Keselowski: First 3 Chase races are history, nothing matters more than next 3 races

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All of Brad Keselowski’s hard work in the first three races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup – including a win in the opening race at Chicagoland and a runner-up showing in Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway – is now all for naught.

Sure, Keselowski’s win at Chicagoland secured his advancement to and place in the Contenders Round (Races 4 through 6 of the 10-race Chase), but now that the Challengers Round (Races 1-3) is over, it’s time to start again from scratch says the 2012 Sprint Cup champ.

“Three more races, a new start, and what we were able to do in these last three, other than getting us to this next round, really mean nothing,” Keselowski said in Sunday’s post-race media conference. “We’ve got to keep our head on straight and push forward these next three (races) like we have these last three.”

Now comes the next three Chase races on a pair of 1.5-mile tracks and the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.

“In some ways all the brackets are survival brackets, but that particular bracket is probably more so than the others,” Keselowski said. “Surviving Talladega is its own horror film title but it’s also a reality.

“That place is going to be a crazy place to finish that bracket out. Certainly there’s going to be a lot of guys on the bubble, and it’s probably all going to change on the last lap in the last corner.”

And as for the next two races, Kansas and Charlotte, it would appear the latter is the race Keselowski feels he has the best shot at.

“You probably can control your destiny more so at Charlotte than any other racetrack, which is good. We’re putting an emphasis on that race.

“But then I look at Kansas and say, since that track has been repaved, it seems to be very, very sensitive to aerodynamics and getting in a pack and spinning out with a really hard tire. Anything could happen there. It’s almost like a mini-Talladega in that sense.”

Even though the points are once again reset and all 12 remaining Chase contestants are back at a level playing field points-wise, Keselowski is still happy with his start in the Chase.

“Yeah, we’ve had a really good start, so we can’t really complain that much having won a race, and a second and a seventh,” he said. “But it’s hard to look at that. All I can think about is how I wanted to win all three races, and now it’s time to move forward.

“All in all, it’s going to be a real challenge, and if you can survive all three of these brackets and go to Homestead and win this thing, you’ve certainly earned it.”

Keselowski had a strong race Sunday, leading 78 of the 400 scheduled laps around the one-mile, all-concrete racetrack, the only one in Sprint Cup racing.

And while he’s looking forward to the next three tracks – he’s won a total of four times at all three – past performance doesn’t mean much to him, especially with the elimination format.

“Not really, no,” Keselowski said of having won previously at Charlotte, Kansas and ‘Dega. “I mean, it’s a confidence booster, but you don’t get anything for it, not that matters in the next bracket.

“I don’t think of it as anything more than a confidence boost and nothing else.”

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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.”