Tony Stewart: Costly speeding penalty was “100% driver error”

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As the final stretch of Sunday’s Pocono 400 loomed, Tony Stewart looked like he’d be one of the contenders as the remaining laps ticked away.

Instead, he was forced to swallow a 13th-place finish after he was caught speeding on pit road during a Lap 118 caution.

The penalty sent him to the tail end of the lead lap for the Lap 123 restart, and while Stewart did well to collect a Top-15 in the end, he was still annoyed with himself over his mistake.

“It was 100 percent driver error,” he told TNT. “I don’t know how I got through the lights like I did, but I got to where I blew through all the lights and didn’t have any on the [tachometer], so I had no clue I was over though. But it was 100 percent driver error.

“I gave my guys grief last week with a sixth-place run, thought we should run in the top-three, and then I threw it away this week…I had an awesome car all day, all from Friday through Sunday. It was a great race car, just the driver screwed it up this weekend.”

Stewart’s gaffe marked the end of a tough mid-race sequence for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Shortly before the Lap 118 caution, Stewart and Harvick had been running first and second when the latter suffered a flat tire on Lap 116 and was forced to pit under green.

Harvick has won twice this season, but has had several more potential victories go by the boards due to instances of bad luck. So it went again in Pocono for “Happy,” who ultimately finished one spot behind Stewart in 14th place.

Between Harvick’s flat tire and Stewart’s penalty was Kurt Busch overshooting his pit box. However, the Outlaw was able to battle back and pick up a much-needed third-place finish.

As for SHR’s fourth driver, Danica Patrick, she suffered through a trying afternoon. On Lap 137, she was running second out of sequence when she hit the wall in Turn 2.

But she did manage to have a role in the outcome of the race – although probably not the role she desired. Race leader Brad Keselowski tried to use her lapped car to blow off a piece of debris on his own with five laps left.

Keselowski lost momentum, however, and opened the door for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make the race-winning pass. Patrick finished 37th.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”