Le Mans: The Americans’ 24 hours recapped

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Quick recap of all the American drivers, teams or related-entries at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans:

LMP1

No American drivers or teams. So, that was easy.

LMP2

  • Caterham Racing: The No. 42 Zytek Z11SN Nissan that featured Americans Chris Dyson and Matt McMurry, the 16-year-old, ended 10th in LMP2 and 23rd overall. The car had a couple spins over the week but nothing major; McMurry drove early and promisingly through the rain-drenched second and third hours, and also brought the car home to the checkered flag. He’s the youngest to start, and now youngest to finish, at Circuit de la Sarthe.
  • Larbre Competition: The No. 50 Morgan Judd was down on outright pace all week and ended with 341 laps completed, not classified by the end of the race. Still, Ricky Taylor ran the car’s best lap time of 3:43.386 and was often close to brother Jordan on the overall scoreboard; at one point, the two cars, separated by class, were only two positions apart.
  • *Note: the OAK Racing Team Asia car had David Cheng, American by birth/nationality but part of the all-Chinese driver branded lineup in the No. 33 Ligier JS P2 Nissan. That car, which Cheng co-drove with Adderly Fong and Ho-Pin Tung, ended seventh in LMP2.

GTE-Pro

  • Corvette Racing: Corvette’s No. 73 made it to the podium in second place and had class victory hopes with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. But the sister No. 74 Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook placed fourth in class after losing eight laps due to a slipped alternator belt and gearbox leak.
  • ProSpeed Competition: This wasn’t supposed to be a Pro class entry but following Bret Curtis’ accident, the No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, one of the oldest chassis in the field, ran with just two drivers in Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil. The pair took the backup chassis (brought in to replace the broken car) to fifth in GTE-Pro after a flawless, trouble-free drive as “iron men” in the WeatherTech-backed entry.

GTE-Am

  • 8Star Motorsports: Despite a couple flat tires and spins along the way over the course of the week, the bright orange No. 90 Ferrari F458 Italia that featured late American call-up Frankie Montecalvo ended best American entry in class, P4 in GTE-Am.
  • Dempsey Racing-Proton: The lone all-American driver lineup of Patricks Long and Dempsey, with Joe Foster, had a three-minute stop-and-hold for spinning the tires leaving the pits overnight. They ended fifth in GTE-Am with the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR, but threatened the top three all race.
  • JMW Motorsport: The No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia that featured Flying Lizard American drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Seth Neiman struggled on outright pace but ran consistently to seventh in class.
  • Krohn Racing: Tracy Krohn’s team made it to Le Mans, and ended 10th in class in the classic “Krohn Green” No. 57 Ferrari F458 Italia.
  • Ram Racing: South African-born but U.S.-based Mark Patterson was part of the driving lineup in the No. 53 Ferrari F458 Italia that ended 12th in class.
  • AF Corse: Howard Blank (No. 62) was in an Ferrari F458 Italia that finished, but completed only 295 laps; Peter Ashley Mann (No. 60) was in a car that failed to finish.

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Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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