Seemingly ageless Martin still proving himself

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At 54 years old, Mark Martin continues to persevere – and excel – in the Sprint Cup Series.

Martin isn’t a full-time racer this season on NASCAR’s top circuit, but thanks to a combination of his well-known commitment to fitness and the solid talent behind him at Michael Waltrip Racing, he’s staying quite competitive in this, his 31st season of Cup racing.

“I will say that I don’t know that my training – in my prime, I don’t know that my personal training made me a better race car driver,” Martin said after his Friday pole run for tomorrow’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that the longevity of my career is hugely dependent on that commitment.”

With 40 Cup victories on his resume, Martin’s hard work has paid off for him time and again. But he says he still has his occasional misgivings, which makes him grateful to have MWR in his corner.

“If I would’ve qualified 30th today, my lip would be out and I’d have the long face and whatnot,” said Martin of his No. 55 team. “[Winning the pole] is nice. I still revert back to – I have people that believe in me more than I do myself. They don’t doubt.

“…I truly believe that the reason I’m able to defy these odds right now are two huge reasons; [training] is one of them, and the other one is the people that work on my race car. It don’t matter how good you are – if you’ve got a slow car, you don’t look good and you don’t go fast. I have to have people that believe in me, and these guys believe in me.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”