Jeff Gordon posts quickest lap in final Sprint Cup practice at N.H.

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For the first time all weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, someone else besides Brad Keselowski got to the top of the leaderboard.

With roughly five minutes to go in final Sprint Cup practice for tomorrow’s Sylvania 300, Jeff Gordon popped a lap of 135.357 mph that knocked Keselowski (135.256) off of P1.

Gordon has some work to do to advance from 13th on the grid, but it looks like he’ll have a car capable of getting the job done. Yesterday, he said he felt like he and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team were capable of stopping Keselowski from claiming his third consecutive win.

Kevin Harvick’s lap of 135.236 mph was good enough for third in the session. Joey Logano was fourth (135.102) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. followed him in fifth (135.054).

The Top 7 speeds belonged to Chase competitors, including Jimmie Johnson in sixth and Matt Kenseth in seventh. Non-Chase competitors Danica Patrick, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray (who will start alongside Keselowski on the front row tomorrow) completed the Top 10.

Five more Chasers – Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, and A.J. Allmendinger – comprised Positions 11-15. Among the other Chasers, Denny Hamlin was 19th, Aric Almirola was 21st, Greg Biffle was 24th, and Carl Edwards was 26th.

Biffle had a rough session in particular as he lost control of his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion off of Turn 2. However, while he slid through the backstretch grass, he avoided the inside wall.

Two other incidents took place in the final practice. Early on, Corey Lajoie sustained damage to his No. 77 Randy Humphrey Racing Ford when he made contact with the wall in Turn 4.

Then, during the final minute of the session, Tony Stewart spun his No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet SS while going through Turn 4. But like Biffle, he was able to avoid a run-in with the wall.

Tomorrow’s main event is scheduled to begin shortly after 2 p.m. ET.

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.”