Haven’t followed NASCAR’s “Silly Season”? Time to catch up

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Ryan Newman’s jump to Richard Childress Racing marks the latest driver move in what has been an extremely active ‘Silly Season’ throughout the Sprint Cup garage. And it’s not over yet.

With Newman’s move to RCR, the focus now appears to shift to Furniture Row Racing, which will need a new driver in the No. 78 for 2014.

Also, we’re still waiting on official confirmation for Austin Dillon, who is expected to move up to the Cup level in another RCR entry.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look back at what’s gone down so far in regards to ‘Silly Season’ – even though we’ll all probably still need a spotter’s guide at Daytona next February:

2014 Team: No. 4, Stewart-Haas Racing

After running for RCR for his entire Sprint Cup career, Harvick announced in July that both himself and main sponsor Budweiser will move over to Stewart-Haas starting next year. For SHR, that meant the departure of Newman, with team co-owner Tony Stewart saying at New Hampshire that his team didn’t have the capability of expanding to a fourth car. But soon enough, that would change…

2014 Team: No. 55, Michael Waltrip Racing (full-time)

For several seasons, MWR had been splitting the No. 55 between Vickers, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip. But when the team decided to seek out a full-time driver for the car, Vickers became a prime candidate. His victory at New Hampshire this summer basically sealed the deal, and a short time later, he was officially welcomed back to full-time Cup racing in a multi-year deal that will see him be the sole wheelman of the No. 55.

2014 Team: No. 00, Stewart-Haas Racing

While Stewart was initially recovering from a season-ending sprint car crash early last month, his SHR partner, Gene Haas, made a bold play for Busch, who was in the midst of trying to get the single-car Furniture Row Racing into the Chase at the time (he would). It took Haas some convincing for Stewart to go along with a fourth program, as the three-time Sprint Cup champion was worried about the expansion’s timing. But ultimately, Haas got his man; he’ll fund Busch’s program out of his pocket, with his machine tool business, Haas Automation, serving as The Outlaw’s main sponsor.

2014 Team: No. 42, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

One of the most heralded young guns in a long time, the 21-year-old Larson was going to be a Cup driver sooner or later. EGR has opted for sooner, bringing him in to replace veteran Juan Pablo Montoya next season in the No. 42 car. There’s no question that the California native is super-talented, but there have been quibbles about whether or not he’s truly ready to face the big boys. For his part, Larson is confident that he can do just that. He’ll need the attitude.

2014 Team: No. 47, JTG Daugherty Racing

After serving as a part-timer in multiple disciplines this year such as NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide and the IZOD IndyCar Series, ‘Dinger will make his own return to full-time Cup racing next year. While some open-wheel fans may not have been happy about the ex-Champ Car star deciding to keep running in stock cars, it’s still a well-deserved second chance for him after he was suspended, then released from Penske Racing last summer.

2014 Team: No. 31, Richard Childress Racing

The Brickyard 400 champion has officially found a new home. Newman will replace the departing Jeff Burton in the No. 31 Caterpillar-backed machine next season after a five-year run with Stewart-Haas. Up to this afternoon’s announcement, rumors had been swirling for weeks about Newman and RCR joining forces.

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.”