Castroneves

Two familiar goals the focus for Helio Castroneves in 2014

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Is it possible to be the runner-up finisher in the championship, yet be somewhat overshadowed entering the dawn of the new year?

For Team Penske’s stalwart and longtime flagship driver, Helio Castroneves, it is… kind of. Because the words “Castroneves” and “overshadowed” should rarely, if ever, be used in the same sentence to describe the ebullient Brazilian, who’s one of the faces of IndyCar.

But as it is, Penske made the signing splash to kick off IndyCar’s silly season with the recruiting of Juan Pablo Montoya to the team in September, back from NASCAR, to drive a third car. Montoya’s frequent preseason testing in his re-acclimation back to open-wheel racing has been a key headline.

Then Will Power finished 2013 on a tear, winning three of the final five races, and has participated in many of Penske and IndyCar’s offseason projects. Power, whose dry humor is finally being recognized at large, has starred in Team Penske’s “The Penske File” series of videos, and also done some work for IndyCar’s social media this winter. With his primary sponsor Verizon, there’s a lot of activation to be done with the Australian.

Castroneves has been featured this offseason as well. He’s 38 entering the year and into his 15th full-time season with Penske since joining in 2000.

Some of the familiar story lines and same goals exist entering 2014, as he has had each year for the past five.

Win that elusive fourth Indianapolis 500. And win that elusive first series championship.

“Yesterday’s news,” Castroneves joked, acutely, during IndyCar media day in Orlando.

“(For the title) I have the right line with God, to be honest, and with the Pope, too, especially with John Paul,” he said. “He said, ‘When the time comes.’”

And the time nearly came in 2013, in a season that saw Castroneves nearly reach the peak of the summit after one of the best seasons of his career.

Castroneves scored a win at Texas and was the model of consistency, with top-10 finishes in all but one of the first 16 races. He had finished every lap through that point, too.

Of course, the Houston double-header weekend was a painful one. Despite his and the team’s efforts, they came up short two weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.

But Castroneves is bullish about 2014. In short, his old sparring partner from the CART days has amplified the determination within the Team Penske operation. The level of respect is mutual between Castroneves and JPM, and his new presence should push the team forward.

“I feel we’re in a different phase of our lives, there is a lot going around, and we’ve accomplished a lot in our career,” Castroneves said. “I guess you can call that mature.

“Honestly, it’s amazing to have him in our side. He’s been an incredible addition, and I mean that. He’s definitely going to be a tough competitor.

“Most of what I noticed, which I knew he would be quick adapting on the car, but most of it’s the information that he brought, that I was very surprised and happy about.  Certainly it’s going to make our cars better.”

Castroneves and Montoya are also two of the “name” drivers in the series, whose presence extends beyond the borders of the I-465 corridor (bubble) that IndyCar sometimes finds itself in.

They’re in the older guard, but they’re both iconic in American open-wheel history. Castroneves relishes the role he’ll need to play from that standpoint this year, as fellow veteran Dario Franchitti was forced to retire in the offseason due to injury.

“Dario, for me, I can’t say for others, but for me he was certainly an amazing competitor, an amazing driver first of all,” Castroneves said. “Second, my competitors, they make me better.  Not having Dario, for sure I’m not going to be as good as I was before.”

Internally, the bonding appears to be there. Castroneves said he, Montoya and Power have all worked well throughout testing and are starting to develop that key word in racing: chemistry.

“What I’m actually happy about so far, is we seem to be speaking in the same way, which is one way: win for Roger.  We want to win this title as bad as anybody else,” he said.

And about that title. It’s been since 2006, when Sam Hornish Jr. captured the crown, that Team Penske has won the IndyCar Series championship.

Montoya’s 1999 CART title achieved with Chip Ganassi Racing is the only combined one in the bank for the three of them.

But the odds of a Penske title are better with the third full-time car added. Castroneves certainly has the desire and the determination to go one better in 2014 – perhaps on the strength of better qualifying efforts and converting a few of those 2013 top-10s into 2014 top-fives.

Say this much, though. You’ll hear plenty from Castroneves throughout the year, and likely, he’ll be working tirelessly to be at the head of the Penske queue in 2014.

NHRA: John Force, Tony Schumacher earn first wins in over a year

NHRA winners Sunday at Denver (left to right): Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
(Photos, videos courtesy NHRA)
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It was like old times in Sunday’s final round of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver.

For the first time in over a year, the two winningest drivers in nitro fuel history reached the winner’s circle.

John Force, winningest driver in NHRA annals, earned his 144th career Funny Car victory, while Tony Schumacher, winningest driver in the Top Fuel ranks, earned his 81st career win in a dragster.

Also earning wins at the Morrison, Colorado track were Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Force (3.965 seconds/319.45 mph) defeated daughter Courtney (3.963/314.75) in the Funny Car final. Not only was it John Force’s first win since June 2015, it was also the seventh of his career at Denver.

“I didn’t have a monkey on my back, it was a gorilla,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I needed this real bad. I told Courtney I love her, but I am giving this everything I’ve got.

“Let’s face it, we’ve been getting beat up lately by the Schumacher and Kalitta teams. It’s a great day to come here and look like we know what we’re doing.”

https://youtu.be/UI1w0vVD3k4

At 67, the elder Force becomes the oldest driver to win a NHRA Funny Car race.

“Let’s face it, the competition is the best I’ve ever seen,” said Force, who became the first Funny Car driver to ever break the four-second barrier at Bandimere Speedway. “It’s tough to race my little girl there and it was a close one. I can do this game. I love it. I don’t have anywhere to go. I am going to keep doing this. I want to keep building this sport.”

As for Schumacher, he won for the third time in his career at Bandimere, notching his first win since early July 2015 (at his home track, Route 66 Raceway, in suburban Chicago).

Schumacher (3.802 seconds at 324.28 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown (5.199/144.75) after the latter slowed at half-track in the final round to earn the victory.

“To win one of these trophies you have to beat some bad dudes, and we beat a bunch of them today from Doug Kalitta to Antron Brown,” said Schumacher, who outran Kalitta in round one, top qualifier Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals and Clay Millican in the semis to advance to the final round meeting with Brown. “I’ve enjoyed great moments in racing during my career, but coming back from a huge deficit when people have counted you out like we have done this weekend is the most satisfying to me.”

https://youtu.be/Op5NgZGDENk

But there was good news for defending series champ Brown, even in defeat: he remains in the lead of the Top Fuel standings, holding a 57-point edge over second-ranked Doug Kalitta.

In Pro Stock, Johnson (6.982 seconds at 197.34 mph) won for a record seventh time at Bandimere (along with three other runner-up finishes), defeating Vincent Nobile (7.037/196.82).

“We stunk the place up all weekend during qualifying,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have given us a one percent chance to win all weekend. The magic up here is just on our side for some reason.”

Johnson becomes the first driver other than points leaders Jason Line or Greg Anderson to win a Pro Stock race this season. Line and Anderson combined to win the first 13 races of the 24-race season.

https://youtu.be/V-t0GeWTKbY

“I am sure I am speaking for everyone in the pits, but to break that juggernaut is big,” Johnson said. “We might have got a break or two along the way, but I guess that was that mountain magic. It was great to win here for all the great Denver and Mopar fans and to get the win on live TV on FOX.”

Sunday’s race was a milestone in NHRA history as it marked the first time in the sanctioning body’s 65 years that a race was televised on national network television (FOX TV).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (7.134 seconds at 188.33 mph) became the winningest two-wheel rider in history, earning his 45th career triumph, defeating teammate Eddie Krawiec (7.148/187.21).

In addition, it was Hines’ third win of the season.

https://youtu.be/NAcEDV9T5U4

“Coming back to win on the mountain, it means a lot,” Hines said. “My team has had my motorcycle really dialed in right now. It is our third final in a row and I am just riding the wave. I don’t think I’ve ever put eight runs like that together in a weekend. The bike is such a joy to ride right now.”

The annual “Western Swing” continues next weekend (July 29-31) at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Tony Schumacher; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Clay Millican; 4.  J.R. Todd; 5.  Shawn Langdon; 6. Richie Crampton; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Steve Torrence; 9.  Doug Kalitta; 10.  Scott Palmer; 11. Chris Karamesines; 12.  Bill Litton; 13.  Terry Haddock; 14.  Rob Passey; 15.  Leah Pritchett; 16. Terry McMillen.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  John Force; 2.  Courtney Force; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Del Worsham; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. Matt Hagan; 7.  John Hale; 8.  Ron Capps; 9.  Jack Beckman; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Todd Simpson; 12.  Chad Head; 13.  Cruz Pedregon; 14.  Jim Campbell; 15.  Jeff Diehl; 16.  Tim Wilkerson.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Vincent Nobile; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Greg Anderson; 5.  Bo Butner; 6.  Alex Laughlin; 7.  Erica Enders; 8.  Chris McGaha; 9.  Shane Gray; 10.  Jeg Coughlin; 11.  Richie Stevens; 12.  Drew Skillman; 13.  Deric Kramer; 14.  Matt Hartford; 15.  Alan Prusiensky.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Eddie Krawiec; 3.  Jerry Savoie; 4.  LE Tonglet; 5.  Angelle Sampey; 6.  Chip Ellis; 7.  Cory Reed; 8.  Matt Smith; 9.  Hector Arana Jr; 10.  Shawn Gann; 11.  Tyler Fisher; 12. Karen Stoffer; 13.  Angie Smith; 14.  Michael Ray; 15.  Scotty Pollacheck; 16.  Hector Arana.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher, 3.802 seconds, 324.28 mph  def. Antron Brown, 5.199 seconds, 144.75 mph.

Funny Car: John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.965, 319.45  def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.963, 314.75.

Pro Stock: Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.982, 197.39  def. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 7.037, 196.82.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.134, 188.33  def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.148, 187.21.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.788, 321.19 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.832, 320.74; Clay Millican, 3.821, 316.23 def. Terry Haddock, 4.284, 286.80; Antron Brown, 3.870, 308.28 def. Rob Passey, 4.396, 208.91; Steve Torrence, 3.843, 321.35 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.089, 297.02; Richie Crampton, 4.113, 280.37 def. Bill Litton, 4.178, 280.49; Brittany Force, 3.829, 317.05 def. Terry McMillen, 5.684, 125.96; J.R. Todd, 3.844, 318.62 def. Scott Palmer, 4.019, 282.78; Shawn Langdon, 4.288, 194.97 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.877, 181.45;

QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.840, 317.05 def. Langdon, 3.831, 316.90; Millican, 3.857, 313.80 def. Force, 4.204, 271.95; Todd, 3.841, 322.11 def. Crampton, 3.862, 312.57; Schumacher, 4.083, 275.73 def. Torrence, 4.381, 194.49;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.839, 319.90 def. Millican, 3.841, 317.49; Brown, 3.826, 307.86 def. Todd, 3.915, 274.05;

FINAL — Schumacher, 3.802, 324.28 def. Brown, 5.199, 144.75.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.047, 316.45 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.078, 301.47; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.972, 315.42 def. Jim Campbell, Toyota Camry, 5.964, 126.59; John Force, Camaro, 4.001, 312.35 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.219, 94.02; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.024, 317.12 def. Todd Simpson, Camaro, 4.411, 230.57; John Hale, Charger, 4.303, 240.64 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.324, 232.71; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.992, 320.58 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.846, 123.67; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.039, 318.62 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, Broke – No Show; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.041, 306.40 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.001, 158.93;

QUARTERFINALS — J. Force, 4.038, 310.98 def. Hagan, 4.050, 317.64; C. Force, 4.016, 315.56 def. Johnson Jr., 4.032, 315.71; Hight, 3.997, 322.81 def. Hale, 4.161, 289.38; Worsham, 4.052, 317.42 def. Capps, 4.399, 213.27;

SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.005, 316.60 def. Worsham, 4.054, 315.78; C. Force, 3.937, 322.04 def. Hight, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — J. Force, 3.965, 319.45 def. C. Force, 3.963, 314.75.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 7.000, 197.13 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 7.026, 195.62; Allen Johnson, Dart, 7.000, 196.59 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 7.047, 197.74; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.995, 197.22 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 7.054, 195.73; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.945, 198.47 def. Richie Stevens, Dart, 7.033, 195.85; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 15.319, 55.23 was unopposed; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.025, 196.22 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.992, 198.12; Erica Enders, Dart, 6.970, 197.42 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 7.989, 188.31; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.959, 197.94 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 7.049, 195.14;

QUARTERFINALS — Nobile, 7.031, 196.50 def. Laughlin, Foul – Red Light; Anderson, 6.998, 197.25 def. McGaha, 7.020, 196.24; Johnson, 7.000, 196.53 def. Enders, 7.006, 195.62; Line, 6.977, 197.57 def. Butner, 6.979, 197.86; SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.986, 196.42 def. Anderson, 6.968, 197.19; Nobile, 16.014, 52.83 def. Line, Foul – Red Light; FINAL — Johnson, 6.982, 197.39 def. Nobile, 7.037, 196.82.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Cory Reed, Buell, 7.234, 183.49 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.278, 184.09; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.204, 185.89 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.320, 182.26; Chip Ellis, Buell, 15.210, 93.84 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.204, 183.49 def. Hector Arana, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.230, 184.09 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.285, 183.82; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.234, 184.77 def. Tyler Fisher, Suzuki, 7.284, 182.90; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.213, 184.90 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.370, 179.85; Matt Smith, 7.251, 183.67 def. Angie Smith, 7.314, 180.00;

QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 7.221, 184.35 def. Sampey, 7.299, 184.35; Tonglet, 7.304, 182.33 def. M.Smith, 16.874, 44.19; Krawiec, 7.245, 184.37 def. Ellis, 7.317, 183.42; Hines, 7.234, 184.77 def. Reed, 12.995, 60.23;

SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 7.218, 186.23 def. Savoie, 7.227, 184.42; Hines, 7.151, 187.34 def. Tonglet, 7.228, 184.90;

FINAL — Hines, 7.134, 188.33 def. Krawiec, 7.148, 187.21.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 1,145; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 1,088; 3.  Steve Torrence, 982; 4.  Brittany Force, 953; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 916; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 800; 7.  J.R. Todd, 799; 8.  Clay Millican, 681; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10.  Leah Pritchett, 553.

Funny Car: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,120; 2.  Courtney Force, 998; 3.  Jack Beckman, 976; 4.  Matt Hagan, 881; 5. (tie) Robert Hight, 877; Del Worsham, 877; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 855; 8.  John Force, 821; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 793; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 733.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 1,548; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,466; 3.  Bo Butner, 955; 4.  Allen Johnson, 885; 5. Vincent Nobile, 758; 6.  Drew Skillman, 753; 7.  Chris McGaha, 661; 8.  Shane Gray, 658; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 613; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 595.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 742; 2.  Andrew Hines, 633; 3.  Angelle Sampey, 534; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 500; 5. Chip Ellis, 386; 6.  Hector Arana, 375; 7.  LE Tonglet, 364; 8.  Matt Smith, 290; 9.  Steve Johnson, 268; 10.  Michael Ray, 262.

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Greaves car, lineup confirmed for FIA WEC’s Mexico City race

MONTEREY, CA - MAY 03:  Bruno Junqueira prepares to drive during practice for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 3, 2014 in Monterey, California.  (Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images)
Junqueira (above) back in action. Photo: Getty Images
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The LMP2 grid will grow by one for the next FIA World Endurance Championship race, the 6 Hours of Mexico City, with the confirmation of the Greaves Motorsport Gibson 015S Nissan.

Greaves will run the lineup of Roberto Gonzalez, brother of race promoter and RGR Sport by Morand team owner and co-driver Ricardo Gonzalez, along with Bruno Junqueira and Luis Diaz.

Junqueira and Roberto Gonzalez have been co-drivers in the past with the Rocketsports (RSR) team in the Prototype Challenge class of the American Le Mans Series.

Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images

Diaz (right) is another prototype class veteran, with recent PC experience (8Star Motorsports and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) added to his LMP2 days with Fernandez Racing.

All three of them also competed in Champ Car World Series races in Mexico City, with Gonzalez and Diaz part of a six-Mexican driver entry in the 2003 race (Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin).

Ricardo Gonzalez co-drives the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the WEC.

Sainz pleased to match McLaren’s pace in Hungary

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 24:  Carlos Sainz of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Spain during the Formula One Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 24, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Carlos Sainz Jr. was pleased with a “solid” performance in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand prix that saw him finish eighth for Toro Rosso.

Sainz spent much of the race in close contention with his childhood racing hero Fernando Alonso, finishing just three seconds behind the McLaren driver at the checkered flag.

The result means that Sainz has scored points in all but one race he has finished in 2016, leading Toro Rosso’s charge in the constructors’ championship.

“[A] solid race again, up to [the] pace of McLarens. Pretty pleased with that,” Sainz told NBCSN after the race.

“Fernando got us at the start and that was about it. Impossible to pass from there and he controlled it.

“But it’s a very solid weekend from the team to close the first half of the season quite well, and we’re pretty happy.”

Toro Rosso is just five points clear of McLaren in the constructors’ championship, but Sainz hopes that a step in performance next weekend in Germany will help him to open up the gap once again.

“We have a step hopefully coming in Germany, and a step forward in performance,” Sainz said.

“McLaren has got ahead of us which is a bit worrying.

“But we will try to compensate that and see if we can hold them back.”

FIA WEC confirms July date for 2017 Nürburgring round

Audi R18 (2016) #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer
Audi R18 (2016) #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval, Oliver Jarvis
© Audi Sport
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FIA World Endurance Championship officials have confirmed that next year’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring will take place on July 16.

The WEC ventured to the Nürburgring for the first time in 2015 before enjoying a successful return over the weekend, with a crowd of 58,000 fans turning up on Sunday.

During the race won by the no. 1 Porsche crew of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, it was confirmed that the WEC will return to the Nürburgring in 2017 over the July 14-16 weekend.

 

However, it was flagged up on Twitter that this is the same weekend scheduled to host the Formula E double-header in Montreal.

Around two-thirds of the Formula E grid also race in the WEC, with the two championships preventing clashes so that drivers do not have to pick between them. As a result, it seems inevitable that one of the races will have to change date.