Chase leader Kenseth not worried about Talladega plan

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Talladega Superspeedway’s unpredictable nature can make even the best-laid plans go awry, and Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth (pictured, No. 20) isn’t exactly worried about hammering out a strategy and sticking to it through Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500.

“I just don’t really know – you never know – what agendas anybody’s going to have when these races start,” Kenseth said on Friday at Talladega. “Sometimes, people just play it by ear – if it feels like everything is fairly calm, they’ll race. Other times, if people are stuck in the middle or maybe not even in the middle – a couple rows back – they’d rather just ride around, wait until the end, so you never know what’s really going to happen.

“I’ve never really had much success making too much of a plan. Seems like you just kind of try to do what comes natural. If it seems like you have the speed and you can lead, be up front, do that. If not, you’re not comfortable, maybe you change your plan then, but every time I’ve really sat down and tried to make a huge plan going into this race, it never really worked out very well for me.”

Things did work out for him in this very race last October, as he notched his first career victory at NASCAR’s biggest track while a 25-car pileup ensued in his rear view mirror. Kenseth has been strong as of late at Talladega, with results of third, first and eighth in his last three runs there.

On Friday, he chalked that good string of results up to “faster cars,” as well as the end of the prevalent tandem-style drafting that had emerged prior to tweaks made to the rules package on restrictor plate tracks like ‘Dega and Daytona International Speedway.

“I felt like last year when they changed the rules package, that little spoiler and kind of separated the pack again and got rid of the tandem and you had to go back to more of a quote-unquote ‘conventional-style’ drafting, I felt like not only did it speed our cars up, but I felt like I was more comfortable and probably made less bad moves than I made before, that type of thing,” he said.

“I think that’s part of it and our cars with that other package seemed to have had some speed.”

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.”