Kasey Kahne unable to hang on late at the Brickyard

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If Kasey Kahne fails to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, he may think about today’s Brickyard 400 as the golden opportunity that slipped away.

Kahne led a race-high 70 laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, looking as if he would become the 12th different driver to lock himself into the post-season with a regular season win.

But Kahne was iffy on fuel late and on a restart with 17 laps to go, he was unable to hold back eventual winner Jeff Gordon – who took the lead on the outside as the field made its way through Turns 1 and 2.

The Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth then made their way past Kahne, knocking him down to fifth. The Washington state native would cede one more spot in the final laps before finishing sixth.

Looking back on the fateful restart, Kahne said that he thought NASCAR allowed Gordon to control the restart. But he also conceded that Gordon was going to be faster anyway.

“Looking back, I should have chose the top [lane] obviously,” Kahne told ESPN. “They pretty much let Jeff control that restart. I took off and never spun a tire, and the inside, there had been more grip in a straight line throughout the race. And I started on both sides, so I thought [the inside] was the right decision.

“I didn’t spin a tire and Jeff was driving by me before we were even at the second red, so they just let him control it. But either way, he was gonna pass me in 1 and 2, so looking back, I probably should have chose the top.”

However, while Kahne missed a big chance to put himself into the post-season, he still has everything to race for in the final six regular season events.

Within this stretch are several places where he’s been strong in the past – particularly Pocono (next weekend), Bristol (Aug. 23) and Atlanta (Aug. 31). And now, he’s just four points behind fellow winless driver Austin Dillon for the 16th and final spot on the Chase Grid.

That gap could have been much bigger if he had run out of fuel late while trying to battle Gordon for the win. Instead, once Gordon and the Gibbs clan passed him by, Kahne went about saving enough fuel to make it home.

“If I had beat him [on the restart], I would’ve had to race the heck out of him and he was faster than I was – so, we probably would’ve finished a lot worse,” said Kahne. “I guess for points, it was good.”

But while Kahne looked to the big picture, he was still bummed about not being able to win at Indy.

“I would have loved to win the Brickyard,” he said. “We had a great car. I thought I gave it all I had and the team gave it all they had. We just came up a little short.”

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.”