Tony (Kanaan) made it to Indianapolis, so at least people are safe.”

Kanaan, his assistant, Benito Santos, and their friend, Luiz Ludovico arrived in Indianapolis at 12:04 a.m. Saturday, according to Kanaan’s Instagram story. After 27 hours, straight-through, on the road and logging 1,348 miles in a motor coach, they temporarily moved into the same home Kanaan and his family stayed in during this year’s Indianapolis 500. The men were waiting for their families to arrive at the time of Kanaan’s last video.

“This is the house that brought me luck in May and this is where we are staying today,” Kanaan said, mentioning Brad Litz, of Litz real estate, who offered the house to Kanaan earlier this week. “Thanks for taking care of my family.”

Castroneves’ family – girlfriend Adriana Henao and 7-year-old daughter Mikaella --relocated from Fort Lauderdale to the Atlanta area, where they have more family members. Castroneves, who tested Thursday at Sonoma Raceway in advance of next weekend's Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, originally planned to return home but changed his plans once the storm became more defined and his family relocated to Atlanta.

Castroneves said Friday that he thought he could get to Atlanta once the plane’s mechanical issues were resolved.

Several INDYCAR drivers live in and around South Florida, including Castroneves, Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Munoz, Ed Jones and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

All, except Sebastien Bourdais, are staying outside of the state, according to reports and social media posts. On Friday Bourdais, who lives in St. Petersburg, told The Indianapolis Star that the storms trajectory at that time did not appear to put his home in harm’s way.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s wife summed up the situation in an Instagram post of their three sons in a suitcase before relocating to Southern California.

packed up our valuables! these little guys are all that matter 💙💙💙 // home is wherever we are together // please be kind #irma

A post shared by Beccy Hunter-Reay ⚓ (@beccygordon) on

Irma is expected to be one of the most severe hurricanes to hit the United States. On Friday, Castroneves retweeted a link from NBC meteorologist Al Roker that showed a graphic comparing Irma to Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Homestead/Florida City area south of Miami in 1992.

The comparison showed that Irma is dramatically more powerful than Andrew.    

“This one is going to be big,” Castroneves said Friday.

Kanaan tweeted a similar sentiment Thursday: “Praying for Florida. This thing looks nasty.”

Jeff Olson and Cathy Kightlinger contributed to this report

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