Bits and pieces on the Milwaukee IndyFest

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Helio, Dario are the hard chargers: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti certainly earned their paychecks yesterday at Milwaukee, as each jumped 15 positions from where they started at the drop of the green. Castroneves came from 17th to a runner-up finish, while Dario Franchitti moved from 23rd to eighth at the finish.

Franchitti, a two-time winner on the Mile, overcame an engine penalty that had dropped him 10 spots on the grid from where he qualified on Friday. However, he complained of how tough it was to cut through traffic and wondered if INDYCAR officials needed to step in and possibly make some changes.

“The cars are so close, so the series might be a victim of their own success right now,” said Franchitti. “We need to start allowing something to differentiate when guys get it right and wrong.”

– Chevy dominates: At a flat one mile in length, Milwaukee isn’t necessarily a power track, instead putting the emphasis on handling and how you deal with lapped traffic. Nevertheless, Chevrolet can still crow a bit after securing its second consecutive sweep of the Top 5 positions with winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe. The Bowtie Brigade also locked out the Top 5 one weekend ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon led the Honda camp with a sixth-place showing despite having to deal with understeer issues.

– Off to Le Mans for Briscoe: The Milwaukee IndyFest started a very busy week for Ryan Briscoe, who made his third start of the season in the No. 4 Panther Racing Chevrolet. Briscoe, who finished 15th on Saturday, is a full-time American Le Mans Series driver for Level 5 Motorsports, and he’s competing with them in next weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

He took part in the official test day last weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe and then arrived in Milwaukee for his Panther duties on Thursday. Shortly after racing on Saturday, he was heading off back to France to continue preparing for his rookie run in the famous sports car race.

“The travel hasn’t been that bad,” Briscoe told IndyCar.com. “It’s not that big a time difference and the flight is about the same as going out to the West Coast…For me, this is a lot better than sitting home and watching, so I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I’ve got at Panther.”

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.”