When Helio, true to his word, returned to The Old Northside

By Jameson Terzini / Old Northside resident

The Lead Up: It was the warm and sunny morning of May 3 and my wife, Kimmy, was walking our chocolate lab, Frank, as she normally would as I got ready for work. Upon her return home she surprised me with a kit from the Harrison Arts Center that included some basic checkered flag decorations and some literature about the Greatest Spectacle of Homes (#GreatestSpectacleofHomes) event the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was putting on in lieu of the traditional 500 Festival Parade.

Together we looked into the event and realized that we could get a driver to stop by on the Saturday before the race – and since we were already planning to decorate our house for the month of May and we were going to have a “500” party that weekend, why not participate?

We love engaging in various community engagement events. They’re a very valuable resource to get to know your surroundings, your neighbors, etc. It only made sense.

Between work and whatever life has to throw at you during the course of a normal work week, we sat on the idea and the decorations for about a week as the deadline to submit the photos of the house drew closer and closer.

Kimmy and I already knew how to decorate our home. W we do it every year but how were we going to really decorate sufficiently enough to garner having a driver stop by to say hello? Boom, that’s when this whole thing really turned into a community project. One afternoon as we were out doing yard work and socializing with our neighbors, someone threw out the idea of recreating an iconic moment at the track using the porch/house as a prop. Immediately I realized one of the most memorable moments I’ve personally seen was the first time Helio Castroneves climbed the fence after his first “500” win in 2001, then again in 2002, as well as his last victory in 2009.

When you look back at the victory lap he did this year after his fourth and see all the spectators climbing the fence in solidarity, you know it’s iconic.

The last bit was challenging, yet the most fun part of the project: Build Helio climbing the fence. We did a little research, got a manakin, painted up a race suit and placed him into his “victory” stance. The whole process took maybe 10 hours total over a week and the neighbors were very helpful in providing a few resources here and there as well as great encouragement.

The Meet Up: Kimmy got a phone call from a Speedway representative on the Wednesday before the race to inform us that we had been selected as a home that would receive a driver.  When she asked who our special visitor would be they casually replied “well, of course, Helio,” according to Kimmy. At that point she called me boiling over with excitement.

One condition of the arrangement was that we shouldn’t mention it to anyone – yet because the IMS wanted to use its media platforms to inform everyone, it was a tough couple of days staying mum around our friends and playing daft when they asked if we had been selected. 

As Saturday approached we began slowly telling our friends. Another condition was to avoid large crowds, so they asked us to be selective on who we invite and to keep social distancing in our minds.

When Saturday finally arrived Kimmy and I were a bit overwhelmed. Had we invited too many people? Were we dressed appropriately? Etc. Then the local news people showed up. The neighbors started noticing a crowd slowly gathering as the anticipation built. Then, boom!

Helio embraces the Terzinis’ replica of his iconic fence-climb after his 500 victories.

A Beautiful 2022 Chevy Camaro pulled up in front of our house! Helio jumped out with excitement and introduced himself to Kimmy and me.

From the jump, the guy couldn’t have been any more warm and genuine. He explained to everyone that our enthusiasm and passion fuels his energy to “get out there and rip it up!” He then exclaimed, “C’mon everyone we need pictures; c’mon now, pictures everyone!” as he enthusiastically gestured to the group assembled on the porch.

Before you knew it, Helio started his departure, but not before acknowledging “that when we win this thing, I am coming back and celebrating with you guys!” The group roared with chants of “He-Li-o! He-Li-o! He-Li-o!” And just as fast as he got here, he was gone. The feeling was amazing. I honestly believed to myself that we just motivated the guy. Little did we know.

The Follow Up: If you live in Indianapolis and haven’t been to the 500, then I am sorry for you. Nothing can describe the enormity of the crowds/venue and the excitement of the race. This year was no exception. As we watched the Greatest Spectacle in Racing near completion, Helio was in fifth place and charging to the top. With about 10 laps to go he was in fourth; with five to go in second trailing the young fella, Alex Palou.

Our group of friends started looking at each other like “is this really happening??” Helio briefly lost the lead with just a few laps to go and we all got a bit worried – but as quickly as he had lost the position he gained it back with his crafty veteran knowledge of the Greatest Race Track in the World.

As Helio regained the lead and crossed the finish line we went absolutely bonkers; the whole place went crazy! People were climbing the fence, cheering, lingering around to see him pour the bottle of milk over his head. Whereas normally the stands start to empty with people rushing to their cars to beat the inevitable traffic jam, not this time. Nope, everyone stayed for the celebration of such an important part of history.

As we celebrated with our group of friends, the texts/calls started pouring in. Even with spotty service at the Speedway, my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing with notifications. It was an amazing feeling; we felt like we had given the newly crowned four-time winner a boost of energy that helped push him into history. Helio is just that genuine; He made us feel like we were part of the team.

After the celebration we decided to get back to our house. You know, just in case Helio wanted to come through with his promise of a follow-up visit if he won the race. We didn’t want him ringing our bell with no one at home!

Well that was naive thinking. The dude had just won the most important race of his life and had his own obligations and celebrations to attend to. We sipped champagne into Sunday night and he never showed…

Monday morning hits. We wake up and start to tidy the house up from the mess we had made celebrating the day before. As we were just reliving the moments and looking over our social media posts, Kimmy got a call. “Be home and on your porch at 3:30 p.m.,” we were told. Helio was on his way to fulfill his promise.

The Jameson and Kimmy flank Helio Castroneves, joined by a 500 Festival princess.

Overwhelmed with excitement we got to work, calling a few friends and preparing for his arrival. Someone at the Speedway notified the local news and those folks showed up, again.

That was a real trip. Kimmy and I were told from a Speedway representatve that this was totally Helio’s idea – and he only had a few minutes in between official obligations. But he wanted to be true to his word.

Then a shiny new Camaro decked out in IMS decals rounded the corner from 13th Street onto New Jersey  with Doug Boles (IMS president) driving Helio, who was sitting on the back of the convertible. What a sight! Helio jumped out and immediately came in for a massive hug to the both of us, exclaiming “We’ve done it!”

Man, that memory will last a lifetime. I mentioned earlier that Helio is one of the most genuine/humble people we’ve ever met. When he speaks, his tone, body language, eye contact, etc., are very personal and sincere. Again, he made us feel like we were just as important as the guys changing his tires during a pit stop.

Kimmy and I were gifted a few things from Helio and we snapped a few pictures with our friends holding up our “4s.” One thing I’ll never forget is when Helio remarked that his mother had taught him to be genuine and authentic, if anything, in life, and he truly embodied that philosophy. He was a man of his word.

The whole experience was beyond humbling for us in that we were so fortunate to share such a wonderful moment with our friends, family and neighbors. Everyone was part of the team. It’s one thing to show up for an obligation, but it’s beyond us that he wanted to come back without anyone telling him to. A truly genuine dude who we hope will come back and visit next year. We told him we’d keep the lights on if he ever needs a place to crash.

PHOTO ABOVE: Helio visits with Jameson Terzini (in checkered mask) and his wife, Kimmy (with sunglasses on head) in front of their Old Northside home.