Race to Chase update: Logano enters discussion

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Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan was the 23rd of 26 regular season races before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Joey Logano had the fastest car all weekend and despite cutting it close on fuel mileage, secured a pivotal first Sprint Cup win for Roger Penske and truly entered Chase contention after being on the fringe the last few races. Logano now sits 13th in points, 17 markers back of the top 10 and just 7 behind Martin Truex Jr. for the second Wild Card spot; each has one win.

Truex fell out of the top 10 on Sunday and was the only driver to lose more than one spot of the top 16 drivers. Kurt Busch’s latest top-five finish moved him up two spots to ninth, one spot behind Brad Keselowski, who had to take a conservative finish instead of gambling to try to win.

Here’s where things sit as of now:

1. Jimmie Johnson, 813 points, 4 wins
2. Clint Bowyer, 772, 0
3. Carl Edwards, 762, 1
4. Kevin Harvick, 749, 2
5. Kyle Busch, 706, 3
6. Matt Kenseth, 688, 4
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 679, 0
8. Brad Keselowski, 667, 0
9. Kurt Busch, 665, 0
10. Greg Biffle, 663, 1
11. Kasey Kahne, -4 behind Biffle, 2 wins
12. Martin Truex Jr., -10, 1
13. Joey Logano, -17, 1
14. Jeff Gordon, -26, 0
15. Ryan Newman, -27, 1
16. Jamie McMurray, -41, 0
17. Paul Menard, -64, 0
18. Tony Stewart, -69, 1
19. Aric Almirola, -76, 0
20. Jeff Burton, -102, 0

The top six still seem all but secure. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could use one more great run to solidify his status. Meanwhile it seems to be down to the top 15 for 12 spots, and Jeff Gordon needs a win to give himself any chance from here.

LOCKED IN: Johnson
VIRTUAL LOCKS: Bowyer, Edwards, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kenseth
ALMOST LOCKS: Earnhardt Jr., Kahne
GOOD FOR NOW: Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Biffle, Truex

IN RANGE: Logano, Newman
OUT OF RANGE: Gordon
VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED: McMurray, Menard, Stewart, Almirola, Burton

PREVIOUS RACE TO CHASE UPDATES: Indianapolis, Pocono 2Watkins Glen

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”