Will Chase Elliott’s march to Nationwide title continue tonight in Charlotte?

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With four races to go in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, a lot of things can still happen in regards to the championship.

But it’s getting harder to foresee any other outcome besides 18-year-old Chase Elliott emerging with the big prize at Homestead.

Elliott takes a 38-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith into tonight’s 300-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With three wins and an average finish of 8.0 this season, it’d be stunning to see Elliott make a self-inflicted error at this point of the year. And his luck’s been holding out too, as he’s dodged potentially disastrous incidents in each of the last two races.

Smith’s poor run last weekend at Kansas has helped create a clear path for Elliott: Finish in the Top-5 in each of the last four races, and it’s done.

And the mission is also clear for Elliott – namely, keep doing what you’ve been doing.

“Everybody is different when you get into situations when you’re battling for something,” Elliott said to the Charlotte Observer on Thursday. “It’s good to ask questions, but in your own way, you’ve got to figure out things and work through the stress that is on the team.

“I try to keep it as simple as possible and stress-free as I can and take it a week at a time. I put a lot of emphasis on that and hopefully we’re still in the hunt when it counts.”

As for Smith, who had a broken sway bar arm relegate him to a 22nd-place finish in Kansas, he’s now having to deal with Ty Dillon for runner-up honors in the standings.

Dillon has been on an impressive run as of late with 11 Top-10 finishes in the last 12 races (a run that includes his win at Indianapolis in July), and that’s helped bring him within two points of Smith.

Three 1.5-mile tracks in the last four races of the season has Dillon feeling good about his chances of getting another checkered flag before the year is out.

“Our 1.5-mile program has been stellar this entire season,” he said this week. “We’ve been able to knock off some Top-5 finishes, our teammate Brendan (Gaughan) got a victory in Kentucky and we just feel very confident in our program.

“You have to really credit ECR Engines for giving us the power and our guys for really building a strong notebook. I think if we stay focused on what we’ve been doing these past few weeks, a win is inevitable.”

Smith on the other hand will try to pull himself and the No. 7 team back up tonight.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get another win before this season’s end,” he said. “And it’s far from over. You never know how things will shake out by year’s end. So we’re looking forward to racing Charlotte under the lights.”

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.”