Instead of going faster, Martin Truex Jr. wants to see speeds decrease at Michigan

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Race car drivers are supposed to like to go fast. In most instances, the faster, the better.

But NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Martin Truex Jr. isn’t of that mindset – at least when it comes to Michigan International Speedway.

He’s hoping that NASCAR’s fastest non-restrictor plate oval starts to wear down and ultimately slow down in the process.

“I am not sure about Michigan,” Truex said in a team media release. “Since the track was repaved (prior to the 2012 season) it changed the style of racing there. The track is just too fast right now.”

Indeed, in the first Cup event after the repaving, Marcos Ambrose didn’t just break the former track record (194.232 mph by Ryan Newman in 2005), he shattered it by more than 9 mph (203.241 mph) during qualifying in June 2012.

Ambrose’s mark at the two-mile oval stood for a little over a year until Joey Logano eclipsed it with a qualifying run last August of 203.949 mph.

At the same time, drivers are also coming close to 220 mph on the front and back straightaways.

“I am hoping the new pavement is wearing out a little to slow us down,” Truex said. “I enjoyed the old asphalt at Michigan where you could run all over the place.”

Truex’s hopes may come true. The area around MIS went through a brutal winter and it’s likely the track did experience some weathering that potentially will slow cars down there this weekend. To what extent they’ll slow down remains to be seen.

“But give credit to the track for making improvements with the repave,” Truex said. “We’re professionals and it’s our job to deal with the track conditions.”

Truex has struggled this season, his first with Furniture Row Racing after being forced out at Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of last season because there wasn’t enough sponsorship for 2014.

But despite some of the gloom he’s had to endure thus far this season, Truex is seeing some light: he has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last two starts (sixth at Dover and ninth at Pocono).

“I feel our Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet will be good at Michigan due to our recent gain in speed,” Truex said. “We have some momentum right now and need to build on that. Things are much brighter with our Furniture Row team than they were earlier in the season.”

Truex has just two wins in his Sprint Cup career, but MIS has afforded him several opportunities to take another checkered flag. He had back-to-back runner-up finishes in spring and summer of 2007, and was third in this weekend’s race last season.

If and when he earns his third Cup win, Truex wouldn’t mind if it was at MIS.

“We had top-10 cars all year but we were not able to finish races,” Truex said. “The last two weeks we finished the races and got some decent results. We’re gaining but still have a ways to get to where we want to be.

“We still need to get that victory to make the Chase. And the progress we’ve made lately gives us more optimism to nail down that win.”

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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.”