Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch take critical hits to Chase hopes

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Carl Edwards’ chances of winning this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup may be done for after he suffered a broken wheel hub on his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford late during Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Edwards was relegated to a 35th place finish as a result, but even more damaging was a drop from fourth in the standings to 11th, 65 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth. With seven races remaining in the post-season, he would appear to be pretty much out of the title picture.

“We struggled all day,” said Edwards. “Our plan was to get off-sequence at the end and I thought we might have a shot at making a top-three or four out of it, but something broke in the left-rear.

“I don’t know what it was, but I don’t think it was any fault of my guys. They did a great job. [Crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig] did a great job working hard on it all day, but we just weren’t fast. We needed to hang on for a solid finish and something broke, so that’s tough.”

Also joining him in the hard-luck club at Dover was Kurt Busch, who had a sub-par result for the second weekend in a row after finishing 21st on Sunday.

Busch’s pit crew received an overhaul going into Sunday’s race as four crewmen from Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series camp joined the Furniture Row Racing team. But on Lap 156, “The Outlaw” radioed his team to say that he felt a wheel coming loose on his No. 78 Chevrolet.

“A loose wheel did us in,” Busch said. “We were way off at the start, but after the first pit stop, we made some good changes to the car and started to make a move. But once again we had an issue with a loose wheel and that put us a couple of laps down. And with the lack of cautions we couldn’t make it up.”

Busch is in almost as big a hole as Edwards now as the Chase moves to Kansas; Busch sits 55 points off of Kenseth in ninth place in the standings.

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.”