Chevrolet VP has open mind about possible Dale Earmhardt Jr. – Graham Rahal car swap

2 Comments

The ball – or in this case, the steering wheel – is in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s court now.

If Junior truly wants to swap rides in an exhibition with fellow National Guard-sponsored Graham Rahal and his IndyCar open-wheeler, he’ll have to ask first.

That’s what Jim Campbell, Chevrolet VP/Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, told The Associated Press.

Campbell said the manufacturer would keep an open mind if Earnhardt officially stepped forward to swap rides with Rahal.

“If we get a proposal, we’ll take a look at it and we’ll look at it with an open set of eyes. The rest is hypothetical,” Campbell told AP. “Broadly speaking about any Chevy driver that is currently on our roster, if they decided to go race in another category or series, of course we’d love to see them in Chevys. There’s no doubt about that.

“In some cases it works out like that, and in some cases it doesn’t.”

Earnhardt said last week that he didn’t think the swap would happen because he drives for Chevy while Rahal drives a Honda-powered IndyCar, which is Chevy’s chief rival in the open-wheel series.

“I think the fact (Rahal) has a relationship with a different manufacturer is going to make it challenging – if not impossible – for me to drive that particular car,” Earnhardt said.

Thus far, there has been no official response from Honda officials whether the manufacturer would allow such a swap. But Rahal, who originally proposed the idea with a tweet to Earnhardt at last week’s Sprint Cup race at Fontana, Calif., remains hopeful that the exhibition trade can occur.

The two drivers would likely drive each other’s cars for a few laps at a site to be determined.

Fan interest, especially on Twitter, has been highly in favor of the proposed deal. National Guard officials said the idea has their support, as well.

Earnhardt may have been a bit premature in pooh-poohing the idea. Fellow Chevrolet-powered Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch will drive a Honda in this year’s Indianapolis 500, and then fly to Charlotte to race his Chevy later that evening in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.

Busch had originally tested an Indy car with Andretti Autosport last year, when the team was powered by Chevrolet. However, it is powered by Honda this season.

Still, while Chevy officials originally encouraged Busch to drive for Chevrolet-powered IndyCar teams such as those owned by Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske, he ultimately chose to stay with the Andretti camp, and Chevy acquiesced the one-off Indy 500 run with Busch in a Honda.

“We had a great two-year run with Andretti Autosport and when he did his original test, Andretti was with Chevy,” Campbell said. “The conversation started when it was a Chevy team, and it just kept going. We’d certainly have liked to see Kurt in a Chevy for the 500, it just didn’t work out.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

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.”