NASCAR: Dakoda Armstrong returns to Petty’s XFINITY Series team

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Richard Petty Motorsports finalized its Sprint Cup driver line-up back in October, and now, it’s done the same for its single-car outfit in the XFINITY Series.

Dakoda Armstrong will be back behind the wheel of the No. 43 Ford Mustang in 2015. Also returning is agricultural company WinField, which will support the 23-year-old from New Castle, Indiana in, fittingly, 23 races.

However, Armstrong will have a different crew chief to help him in Year Two at RPM. Frank Kerr, formerly of Sprint Cup squad Front Row Motorsports, will be replacing Philippe Lopez atop the No. 43’s pit box. That’s because Lopez has earned a promotion to operations manager for RPM.

“I’m excited to continue racing for The King,” said Armstrong in a release. “Philippe and I had a good relationship, and I feel like I learned a lot in my rookie season with the No. 43 team. I’m looking forward to continuing that growth into my second season.

“Now with ‘Frankie’ coming on board, I think we’ll be able to get our communication more in sync. We both come from an open-wheel background and he can relate the open-wheel style of driving to the stock cars.”

Armstrong picked up three Top-10s at Mid-Ohio, Richmond, and Texas in his rookie NXS campaign last year. He finished 13th in the standings and while he was largely in mid-pack throughout the season, he avoided poor finishes outside of his sole DNF at Atlanta (engine).

Still, with an average start and finish around 20th place in 2014, there’s room to improve for the young Hoosier. Having a full year of experience under his belt as well as a crew chief that’s spent time at NASCAR’s top level should help him make further progress in 2015.

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.”