Richard Petty to return at Richmond, first race since wife Lynda’s death

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According to driver Aric Almirola, team owner Richard Petty is expected to attend Saturday’s NASCAR Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

It will be the first time that Petty has been at a racetrack since the death of his beloved wife Lynda on March 25.

“I think being back at the race track is going to be good for our race team and good for him,” Almirola said of one of the first five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in a Ford Racing media release. “I think it’ll be good medicine.

“When something like that happens you kind of want to hide a little bit and just get your feelings straight, but he’s been by the shop and been in good spirits and I think he’s doing very well considering.”

Almirola has spent a considerable amount of time with Richard Petty over the last four weeks, trying to keep his spirits up and just being there as more of a friend, rather than just as a driver or team employee.

“We’re looking forward to getting him back at the race track and getting him back into race mode,” Almirola said. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him over the last few weeks since Miss Lynda passed, and it’s gonna be great to have our leader back at the race track.

“He’s the name and the face of our company and all the guys on the race team, myself included, look up to him and enjoy having him around at the race track and having him inside the hauler and talking to us after practice and getting his perspective on what he sees with other race cars and with our race cars throughout practice.

“I’m excited about having him back at the race track and, like Trent (crew chief Trent Owens) said, I think it’s going to be good medicine for (Richard).”

Petty, 77, has been slowly preparing himself to return to the racetrack.

“He comes to about 95 percent of the races every year, so for him to take the two or three weeks off that he’s taken, I know he’s itching to get back to the race track,” Almirola said. “He’s been watching the practices and watching qualifying and watching the races and (Petty’s former crew chief and cousin) Dale Inman goes home on Sunday night and gives him the full report on what went down that weekend and how things went.

“He’s still heavily involved and he’s still been paying attention for sure, he just hasn’t been at the race track. He knows everything that’s been going on.”

Lynda and Richard Petty had been married 55 years, since 1958. She passed away at the age of 72 after a lengthy illness.

For a moving tribute to Lynda Petty, click here for a video from our friends at NASCAR.com:

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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.”