Report: IndyCar grid penalties for unapproved engine swaps gone

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NBCSN IndyCar reporter Jon Beekhuis has said that the grid penalties for unapproved engine changes in the Verizon IndyCar Series will no longer be in effect.

Instead, according to Beekhuis, unapproved engine changes will result in a points penalty for the Manufacturer’s Championship, which is contested between engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda.

Beekhuis revealed the news during tonight’s edition of the “Trackside” radio program on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan, which is hosted by fellow NBCSN reporter Kevin Lee and Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin.

However, Beekhuis also mentioned a caveat to that rule.

“If, as a team, you show negligence to the engine – let’s say you put the wrong radiator shutters or something on or you blow it up [on purpose], they will put you at the back of the field,” Beekhuis told Lee today at Barber Motorsports Park.

“I think they’ve written that in – remember [in] the old days, people used to blow up engines so you’d get new ones. So if there’s any sort of team negligence, you’ll go to the back.

“But if you don’t make your 2,500-mile [engine minimum] – and that’s another rule change – if you don’t make 2,500 miles, the penalty is going to be on the manufacturer and not on your grid spot, so that’s a huge change.”

Previously, teams had five fresh engines at their disposal and a change-out threshold of 2,000 miles on each powerplant. Now, teams have four engines allowed for the season along with the aforementioned new threshold of 2,500 miles.

As for how Chevy and Honda feel about it, Beekhuis believes that while they want the driver’s championship first and foremost, the manufacturer’s title is still important considering how much development they’ve put into their respective engines.

“I don’t think they’re going to be throwing engines at it and say, ‘Aw, forget about the manufacturer’s championship,'” he said. “I think that with the kind of money they’re spending, it’s still really important to them.

“…There’s been a ton of money spent and I don’t think you want to throw away manufacturer points. You want to try and cash in. If you’re Chevrolet or you’re Honda, you want to say, ‘Hey, we won the driver’s championship and we won the manufacturer’s [championship] and we did it on only four engines.’ That would be impressive.”

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.”