Jimmie Johnson fastest in final Texas Sprint Cup practice

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Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson led the way in final practice for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 with a lap of 193.791 mph in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Johnson also claimed the fastest 10-lap average in “Happy Hour” with a run of 188.771 mph over his first 10 laps.

The three-time Texas race winner was followed by Chase driver Ryan Newman in second (193.771), Paul Menard in third (193.597), another Chase driver in Joey Logano (193.396), and last week’s Martinsville winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (192.954).

Two more Chasers were among the Top 10, as Carl Edwards was eighth (192.575) and Sunday’s polesitter, Matt Kenseth, was 10th (191.714).

“We’ve gotta keep working on it,” Edwards told Fox Sports. “We did try a lot of stuff. I’m really proud of my guys – they’re able to make it through all sorts of different things. We’ve just gotta be able to make the car balanced in the spots it needs to be.

“…We have a ton of speed. I can go and lay down a super-fast lap. But we’ve just got to keep working on the long runs. That’s what this race is gonna be about tomorrow.”

Kenseth was also searching for an ideal situation with his own car, which he called “kind of a work in progress.”

“We’re not where we need to be for tomorrow, but I feel like we got through a lot of stuff and have a lot of stuff to look at tonight,” he told Fox.

As for the other Chasers: Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick ended the session with the 11th and 12th-fastest laps respectively, while Brad Keselowski was 14th. Rounding out the Eliminator 8 was Chase Grid leader Jeff Gordon in 24th.

The green flag for Sunday’s 334-lap event is slated to fall shortly after 3 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES at Texas – Final Practice Times

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.”