Kyle Larson allowed to compete in select dirt track races this off-season

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With him and his girlfriend preparing to welcome their first child in December, you’d figure Kyle Larson’s off-season would be busy enough.

But the likely NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year will also be making a limited return to sprint car racing, where he developed his talents (and which he defended as a whole this summer following the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy).

Larson will drive a midget car in the famous Turkey Night Grand Prix (which he has won before) from Nov. 26-27 at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.

He’ll then make an appearance in a winged sprint car for the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown at Cocopah Speedway in Somerton, Arizona. That event will take place Jan. 2-3, 6, and 9-10.

Finally, Larson will return to the midgets for a shot at the Golden Driller in the Chili Bowl Nationals, which take place from Jan. 12-17 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has yet to win the Chili Bowl main event, with a top finish of third in the 2012 running.

For Turkey Night and the Chili Bowl, Larson will race for Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian and have backing from Target’s Cartwheel brand. In Arizona, he’ll race for Larson-Marks Racing, the sprint car team he co-owns.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to a few dirt tracks during the offseason,” Larson said in a Chip Ganassi Racing release. “As most people know, dirt racing is where I started my career, and while I always wanted to drive in the Sprint Cup Series, I really appreciate the opportunity to be back racing on dirt.

“Being able to once again participate in the Chili Bowl, and have another chance to win the feature, is something I’m really looking forward to. It is great when you work for an owner like Chip that’s a former driver because he knows how it feels and to also have a partner like Target that is supportive of me doing this. I am very appreciative for the opportunity.”

As for his boss, Ganassi said that he was “happy” that Larson will have the chance to get back to his roots.

“His results on dirt tracks and fan base speak for themselves, and I’ve been pleased to see him bring some of that success and excitement to our NASCAR team this year,” he said.

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.”