Red flag: Kenseth-Logano tangle leads to 9-car wreck in Sprint Unlimited; Stenhouse slams into Danica Patrick

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A major wreck has brought out a race-stopping red flag in the second segment of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

After Terry Labonte retired midway through the 30-lap first segment and Jimmie Johnson’s night came to an end in a single-car wreck on the last lap of the same segment, there were only 16 cars remaining for the second segment.

There were nine cars that were involved in the wreck on Lap 6 of the second segment, which was slated to be 25 laps. Drivers involved were Danica Patrick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch.

It appeared Kenseth tried to go to the bottom of the track, but caught the front end of Logano’s and went spinning.

“I was just easing my way down there and had no idea Joey was that close to me and our cars got hooked together,” Kenseth said. “I feel bad all those cars got wrecked. It’s not the way you want to start a season, for sure.”

All four Stewart Haas Racing drivers – Stewart, Patrick, Busch and Harvick – were involved in the wreck. Stewart, in his first race since suffering multiple fractures to his right leg in a sprint car crash August 5, came out of his wrecked car slowly but appeared uninjured.

“We just needed a couple inches here or there and probably would have gotten through it,” Stewart said after leaving the infield care center. “I was a little nervous at all. It doesn’t feel bad at all. I don’t have any pain. We’ll see what happens when the adrenaline wears off, but so far I feel really good and really happy about it.”

Ironically, Stenhouse, who is dating Patrick, plowed into the side of her car, who had escaped unscathed up to that point. It was speculated that Stenhouse may have lost his brakes or steering, or possibly just could not see where his car was going due to the resulting front end damage, leading up to Stenhouse plowing into the left side of Patrick’s car.

“I tried to look over the hood and all of a sudden hit something really hard, and obviously it was her, sitting sideways and I just really destroyed her car,” Stenhouse said of Patrick. “She’d have been alright if I hadn’t it her, so that’s not good.”

Patrick seemed to take the crash in stride: “I got hit by my boyfriend. What a bummer, right? But he said his hood was up and couldn’t see anything. Not the way I wanted (the race) to go at all.”

The second segment restarted after about a 25-minute stoppage with only nine cars — half of the original 18-driver field.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”