What to watch for: IndyCar at Texas

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– Tire conservation could be key again. With a further tweak to the low-downforce aero package for Texas – drivers will have about 200 less pounds of downforce on their cars compared to last year’s race – they’ll need to keep looking after their Firestone Firehawks over the course of green-flag runs. Tonight’s race (8:30 pm ET, check local listings) will see new compounds from Firestone that are designed to add some grip and durability, but with this aero package, expect to see competitors going up and down the scoring pylon as their rubber gets more and more worn out.

– Anybody can win from anywhere. Justin Wilson won in Fort Worth last year from 17th starting position, which was the worst out of any IndyCar winner at the 1.5-mile oval. Texas also hasn’t had a dominant driver as of late, with seven different winners in the last seven races. And considering the stout level of competition from top-to-bottom in the series right now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see somebody else break out of the pack and put their own name in the TMS record books.

– Can small teams continue to shine? It’s been an enjoyably quirky season so far, as smaller outfits such as A.J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing have brought home first-place trophies while juggernauts Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing have not. Will we see another of these squads step up and take it to the big guys tonight? Word of advice: Keep an eye on Ed Carpenter, who starts ninth for the single-car outfit he also owns; as we said following his Indy 500 pole, he’s always a threat on the speedways.

– Revenge for “Team Target”? Last year’s race at Texas did not go very well for the TCGR duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Dixon crashed out despite having the best car, and Franchitti was never a factor as his own Honda was afflicted with severe handling issues. With a year to think about it, expect the two to have more of a say in the outcome of tonight’s race.

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.”