Ryan Newman bests Jimmie Johnson for Brickyard pole

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The best came last on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Ryan Newman – the 45th and final qualifier of the day – threw down a lap at 187.531 miles per hour to snatch the Brickyard 400 pole away from defending race winner Jimmie Johnson.

“It’s the benefit of going out last – you get to see and watch, and see where guys can make and lose time,” Newman told ESPN. “I guess I did part of my homework, but the [team] definitely did their homework…I don’t know if we caught a cloud or anything. I don’t think it was anything to do with that, but it was a great effort today.”

Renowned in the past for his qualifying prowess, the South Bend, Indiana native had not won a Sprint Cup pole in almost two years. But his last-minute run enabled him to become the second Hoosier to take a pole at IMS this season, joining Indy 500 pole sitter and Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter.

Today’s crowd was appreciative of Newman’s efforts, cheering him as he climbed out of his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

“It’s special for me, for a lot of reasons,” Newman told ESPN. “Being home, being in Indiana and being at the Brickyard, and being so long not to win a pole – hopefully, we can turn it into a good day tomorrow.”

Johnson withstood 33 attempts to knock him off the top spot, but in the end, his lap of 187.438 miles per hour was only good enough for second on the grid. Still, it’s great starting position for tomorrow, which could see either him or Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon become the first five-time Brickyard 400 winner.

“You can’t count Ryan out,” said Johnson. “He put up a whale of a lap…Our race package should be good. We’ve been a little bit stronger in [qualifying] trim but we’ve got some things to apply to our race set-up and we’ll have a great day tomorrow.”

The second row will feature Carl Edwards (187.157), who will lead the Ford side from third tomorrow, and Denny Hamlin (187.122), who paced the Toyotas with the fourth-quickest run today. Newman’s boss, two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch will make up Row 3, followed by Kasey Kahne and former Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in Row 4, and Gordon and Marcos Ambrose in Row 5.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”