Sonoma Raceway to honor memory of late PR chief John Cardinale

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Sonoma Raceway will honor its late public relations director, John Cardinale, during this weekend’s 25th Toyota/SaveMart 350 activities.

Cardinale passed away in March after a two-year fight with stage IV gastric cancer. He had worked at the track since 1998 and was promoted to Vice President of Media and Community Relations in 2003, a post he held until his death. He also held the dual role of Vice President of Marketing from 2007 through 2012, as well.

Cardinale will be inducted into the track’s Wall of Fame and the media center will be renamed as the “John Cardinale Media Center” in his honor this Friday. His wife Andrea and daughters Emma and Lauren will accept the honors on his behalf.

Cardinale was one of the most popular and respected PR directors in NASCAR. Among the many honors the Bay Area native received during his career included NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year in 2009 and posthumously received the National Motorsports Press Association “Spirit Award” last month. He also was an award-winning sportswriter for 10 years before joining the track’s administrative staff.

“John was not only our dear friend and colleague, he was a major contributor to the growth and success of this organization,” Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway, said in a statement. “Although he is not with us physically, his spirit surrounds us and carries forward in everything we do. These two tributes will ensure John has a permanent presence at the raceway and provide us a daily reminder of how fortunate we were to have him in our lives.”

Among the more popular media events and promotions that were Cardinale’s brainchild was to have drivers like NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Rusty Wallace ride along with officers from the California Highway Patrol and “ticket” drivers who were obeying all traffic laws behind the wheel. Only in this case, drivers pulled over received free tickets to the race from Wallace rather than an actual citation.

Cardinale also held a number of media events that included NASCAR drivers piloting their race cars — at the posted speed limit, in case you wondered — across the world famous Golden Gate Bridge.

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.”