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IndyCar Detroit

IndyCar Leaders Circle points behind MSR call to bench Blomqvist

Meyer Shank Racing decided to bench IndyCar Series rookie Tom Blomqvist for Detroit this weekend due its concern over missing out on the Leaders Circle, Helio Castroneves has revealed.

Helio Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves, who also shares a minor ownership role within MSR, has been called upon to substitute for Blomqvist in the #66 Honda-powered entry in Detroit and will remain in the car for next week's round at Road America.

The decision to pull the sportscar convert came after he crashed at Turn 1 on the opening lap of last week's Indy 500. In five points-paying rounds this season, Blomqvist has a best finish of 15th at St. Petersburg and three results worse than 22nd.

Those finishes have only intensified the concern for MSR’s place with the entry in the Leaders Circle, which pays out more than $1 million for those that place in the top 22 spots (of the 25 eligible cars) at the end of the year.

MSR's #66 entry is currently in a three-way tie for 22nd with AJ Foyt Racing’s #41 and Ed Carpenter Racing’s #20 at 46 points apiece.

“The truth is the Leaders Circle, we've got to get some points there,” said Castroneves.

“We've got to be able to not have the same situation that we had last year. And this is a track that Tom has never been to, so we decided just a little more experience would be better for us to hopefully, collect points and move forward.”

Blomqvist won the IMSA SportsCar Championship title with MSR in 2022, claiming back-to-back victories in the Daytona 24 Hours with Castroneves as part of the driving line-up.

He switched over to MSR's IndyCar programme last season initially as a replacement for Simon Pagenaud, when he was concussed in a violent accident at Mid-Ohio, before being signed to a full-time deal for 2024.

Castroneves stressed that the decision to bench Blomqvist was taken at this relatively early stage in the 17-race campaign, rather than giving him more time to adapt, because “we have to stop the bleeding right now”.

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda, crash

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Marcus Ericsson, Andretti Global Honda, crash

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

“Let's stop the bleeding first and then consider what's happening moving forward,” said the Brazilian, who called time on his full-time IndyCar career last season.

“But as of right now, we just want to make sure we put the car into some positions to get in the top 22 and then we can continue.”

Castroneves stressed that Blomqvist's inexperience on the temporary street circuit was also a factor in the timing of the decision.

“Coming to a place that he's never been probably is not gonna help,” Castroneves said. “If you think about it, you know, makes sense. And he understands that, too.”

Castroneves also hinted at the ovals coming up, such as the doubleheader at Iowa Speedway next month, clouding the possibility of Blomqvist's imminent return.

“We have some ovals in the future as well again,” Castroneves said. “Right now, let's focus one at a time, but this is now.”

Of note, Blomqvist is not with the team this weekend in Detroit, opting instead to go back to his home in Florida.

The 49-year-old Brazilian reiterated Blomqvist's place in the team by stating that “he will be with us as long as he wants” but, when asked about when he expects Blomqvist back behind the wheel of his Indycar this year, Castroneves was non-committal.

“As of right now, we're going one at a time,” he added. “That's what we want to want to focus on.”

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