Ryan Newman hopeful for another good run at Michigan

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Heartened by a recent uptick in performance, Ryan Newman is optimistic that he can continue the trend this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. The Indiana native has had good luck in the Irish Hills with two Sprint Cup wins in his career and, more recently, three Top-10 efforts in his last four starts there.

He’s also buoyed by the overall strides that Stewart-Haas Racing has made lately, with Tony Stewart’s victory at Dover International Speedway and Top-5 runs last weekend from both himself and Stewart at Pocono.

“We have – aside from Dover, we have had some good runs in the last four races,” said Newman. “And you know, carrying some of that momentum, as well as – obviously Tony had a good weekend in Dover, but just keeping the ball rolling.

“I think that there’s some things that we learned at our Pocono test that we can absolutely carry over from the Pocono race into Indianapolis going back to Pocono, and as well, I think at places like Michigan that are smooth and have similar asphalt and are really fast, as well.”

Newman, like other drivers on the circuit, likes the high-banked, two-mile oval at MIS, which he called “not the most challenging racetrack we go to” but one that was also “open and forgiving.”

He’s hopeful for another strong result there, which would no doubt please one of his major sponsors, Quicken Loans – the company will also serve as the title sponsor for the 400-mile race on Sunday. But while one might see increased off-track pressure for Newman as a result, he insists that there’s none there.

“There’s no pressure from the outside,” he said. “I think people view it as pressure, but from my perspective, it’s an opportunity to do something even greater, to win your own race as a title sponsor and a car sponsor. I’ve had the opportunity to do it before and haven’t, so I look forward to another opportunity.”

Newman currently sits 18th in the championship and is one of many drivers in 11th through 20th place that is seeking a victory to boost their hopes of a wild-card berth in the Chase. The only driver in that bracket that has one? His teammate and boss, Stewart.

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.”