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Castroneves pushing on amid uncertain IndyCar future

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Despite being the Verizon IndyCar Series most recent winner and only trailing championship leader Scott Dixon by eight points heading into Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC), Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves faces a very uncertain future.

With the recent confirmation of Penske’s IMSA DPi program with Acura, Castroneves’ name has been tossed around as one of its potential drivers. However, a move to IMSA would mean the 42-year-old’s career as a full-time IndyCar driver would likely come to an end.

Even though moving to sports cars is a natural progression for open wheel drivers, Castroneves’ strong form, especially in the 2017 season, indicates he still has plenty of life left in his IndyCar career.

Nonetheless, Castroneves’ future remains unknown. However, as he explained in a press conference on Saturday in Toronto, he isn’t letting it distract him.

“To be honest, if you start thinking about the future, that’s where it starts being distracting to be honest, right at this point. The only future that I’m thinking about is the race, which is Toronto, which is only one day from now,” he asserted.

While Castroneves admits he would love to be a part of the new IMSA program in any capacity, the ultimate decision on drivers for those entries, along with his driving status for 2018 and beyond, is far from finalized.

“It’s difficult to assume, and right now there is a lot of speculation for sure, and even between when we have some conversations, we’re just still on the same page,” Castroneves added.

“I mean, the team is going to make a sports car team, and we all here would love to drive. I mean, no question about it. We would like to drive whatever they have an opportunity, like you have in the past. But at the moment, there is no commitment, no official decision, and I’m just focused — in my case, I’m just focusing on doing my best for the race here and the championship.”

Along with his victory at Iowa, Castroneves has two additional podiums this year and has finished in the top ten in every race except the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished 20th following an early race crash.

Helio and his gang of guys wearing "sunshine glasses" as he called them. Also called them the 3 Musketeers!

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The discussion of his future this morning followed a funnier earlier intro period in the press conference among Castroneves and his three IndyCar teammates, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“Let me introduce here José Nuevo Jardín. That’s Josef Newgarden. We’ll just start with the new times,” Castroneves laughed.

“What can I say about the mumba power? As you can see — actually I never understood why they say Three Musketeers but they have four guys. Have you seen that movie?

“Yeah. They say Three Musketeers but they have four guys. There’s always an odd man out. Ha, ha, very funny.”

Asked who the odd man out was, Castroneves replied, “It’s pretty obvious who’s the odd man out.”

For his own future, he’ll be hoping it’s not him in IndyCar.

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Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.