Can Carpenter be a threat once again at Indy?

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Ed Carpenter’s ability to deliver the goods on the ovals has to put him in the conversation of potential winners for this month’s 97th Indianapolis 500. As practice starts today at the Brickyard, the IZOD IndyCar Series’ lone owner/driver is aiming to be a contender at IMS like he was in last year’s race.

Carpenter started 28th after crashing his primary No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet on Pole Day and having to put a backup into the show on Bump Day. As the race wore on, he made his way up the pylon and was running third with 20 laps to go. But on Lap 181, a broken front wing adjuster on his car caused Carpenter to spin out of the battle for the lead.

“We broke a front wing adjuster in the middle of the race and I was trying to spin out on almost every lap,” Carpenter remembered going into this weekend. “But we had a fast car and I was driving it right on the edge at the end.

“It was a frustrating month of May until Race Day. Then, everything came together. Our pit stops were very good and the team made the proper adjustments during the race. It was just that wing adjuster that hurt us in the end.”

However, Carpenter and his team would eventually get that 500-mile race win in the 2012 season finale at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles, as he passed Dario Franchitti on the final lap just before a wreck by Takuma Sato brought out the caution to freeze the field.

That victory gives Carpenter the confidence that he and his group can fight the bigger teams this month at Indy.

“…Winning the Indy 500 is the primary goal every year,” he said. “I know the team has worked extremely hard during the off-season to prepare for this year’s ‘500’. Our team has now won a 500-mile race and I think we are as ready as we can be to be a strong contender for another 500 [mile] victory.”

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.”