Dave Blaney-driven No. 77 Ford to take break from Sprint Cup for ‘retooling,’ hopes to return by Indy

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The first-year Ford-powered Sprint Cup team owned by Randy Humphrey will be doing some “retooling” and taking a temporary break from the series, according to a report Wednesday by NASCAR.com.

Saturday night’s race at Kentucky will be the second event the fledgling team has missed, also skipping this past Sunday’s race at Sonoma.

However, Humphrey was adamant in a phone interview with NASCAR.com that he is not shutting down his team.

“We’re retooling things,” Humphrey told NASCAR.com. “We’re just trying to find the right people. … We have not shut down.”

Veteran driver Dave Blaney has been behind the wheel of the Roush-Yates powered No. 77 Ford for the entire season, with veteran Peter Sospenzo as the team’s crew chief.

Humphrey also told NASCAR.com that he’s not scaling back due to funding, but rather because the team simply hasn’t been as competitive as he hoped in its first year of operation.

When will the team return to the racetrack?

Most likely the Crown Royal Presents the John Walding 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27.

“You will not see us at Daytona (next weekend), but I do suspect you will be seeing us at Indy (going) forward, hopefully,” Humphrey said. “That’s our plan.

“We have some meetings that are going on, and we’re just interviewing some people. We had to retool some people and that kind of thing to get ourselves in order here.”

Of the season’s first 15 races (not including this past Sunday’s event at Sonoma), the team has qualified for just four races, finishing 41st at Texas, 43rd at Darlington, 33rd and Dover and 43rd at Pocono.

As a result, the team’s average start has been 39th and its average finish 40th.

In addition, it has failed to qualify at Phoenix, Las Vegas, Bristol, Fontana, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas and Charlotte.

It has also withdrawn from the season-opening Daytona 500 and its last appearance, two weeks ago at Michigan.

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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.”