Ganassi trio makes strides in Barber

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Rare are the words “Chip Ganassi Racing” and “struggling” used in the same sentence, but that was their story two weeks ago at St. Petersburg.

Flash forward to Barber and with Honda’s improvements and running on Firestone’s road course rather than street course tires, all three of the CGR cars made strides even though the final timesheets didn’t reflect it.

Scott Dixon ended sixth while Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball fell off from practice one to two. Still, they explained the positive developments made going into Saturday’s qualifying.

“We worked on the overall balance of the car and we still have some work to do,” said Dixon, the lone Target-liveried driver this weekend. “I feel pretty good about qualifying because we didn’t even use new tires and we left a lot of speed out on the table. We should be in good shape for tomorrow.”

Franchitti and Kimball are running near identical liveries this weekend – each in orange and blue colors. Franchitti’s in a Banana Boat paint scheme while Kimball’s usual Novo Nordisk colors have been inverted as part of a team-wide “Race with Insulin” weekend awareness promotion.

“We made a massive amount of changes throughout the day to the Banana Boat car,” said Franchitti. “We have a very clear direction on where we want to go.  Hopefully we can make good use of that tomorrow.”

“We had the fourth-quickest time in practice one this morning and then in practice two we got caught up with some yellows and some traffic,” added Kimball. “We have a couple different directions, with the car set-up, to go over tonight.  I’ll think we’ll be in good shape when it comes time to qualify tomorrow morning.”

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”