Austin Dillon on pole for NASCAR Sprint Showdown later Friday night

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Austin Dillon has the longest gap to celebrate between his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole and the race, at the Daytona 500, with a full week in-between qualifying and the green flag.

He’ll have the shortest gap to celebrate his second pole, albeit one in a non-points race, for tonight’s Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“The Dow Chevy was pretty hard to drive in practice but we changed a lot as best we could,” Dillon told FOX Sports. “We used our teammates, too. I came to the green pretty hard, we were free, but I rode it out. Hopefully we can get in this All-Star Race. It was a huge improvement from practice.”

Dillon posted a late flier of more than 194 mph around CMS to put the No. 3 car on the pole.

AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose round out the top five.

The top two from tonight’s Showdown and a fan vote winner will advance into Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.

Here’s the starting grid, with the race set to go green at 7:15 p.m. ET. There are two segments of 20 laps apiece for the race.

Row 1
3-Austin Dillon, 27.747, 194.616 mph
47-AJ Allmendinger, 27.821, 194.098 mph

Row 2
42-Kyle Larson, 27.833, 194.014 mph
15-Clint Bowyer, 27.860, 193.826 mph

Row 3
9-Marcos Ambrose, 27.889, 193.625 mph
27-Paul Menard, 27.961, 193.126 mph

Row 4
10-Danica Patrick, 28.009, 192.795 mph
17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 28.034, 192.623 mph

Row 5
13-Casey Mears, 28.064, 192.417 mph
43-Aric Almirola, 28.283, 190.927 mph

Row 6
26-Cole Whitt, 28.318, 190.691 mph
44-JJ Yeley, 28.369, 190.349 mph

Row 7
23-Alex Bowman, 28.558, 189.089 mph
77-Dave Blaney, 28.579, 188.950 mph

Row 8
38-David Gilliland, 28.665, 188.383 mph
98-Josh Wise, 28.714, 188.062 mph

Row 9
7-Michael Annett, 28.831, 187.298 mph
40-Landon Cassill, 28.914, 186.761 mph

Row 10
83-Ryan Truex, 28.940, 186.593 mph
36-Reed Sorenson, 29.091, 185.624 mph

Row 11
66-Joe Nemechek, 29.153, 185.230 mph
32-Blake Koch, 29.399, 183.630 mph

Row 12
33-David Stremme, 30.383, 177.731 mph

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.”