Brian France: New Chase has struck balance between winning and consistency (VIDEO)

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In a press conference this morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR Chairman Brian France declared that the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format has accomplished its goals and set the right balance between winning and consistency.

The latter note may strike some as odd considering that Ryan Newman, one of the four Championship drivers that will race for the Sprint Cup title in Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, has yet to win a single event in 2014 – and could still wind up taking the big prize over Joey Logano (five wins), Kevin Harvick (four wins), and Denny Hamlin (one win).

However, while such a scenario may not be considered by some to be ideal in a system that has put so much emphasis on winning, France insists that he would be fine if it came to that.

“Any format that we’ve ever had always has the possibility that somebody might win the championship without winning an event,” he said. “Short of us – which we’re not gonna do – making it a hard prerequisite, that you have to win a race to qualify…That takes it out of balance, frankly.”

Later in the conference, France returned to the “balance” thing when asked if the fact that a winless driver could claim the title meant there was a flaw in the current system.

“We’re not gonna be able to have a system – we don’t want to have a system that ignores consistency,” he explained. “There’s 43 teams who all compete every weekend on the same track. It’s not a basketball tournament or something else – obviously, it’s auto racing. So we need to reflect the idea of consistency.

“The question is do we have the right balance. And I would say, unmistakably, we do. I think wanting to win events has taken on an undeniable importance. At the same time, there oughta be room for teams that do it every week and can be consistent.”

He closed by adding that no matter the path, being able to make the finale and beating the other championship teams to win the title “will be an achievement for anybody” – and that NASCAR would be “delighted” if Newman emerged victorious.

Going back to the Chase format itself, France said that while NASCAR reserved the right to make changes to it for 2015, he put the chances of tweaking it for 2015 at “very modest to zero” and again mentioned that b-word.

“It’s exceeded what I had hoped for and it’s done precisely what we wanted to do, which is recalibrate competition, or winning, rather, and still have a strong place for consistency and all the rest – but recalibrate that balance,” he said.

“It’s only Year One, but clearly we’re on our way.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”