MRTI: Andretti, Pelfrey teams to test New Orleans circuit on December 8-9

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Andretti Autosport and Team Pelfrey’s Mazda Road to Indy programs will get a crack at the updated NOLA Motorsports Park circuit in a test session on Dec. 8-9.

The Andretti camp will run one Pro Mazda car, while Pelfrey will run two Pro Mazdas and two USF2000 cars. This session, which is free and open to the public, will mark the first open-wheel test on NOLA’s new 2.67-mile course.

The top-tier Verizon IndyCar Series will stage its third round of the 2015 championship, the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, at NOLA in early April (tickets are now on sale, by the way).

Additionally, NOLA will be a major track for all three of the Mazda Road to Indy leagues. The MRTI’s Winterfest will take place there in February (with Indy Lights testing for two days), and both Pro Mazda and USF2000 will run doubleheaders as part of the track’s IndyCar weekend.

“We’re thrilled to finally have the first open-wheel test on the track since its completion,” NOLA president Kristen Engeron said in a statement. “We’re extremely excited to see cars on track, and we’re looking forward to hearing driver feedback on what we think are some exciting updates to the circuit.”

The NOLA test will also serve as the initial glimpse of Pelfrey’s new USF2000 program, which will join its ongoing Pro Mazda and F1600 programs.

“Everyone at Team Pelfrey is excited at the prospect of testing on the newly configured track at NOLA in preparation for the five Mazda Road to Indy races at the track in 2015,” Pelfrey team principal Nigel Tuckey said. “Besides the attendance of our Pro Mazda team, the test will also mark the first public appearance of our new for 2015 USF2000 team along with some very promising young drivers.

“Combine all of that excitement with the fun and great hospitality that Louisiana offers and December 8 can’t come soon enough.”

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.”