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IndyCar stars take in NASCAR finale in Miami

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The Verizon IndyCar Series is off until March 2018 but as has been the case in recent years, Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway witnessed a good contingent of IndyCar regulars on site at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season finale.

As NBC Sports NASCAR and IndyCar pit reporter Marty Snider noted on Twitter, it marked a great opportunity to do some advance prep work for the 2018 season!

Here’s a look at who was on site.

THE CHAMP IS HERE

This year’s IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden continued his hectic postseason tour of events, and added the NASCAR finale to his appearance at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas last month. Newgarden, who won the title in his No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was seeing if Brad Keselowski could take his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford to his second title (2012).

Newgarden also stopped to record an episode of the NASCAR on NBC podcast with Nate Ryan. That will be released in the coming days.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts by clicking here or visiting the www.ApplePodcasts.com/nascaronnbc landing page. It also is available for subscription on Stitcher or by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

HELIO JOINS THE PENSKE PARTY

He won’t be a full-time IndyCar driver anymore, but Helio Castroneves seems set for lifetime membership in the Team Penske alumni roster after 18 seasons (and 20 overall). Castroneves, who shifts to Acura Team Penske in 2018 in IMSA, was on-site throughout the weekend as well.

Castroneves had the opportunity to reunite with his old IndyCar teammate Sam Hornish Jr., whose second place finish in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race in the No. 22 REV Group Ford netted Penske the Xfinity owner’s championship.

He then had a chance to join now fellow one-off participant in the 2018 Indianapolis 500, Danica Patrick, pre-grid on Sunday. Patrick’s pass of Castroneves late in the race at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan, in April 2008 netted Patrick her only IndyCar victory.

Ok…..On the way to Orlando!!@revgroup….I think @josefnewgarden is a little scare!! Hehehe

A post shared by Helio Castroneves (@heliocastroneves) on

ANDRETTI, ROSSI MAKE THE PILGRIMAGE

Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi were also on site. Both have taken in NASCAR races before, Andretti having been to Miami in past years and Rossi at the Brickyard 400 and Watkins Glen International.

Andretti then posted a photo with himself, Rossi, Conor Daly and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson late Sunday night.

Spaghetti-O’s and race cars courtesy of chef @pennelopejmz. #NascarPlayoffs

A post shared by Alexander Rossi (@alexanderrossi) on

DALY DOES IT FOR DALE, MUNOZ MAKES MAIDEN NASCAR MEMORIES

Conor Daly has never been accused of not being patriotic and not representing ‘Merica well. So it only stood to reason that Daly would make a last-minute decision to leave Nashville to go to Miami and make it there for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last race.

This follows a somewhat similar – albeit more planned out – voyage Daly’s friend Daniel Ricciardo did to Texas Motor Speedway a couple weeks ago to watch Earnhardt’s last race there.

Once on site, Daly got the appropriate Dale Jr. attire and soaked up the atmosphere, which you can see below. He also reunited with fellow Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion and alumnus Michael McDowell to watch McDowell’s final start in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet.

Daly’s fellow 2017 A.J. Foyt Enterprises teammate, Carlos Munoz, was also on site for his first NASCAR experience. Munoz lives in Miami and just wrapped his fourth full-time IndyCar campaign, and fifth overall dating back to 2013.

Neither of these two drivers has a ride for 2018 in IndyCar, both somewhat unceremoniously jettisoned from Foyt after a single season. But high on experience and potential, they’re both working to land rides for future IndyCar races in 2018 (a projected grid outlook is here at the moment).

MR. JONES CONTINUES HIS GANASSI INTEGRATION

Newly signed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Ed Jones got a chance to experience the atmosphere with Ganassi’s NASCAR operation for the weekend, and also dropped the hint he’d love to try a NASCAR race himself if given the opportunity. The Dubai-based Brit has made his U.S. residence in Miami since arriving in 2015.

OTHERS CHIME IN

Beyond those on site, a handful of other IndyCar regulars chimed in on the race and Martin Truex Jr.’s popular first championship victory for the small Furniture Row Racing team based in Denver.