Local police ID fan that climbed fence during NASCAR regular season finale

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The identity of the fan that climbed to the top of the Turn 4 catch fence during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway has been revealed by Henrico County (Va.) police.

53-year-old Henrico resident James Dennis was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. According to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report, Henrico police Lt. Scott Jones said that Dennis told police it was his birthday and he wanted to be on national television.

Dennis’ fence climb triggered a caution with roughly 70 laps to go in the race.

“He’s up in the stands and he’s waiting for his chance,” Jones said to the RTD. “When the officers are tied up on something else, when the officers walk away, he runs down, climbs the fence, all the way to top, starts waving, and he got his wish.”

Dennis has since expressed remorse over his actions on Saturday.

“I am deeply in regret of what I did,” he said to Richmond TV station WTVR after appearing in court. “I want to apologize to everyone. It was just stupid.”

He added: “I was thinking about it when I did it. I got hung up in the moment. Cool race. I guess we never grow up.”

In its initial statement on the incident, Richmond International Raceway said it would review its track security measures with the local police and NASCAR.

At the risk of stating the obvious, RIR and NASCAR are likely very thankful that Saturday’s situation didn’t go farther than it did. As USA Today writer and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan notes, had Dennis fallen to the pavement and then been hit by a speeding car, the aftermath would have been catastrophic for the sport.

Luckily, that didn’t happen and Dennis’ ill-advised escapade will likely be remembered as simply a bizarre footnote in an anti-climactic regular season finale.

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

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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.”