Andretti leads Texas Friday IndyCar first practice

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Three caution periods and fast tire wearing were the stories, more than speeds, coming out of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ lone practice session before qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

Marco Andretti led the 75-minute session, which had three interruptions, with a best speed of 217.950 mph in 43 laps.

Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, in his first race with Sunoco/Turbo colors, was second ahead of Will Power, James Jakes and Simona de Silvestro. Kanaan made it in the 217 mph range with the other three in the 216s.

Five Hondas were sixth through 10th, Josef Newgarden ahead of Alex Tagliani, Target Chip Ganassi teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, and Detroit race two winner Simon Pagenaud.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who ended the session 13th, said his car was particularly difficult to handle with even less downforce on the car.

“It was interesting; it’s really hot and with less downforce, there was a lot of sliding around,” Hunter-Reay told IndyCar Radio’s Nick Yeoman. “I did about 30 laps and had a cut right front tire. We stopped early and decided to not to burn a set of tires.”

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Jakes, the breakout star in Detroit, turned the challenges into a positive for fans.

“It’s gonna be a tough race man,” Jakes told Yeoman. “We did a lot of race running. It’s gonna be an entertaining race for you all with the (tire) drop off, and it should be really spread out.”

Tim Cindric, Penske Racing president, explained the nature of the drop off for Firestone’s compounds. After a test in February, Firestone brought a tire that features a slightly softer body construction and tread compound on the left-side tires to increase grip and a slightly harder right-side tread compound to add durability.

“(Will said) he felt a good balance, but night conditions are a lot different with traffic and trying to figure out how to gear,” Cindric told Yeoman. “Tonight will tell us more.”

Oriol Servia and Pippa Mann clocked in 19th and 20th in their first sessions in the No. 4 Panther Chevrolet and No. 18 Dale Coyne Honda. Mann’s DCR teammate Justin Wilson had a substantially loose race car and ran only 14 laps; rookie Tristan Vautier completed the most laps, 62, but only with a best lap of 208.962 to end 22nd.

Qualifying occurs at 3:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. ET) with final practice at 6:45 p.m. local time for half an hour. The qualifying order is below:

1. #5 E.J. Viso
2. #20 Ed Carpenter
3. #55 Tristan Vautier (R)
4. #19 Justin Wilson
5. #14 Takuma Sato
6. #18 Pippa Mann
7. #7 Sebastien Bourdais
8. #27 James Hinchcliffe
9. #25 Marco Andretti
10. #9 Scott Dixon
11. #11 Tony Kanaan
12. #67 Josef Newgarden
12a. #83 Charlie Kimball
14. #3 Helio Castroneves
15. #12 Will Power
16. #77 Simon Pagenaud
17. #98 Alex Tagliani
18. #78 Simona de Silvestro
19. #6 Sebastian Saavedra
20. #16 James Jakes
21. #15 Graham Rahal
22. #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay
23. #10 Dario Franchitti
24. #4 Oriol Servia

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.”