Cup: Justin Allgaier now official at Phoenix Racing

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It’s not a big surprise, but Phoenix Racing has confirmed this morning that they’ve crossed the T’s, dotted the I’s, and made things official with Sprint Cup rookie Justin Allgaier.

Allgaier, one of eight drivers that will contend for this year’s Rookie of the Year title in the Cup Series, will drive the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. Agriculture retail/manufacturing company Brandt will back Allgaier and the No. 51 for 21 races, continuing their partnership with the Illinois native into a fourth season.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I intend to make the most of it,” Allgaier said in a team statement. “I am very grateful to [team owner] Harry Scott and Brandt for having faith in me to compete against the best drivers in the world.”

Allgaier finished a solid fifth in last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series standings driving the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, posting one pole, six Top-5s, and 16 Top-10s. He also made his first four Sprint Cup starts with Phoenix during the 2013 Chase, turning in a top finish of 24th at Talladega.

Now he becomes a key part of Phoenix Racing’s drive to not only improve its performance but achieve some stability as well after using 12 different drivers last season – a group that included several other 2014 Rookie of the Year contenders such as Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), and Ryan Truex (BK Racing).

“Justin has worked extremely hard to get to this level and he is ready to take the next step,” Scott said. “Working with competition director and crew chief Steve Addington, I think the No. 51 can turn some heads this year.”

Also looking forward to moving up to Cup is Brandt, who will combine on the No. 51 with multiple other agriculture-centric sponsors such as the National FFA to create what it calls “the only true Ag-focused car” in NASCAR’s top category.

“We are proud to help field the ‘Ag’ car,” said Brandt company president and CEO Rick Brandt. “This is an effort to raise awareness and build a positive reputation for agriculture of all kinds. We believe passionately that agriculture is the essential industry and we’re doing our part to get that message out.”

The team release also lists former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte to run “several” races in Phoenix’s No. 52 Chevrolet this year, including next month’s season-opening Daytona 500.

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.”