Helio Castroneves has been racing in the Indy 500 for two decades, so he knows how Indianapolis residents get during May.
He knows about the checkered decorations and the Indy 500 flags that line the streets surrounding Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the city it calls home.
To really catch him off guard, your decorations need something that pops — something like a life-size figure depicting him climbing a chain-link fence while celebrating his 2009 Indy 500 win.
That’s exactly what Jameson and Kimmy Terzini had.
“What’s Helio doing over there,” Castroneves said when he pulled up to their house on the north side of downtown Saturday and saw the replica.
For the second consecutive year, IMS wanted to repay its season-ticket holders after the coronavirus pandemic kept them out of their seats for last year’s race and led to limited capacity for Sunday’s running.
Racers started Saturday with the annual drivers meeting, which was held at Pagoda Plaza before taking part in the 500 Spectacle of Homes reverse parade, which took the place of the usual 500 Festival Parade.
Drivers departed from IMS after the meeting and headed down Main Street in Speedway before going to Monument Circle for a short ceremony. Castroneves and five other drivers then made their way to designated homes of season ticket holders.
Kimmy Terzini got the call Monday from IMS telling her Castroneves would be coming to their house. When she informed Jameson, the decorating process began — or at least went up a notch.
“We pulled everything we had out of the house,” Jameson said. “We’ve got a lot of memorabilia after going several years, so we decided to put it in the front yard instead of the living room.”
Jameson said it took a few hours to get the replica together. He included some decals from Castroneves’ uniform along with aviators under the helmet. Jameson also searched for images of Castroneves’ helmet to best replicate it.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Castroneves said. “For me, it’s special because when I climb the fence I climb to celebrate with the fans. When they decorate their house with that, it shows they appreciate. I’m so honored to have fans like I have.”
Jameson and Kimmy have been season ticket holders for about 10 years. For Jameson, this will be his 20th Indy 500.
Jameson joked about getting a yellow volunteer shirt and sneaking his way into last year’s race, but ultimately the Terzinis held a watch party at home like most other fans.
Being unable to attend not only disconnected passionate fans from the race, but it also represented what many had been missing through the pandemic. The Spectacle of Homes not only reconnected fans with the drivers, but it also connected the Terzinis with their neighbors as they voiced their support for the effort Jameson and Kimmy were putting toward their decorations.
“(IMS) realized that (Indy 500) is such a big part of Indianapolis,” Jameson said. “To stay part of it, you’ve got to be engaged with it and promote positive thinking, positive inclusion — all the stuff that helps build a community and strengthens it. They’ve done a good job of engaging with the fans, the community and different groups around the city.”
As Castroneves seeks his fourth Indy 500 title Sunday, the return and engagement of fans only builds his motivation.
“I take the positive energy from the fans, and I’m glad that they allow me to do that because it makes me keep going,” Castroneves said. “It makes me fight for it. I’m going to rip out there.”
If that dream of winning again comes true for Castroneves, what will he do as the celebration at IMS winds down? There’s a beer waiting for him at the Terzini home.