Kyle Busch trying to boost fading Chase hopes with three to go

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On Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch admitted to taking a glance at the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings with three races remaining in the season. He probably didn’t like what he saw.

Busch enters Texas fifth in the Chase at 36 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are currently tied atop the table. He dropped two spots in the standings after he finished 15th last weekend at Martinsville Speedway due to late-race handling woes.

The good news for Busch is that he won at Texas back in the spring. But the bad news is that another win on the 1.5-mile oval in tomorrow’s AAA Texas 500 may wind up not doing much for him if the guys he’s chasing – Kenseth, Johnson, third-place Jeff Gordon (-27 points) and fourth-place Kevin Harvick (-28 points) – turn in solid results, too.

“It’s certainly going to be a lot tougher now than what it had been and obviously, we’re going to have to have some luck on our side and the other guys aren’t going to be able to have luck on their side,” Busch said before qualifying fifth for Sunday’s race.

“If you have bad luck with the front two, then that’s going to bring five guys back into it, I feel like. It’s going to be an even tighter [championship] race. That’s what the fans want to see, probably [what] the media wants to see and what I want to see, but I bet you the front two don’t.”

Busch led a race-high 171 laps and took the lead for good off pit stops with 19 laps to go en route to claiming April’s NRA 500 at Texas. He’s hopeful that he can return to that form of dominance this weekend, as he attempts to erase his deficit to the leaders.

As far as the Chase is concerned, Busch believes that this year’s post-season has been better for him than those in seasons past. But as he noted, his wreck last month at Kansas and his late-race fade at Martinsville have put him in a big hole.

Now, from his standpoint, it’s win or bust.

“You don’t have that option here anymore in the Chase for as much as those guys up front are running well,” he said. “You can’t have any of those [bad races]. We’ve got to be on top of our game and come out here and the best we can do is lead all the laps and win all the races in these final three and see where the points stack up.

“If we do that and we still don’t win it, we did our job. If we don’t do that then, essentially, we didn’t do our job. We still got to be able to run the best that we can and try to make up ground and see where it all lies.”

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.”