Power leads St. Pete day one

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As could be expected, 2012 IndyCar title rivals Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay paced the timesheets for the second free practice session at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The big surprise, though, was Simona de Silvestro in third.

The Swiss driver, who now races for KV Racing Technology and with Chevrolet engines (after being with HVM Racing and Lotus last year, where her engine was the main handicap), followed up her seventh place lap in the morning quite nicely in the afternoon.

“Last year we came here and knew it would be a struggle,” she said. “This year, we came after a good Barber test and showed well right away. We were quick this morning but still had more work to do. To know we can be up there with these guys. I have to thank my sponsors of Nuclear Clean Air Energy, as they stuck with me. Hopefully we will have a good race to be proud of.”

Of course, the proverbial big dogs, in three-time defending St. Petersburg pole winner Power and reigning series champion Hunter-Reay were always likely to set the pace.

“We’re still fighting the normal things handling-wise,” said Power. “We got a good lap in early. We weren’t that good on old tires. The Honda guys seem on the back foot, but I still think it will be a tough fight.”

“It’s early still, with the track rubbering in,” added Hunter-Reay. “It’s a pretty big gap to close to will. It’s nice to be up there but it’s close throughout. If you get one corner wrong you’re eighth from second.”

Oriol Servia (Panther DRR Chevrolet) and Takuma Sato (A.J. Foyt Racing Honda) completed the top five on the day.

Chip Ganassi Racing struggled; Charlie Kimball clocked in 13th while the usually front-running Target entries were just 17th (Dario Franchitti) and 19th (Scott Dixon) in practice two.

Combined times from Practice 1 and 2 are below:

Rank  Car Driver            Team                C/E/T Time 

1.     12   Will Power           Penske                 D/C/F 1:01.4467
2.     1    Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti               D/C/F 1:01.6252
3.     78   Simona de Silvestro  KV                     D/C/F 1:01.6895
4.     22   Oriol Servia         Panther DRR            D/C/F 1:01.7650
5.     14   Takuma Sato          Foyt                   D/H/F 1:01.7703
6.     3    Helio Castroneves    Penske                 D/C/F 1:01.7853
7.     11   Tony Kanaan          KV                     D/C/F 1:01.8087
8.     27   James Hinchcliffe    Andretti               D/C/F 1:02.0039
9.     55   Tristan Vautier      Schmidt Peterson       D/H/F 1:02.0459
10.    25   Marco Andretti       Andretti               D/C/F 1:02.0877
11.    16   James Jakes          RLL                    D/H/F 1:02.1030
12.    77   Simon Pagenaud       Schmidt Hamilton       D/H/F 1:02.1134
13.    83   Charlie Kimball      Novo Nordisk Ganassi   D/H/F 1:02.1962
14.    15   Graham Rahal         RLL                    D/H/F 1:02.3596
15.    5    EJ Viso              Venezuela/Andretti/HVM D/C/F 1:02.3622
16.    19   Justin Wilson        Coyne                  D/H/F 1:02.3833
17.    10   Dario Franchitti     Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:02.4086
18.    7    Sebastien Bourdais   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:02.4166
19.    9    Scott Dixon          Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:02.5031
20.    98   Alex Tagliani      Barracuda/BHA          D/H/F 1:02.5098
21.    67   Josef Newgarden      Fisher Hartman         D/H/F 1:02.5305
22.    6    Sebastian Saavedra   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:02.5581
23.    4    JR Hildebrand        Panther                D/C/F 1:02.9057
24.    20   Ed Carpenter         Carpenter              D/C/F 1:03.1420
25.    18   Ana Beatriz          Coyne                  D/H/F 1:03.9670

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.”