More Fontana success in the cards for Kenseth?

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With plenty of success on both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide side at Auto Club Speedway, Matt Kenseth looks set to have a say in the outcome of tomorrow’s Auto Club 400.

Kenseth has earned three Cup victories in his career on the two-mile oval and four more in Nationwide in his former life as a Roush Fenway Racing driver.

Furthermore, he’s earned 14 Cup Top-10s and is high up in several important categories pertaining to Fontana, such as average running position (9.4, third-best among active drivers) and laps in the Top 15 (2,860 laps, second-best among active drivers).

After seven Cup wins last season, Kenseth has not been able to find Victory Lane yet in 2014. But he’s been steady enough to run eighth in the championship so far, and he could certainly put himself into the Chase tomorrow.

Here are a few more contenders to watch for…

JIMMIE JOHNSON (starting third)
Johnson has won five times at Fontana, and has maintained that he’s not feeling the pressure to put himself in the Chase with a win this weekend. He’s had good pace throughout the weekend, including P3 in final practice.

CLINT BOWYER/BRIAN VICKERS (starting fifth and 19th respectively)
Both Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers have shown speed during the weekend, with Bowyer logging two Top-10 efforts in practice and Brian Vickers topping Happy Hour.

JEFF GORDON (starting sixth)
A three-time winner at Fontana, Gordon has been solid through the weekend as the runner-up in all three of the practice sessions. We’ve talked about his teammate Johnson possibly becoming the fifth different winner of the season in as many races. But we definitely have to keep Gordon in mind as well.

DALE EARNHARDT JR. (starting 15th)
Junior has never won at Fontana, but it looks sounds like he’s got something this weekend (fourth in first practice, fifth in final practice). Said NASCAR’s most popular driver on Twitter:

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”