Hamlin-Harvick confrontation ends peacefully

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The multi-car crash with 54 laps to go in last night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway affected a lot of Chase hopefuls, but Kevin Harvick and pole sitter Denny Hamlin’s nights were also ruined as a result.

The incident was triggered by contact between Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin, who suffered a cut tire and then went up toward the wall to start the melee.

When Hamlin came back around to pit road, he found Harvick’s car in his stall and, after being told to do so by his Joe Gibbs Racing crew, promptly used the front bumper of his car to push Harvick out.

That didn’t seem to make Harvick very happy and he promptly hopped out of his No. 29 Chevrolet and went toward Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. But instead of instigating a fight – something that the fans in attendance at BMS seemed to be expecting – Harvick ducked his head in Hamlin’s window and had a non-eventful discussion about the matter.

“He just told me his version of it,” said Harvick, who finished 34th. “It’s all good. It’s Bristol racing and it’s just something I wanted to know.”

As for Hamlin, he said he immediately knew that the frustrated Harvick hadn’t yet seen the replay of the incident.

“Luckily, we were able to talk right away and hash it out,” said Hamlin, who wound up 28th. “The No. 55 [Vickers] just cut down on us right in the middle of the straightaway and it cut my right front tire.

“I’m just in the car and a steering wheel holder at that point. It caused a huge accident. It sucks, but I didn’t cause it.”

The crash continued what has been an extended rough patch for Hamlin, who hasn’t had a Top-10 finish since his eighth-place effort at Pocono back in June. That was 10 races ago.

“We cannot catch a break,” he said. “You’ve got to laugh at it at this point. It’s somewhat humorous.”

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.”