Not much time for Toyota teams to try 2015 Camry before testing ban starts

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Toyota will become the first of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ three manufacturers to update its Generation-6 machine next year with the 2015 Camry.

But something else is coming even sooner: A NASCAR ban on private team testing that begins following next month’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

During today’s unveiling of the new Camry at Charlotte Motor Speedway, TRD vice president of chassis development Andy Graves said that the car would hit the track at some point before the teams come to Daytona in February 2015 for Speedweeks.

Thanks to the ban, that leaves a little more than one month for Toyota teams Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing to sample the new car.

But with JGR still having all three of its drivers – Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth – in this year’s Chase, it would seem that they’ll want to devote their energy toward the championship for as long as they’re in it.

“Our whole focus is on right now with where we are with the Chase and everything,” team owner Joe Gibbs said today according to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News. “I can’t see us being able to do much.”

Depending on how long Busch, Hamlin, and Kenseth can last in the post-season, MWR may wind up handling a good portion of the 2015 Camry’s testing in the weeks ahead.

Neither of MWR’s drivers, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, are involved in the Chase.

“We’ll be at Nashville and things like that,” Bowyer said to Pockrass. “We have [Goodyear test at] Auto Club Speedway, we have a Phoenix test coming up. We’ve got opportunities to get in this race car.”

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.”