Hamlin OK after taking hard hit in Kentucky

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Denny Hamlin escaped injury after his second tire failure in today’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway sent him hard into the Turn 4 wall while running in the Top 10.

Hamlin said that his knee hit the steering column during the Lap 149 incident, and he also suffered a headache that went away after he left Kentucky’s infield care center.

“For me, it didn’t go down slowly like the tire did the first time — [the second one] just blew out solid and quick,” said Hamlin. “Obviously, when I lost steering, I hit [the wall] flat. I would rather hit head-on anywhere than flat up against the wall on these walls.”

Considering that Hamlin missed multiple races earlier this season due to a fractured vertebrae he sustained in a March crash at Auto Club Speedway, there was concern for the Virginia native after today’s incident. However, he told NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello that his back was fine, saying that it was “the least of the concerns after this.”

Unfortunately for Hamlin, the Kentucky crash may have finally extinguished whatever hopes he had of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup. If his post-race comments are an indication, he appears set to simply focus on getting back into Victory Lane as many times as he can.

“We’re just going to try to win races and that’s what my job is for the rest of the year – try to win and do the best I can for my sponsors and my team,” he said. ‘Really, the biggest thing I was pushing for was to get my team into the Chase…This is obviously another hit.”

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.”