Ganassi, Penske drivers fail to make final round of IndyCar quals

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The front of the grid for tomorrow’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is going to look unfamiliar for longtime Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

That’s because not one representative of either Team Penske (Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and Juan Pablo Montoya) or Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Ryan Briscoe) was able to make the Firestone Fast Six in today’s qualifying session.

It marks the first time since the 2005 inception of the FF6 that both of those teams were not part of one.

Dixon was the sole Ganassi man that made the second round and was able to qualify seventh, while Tony Kanaan (13th) and Charlie Kimball (19th) failed to make it out of the first round.

“In the first round the Target car was good and we had good speed in the session I felt,” Dixon said. “We made a lot of progress from yesterday to today, and again from this morning’s practice through to qualifying.

“We have some work to do tomorrow from our starting position, but we will be prepared.”

The Penske camp also had just one guy – Castroneves – make the second round and he’ll start ninth tomorrow. IndyCar points leader Will Power, who won two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, and Juan Pablo Montoya will start 14th and 16th respectively.

However, Castroneves believes that he’ll have a car ready to work for him.

“It’s going to take some strategy to get to the front and I have the man for that in Roger Penske,” he said. “I’m counting on him tomorrow.

“I can’t wait for tomorrow. We obviously want to start in the front, but with the standing start, I feel like we can still be in good position.”

Ganassi and Penske’s fellow “Big Three” team, Andretti Autosport, swept the front row with pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe.

But the four other competitors in the FF6 represented four other teams – Sebastien Bourdais of KVSH Racing, Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, rookie Jack Hawksworth of Bryan Herta Autosport, and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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.”