Danica’s in the NASCAR Hall of Fame – sort of

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Time will tell if Danica Patrick’s career in stock car racing will be worthy enough to make her a NASCAR Hall of Fame driver. But the popular Sprint Cup rookie has already made her way into the Charlotte, N.C. museum as part of an exhibit that honors her for being the first woman to win a Cup pole.

According to USA Today’s Nate Ryan, Patrick, who earned the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 and nearly converted it into a win, was asked for some mementos from the occasion by Winston Kelley, the NASCAR HoF’s executive director. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver responded by donating the trophy for her pole position and some hats from the celebration at Daytona International Speedway’s Victory Lane.

Per Ryan’s story, Patrick’s exhibit is positioned inside the main entrance to the building, which will surely see an uptick in traffic over the next week or so as fans converge for tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s part of a bigger effort by the Hall to emphasize more recent accomplishments within the sport.

“One of the things we realize we don’t have is here’s a 500th home run and so, someone automatically is thinking about the ball,” Kelley told Ryan. “We want to continue to plant that seed when folks do something historical.

“We’ve got a lot of drivers that are humble and not looking to show themselves off, and some think this is just for Hall of Famers. But that’s not the case. It’s telling the entire story of NASCAR history.”

Patrick will start seventh in tomorrow’s Sprint Showdown preliminary race and is aiming to finish in the top two to move to the All-Star Race. If she can’t do that, she’ll have to hope to be the winner of a fan vote that can get her into the main event.

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.”