Mike Conway sorting out 2015 open-wheel/sports car plans

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If Simon Pagenaud is the marquee full-season free agent in the Verizon IndyCar Series, then Mike Conway is the marquee part-timer who’s still trying to figure out his 2015 plans.

For two straight years, Conway has been the star part-timer running only on road and street courses, and has three wins. This past season with Ed Carpenter Racing, Conway won at Long Beach and Toronto race two.

The Englishman is enjoying what he’s doing, but is unable to commit to either IndyCar or his Toyota Racing commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship until either championship releases a 2015 schedule.

“Yeah it’s been great. I love what I’ve been able to do this year in terms of a split schedule,” Conway told MotorSportsTalk in Austin this past weekend.

“I’d love to do IndyCar again and I love driving this too, so it’s not an easy decision, and I still don’t know what will happen. It’s still a case of ifs, buts or maybes.”

Conway would still seem to have the inside line on CFH Racing’s No. 20 seat for the road and street courses if he can. But if there’s more than one IndyCar/WEC date conflict, you’d have to think Conway would be forced to choose one or the other.

CFH, too, may be in a position where they’d rather have just one extra driver alongside team co-owner Ed Carpenter for the road and street courses rather than a rotation of Conway and perhaps one other.

Without full schedules being determined, there are key points of interest to note from the dates that have already been released.

Long Beach’s date has shifted to April 19, which falls on the same weekend as this year’s date for the FIA WEC opener in Silverstone.

The Le Mans date of June 13-14, 2015 was an IndyCar off weekend this year, but the potential exists an IndyCar race could enter into that weekend, with a Canadian date at either Toronto or Canadian Tire Motorsport Park mooted.

One thing Conway isn’t planning on doing is the FIA Formula E Championship, which he had originally signed up for with Dragon Racing but sat out the first race in Beijing to prepare for his Toyota debut in the WEC.

“Nothing’s happening there, and I have nothing scheduled right now,” he said. “It’s kind of nice, because I haven’t had many weekends off. It gives me more time to focus on this.”

His Toyota debut ended with just a sixth place finish, however it did feature an amazing slide job that Conway managed to hang onto in the driving rain.

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.”