Beleaguered Truex notches Top-10 at New Hampshire

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It would’ve made for a strange, surreal scene in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway had Martin Truex Jr.’s car not gone away from him in the final stages of today’s Sylvania 300.

Truex and his entire No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing squad are staring at an uncertain future beyond the conclusion of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign thanks to the departure of main sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.

For all of them, that blow hurts just as much, if not more so, than Truex getting knocked out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup following NASCAR’s penalties against MWR for manipulating the Sept. 7 event at Richmond International Raceway.

So to see Truex run as strong as he did for much of the race this afternoon must have pleased those that believe he has been the “victim” in one of NASCAR’s most controversial sagas to date.

Truex was especially quick in the first half of the running, leading 98 laps in the early going. He would lose the lead to eventual winner Matt Kenseth at Lap 153, but was able to stay in the Top 5 as the race’s conclusion drew closer.

Unfortunately for Truex, his Toyota’s already tight condition worsened as clouds began to blanket NHMS for the end of what had been a sunny affair. He took the final restart of the day in fifth position, but was unable to hang on and began sliding back.

“It’s unfortunate,” Truex said to ESPN after the race. “The guys did a good job all weekend. We’ve really struggled here the past few times and obviously, we have made some huge gains in the right direction. It’s just that we weren’t good enough at the end when it counted.”

Still, Truex and the No. 56 team certainly let ’em know they were there and in the mix this afternoon at New Hampshire. It may only be a momentary relief from the controversy that has plagued them in the last two weeks, but it was something good.

And after all the chaos they’ve had to endure, they’ll take it and move on to Dover next weekend.

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.”