Sato looks for more Sao Paulo success

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Long Beach winner Takuma Sato charged from 25th to a third-place podium finish last year in Sao Paulo for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and he’ll be out to replicate or improve upon that solid result tomorrow in Brazil for A.J. Foyt Racing.

However, he battled through a tough day of qualifying on Saturday and will have to go off from the 12th position alongside Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand after failing to advance out of the second round.

“A difficult day for us,” said Sato, who logged nearly 13,000 air miles while flying from his hometown of Tokyo, Japan to Sao Paulo for Sunday’s race (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). “We couldn’t pick up the good speed and balance. We lost something.  It was very difficult to get it all put together. It’s a shame. The guys have been working very hard but we just couldn’t find the good grip and balance.

“Tonight, we’ll review everything and hopefully we’ll find improvements for the race.”

Sato started off Saturday well, posting the fifth-fastest time in his first-round group. However, Round 2 saw the ex-Formula 1 driver only able to climb to a 1 minute, 21.36 second lap in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda. The result sticks him near the mid-pack and, potentially, in the path of trouble if the race has a dodgy start.

But should he keep his nose clean, Sato feels confident that he can make his way up the pylon at a track that he enjoys.

It’s quite a unique track, I think,” he said going into the weekend. “It has one of the longest straightaways in the series and it’s followed by a tight hairpin, which requires heavy braking — and that means there are always lots of overtaking opportunities.

“It’s seriously bumpy on the straightaway but otherwise straightforward as the back sections of track are a good combination of slow, technical corners with a relatively smooth surface. I like the rhythm of this track.”

Watch tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

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.”