NASCAR: Kurt Busch tops Friday Cup practice at Pocono

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Kurt Busch posted a lap of 180.353 miles per hour to lead the way in this afternoon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session for the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. ET on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle,” but rain is in the forecast for later today.

If that three-round session is rained out, then the grid will be set on today’s practice speeds with Busch starting Sunday’s main event from the pole position.

“It was good with our race runs and then to go to [qualifying] trim and still have that speed,” Busch told Fox Sports. “You gotta do it over three runs here now – it’s not just that one magic lap to try and sit on the pole.

“We were outside pole here though in June, and we want one spot better, so the Haas Automation Chevy’s fast right now.”

Following Busch in second and third during practice were the Team Penske/Ford duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

Keselowski, who lost at Pocono in June when an attempt to have the lapped car of Danica Patrick clean his trash-covered grille went awry, topped out at 180.155 mph. Logano was close behind with his lap at 179.791 mph.

Cup rookie Kyle Larson was fourth-quickest with his lap of 179.508 mph for Chip Ganassi Racing, and Clint Bowyer led the Toyota camp with the fifth-quickest lap (179.372).

Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jamie McMurray made up Positions 6-10. Other notables from the session included Danica Patrick in 11th and Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon in 15th.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT POCONO – FRIDAY PRACTICE TIMES

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”