Dale Earnhardt Jr.: No plans to rush or slow down Chase Elliott’s development

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Chase Elliott will not be a one-and-done like Kyle Larson was when it comes to staying in the Nationwide Series.

So says Elliott’s boss, JR Motorsports team president and Sprint Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

When asked if the 18-year-old Elliott, who just graduated from high school on Saturday, is on a fast track to jump to the Sprint Cup Series, or whether perhaps the development of the progeny of former NASCAR star Bill Elliott should be slowed down, Earnhardt demurred.

“I don’t think you do either one,” Earnhardt said in a Chevrolet media release. “I think you just set a plan from the start, and you stick with it.

“We have like a two-year plan I suppose, that he runs in the Nationwide Series and I think you just stick with the plan regardless of the success he is having. You have the commitments in line with sponsors and what have you, so I think it will suit him well to relax and not have to worry about that and just follow the plan that he has had in front of him from the start.”

Elliott, who already has two wins this season, finished fourth in Sunday’s Nationwide race at Iowa and continues to lead the NNS points: a two-point margin over Elliott Sadler and Regan Smith, who are tied for second place.

Larson, who is 21, spent just one full-time season in the NNS last season before making the jump this season to Sprint Cup. But Larson’s case is a bit different than Elliott’s in the sense team owner Chip Ganassi needed an immediate replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya, who returned to the IndyCar series after his seventh NASCAR season last year.

Elliott, on the other hand, can – and should – take his time developing,” Earnhardt said.

Plus, even though he is racing full-time for JR Motorsports, Elliott is considered a developmental driver for Hendrick Motorsports, which does not have any openings on its Cup roster heading into 2015.

“He is really young too, so he has a lot of time on his hands and time to get to Cup level to realize that potential one day,” Earnhardt said of Elliott. “But yes, I think he can just sit there and relax knowing what we tried to set out to do from the start and not really adjust.”

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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.”