No NASCAR testing, but still plenty of on-track action this month

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The elimination of Daytona preseason testing for NASCAR would seem to indicate a lack of major on-track action this month. Fortunately, you’d be wrong about that.

This weekend, the action kicks off with a pair of sports car events on opposite sides of the globe.

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 test occurs at Daytona International Speedway, the first official on-track action for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship since last season’s finale at Road Atlanta. Meanwhile at the Dubai Autodrome, the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai will take place – it has a record field of more than 90 cars.

Additionally, in Maine, this weekend’s Red Bull Frozen Rush kicks off the Red Bull Signature Series for 2015. The Monster Energy Supercross runs in Phoenix this weekend and will have further events throughout the month.

Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires will have its much-anticipated first official test on January 13-14 at Palm Beach International Raceway, also in Florida. There should be a strong (read, more than the entire 2014 field) entry for that, although it hasn’t been released yet. See a photo from Andretti Autosport below for their prep work:

Next weekend sees the Chili Bowl in Tulsa. More information on that is here, for the event that has more than 300 entries.

The FIA World Rally Championship kicks off with the legendary Rally Monte Carlo in Monaco from January 22-25, an event that always stirs the soul.

The same weekend, of course, is the Rolex 24 at Daytona – the continuation of the TUDOR Championship’s month to shine in January, and the unofficial kickoff to the U.S. racing season.

The Verizon IndyCar Series should have some testing as well with cars still in 2014 aero trim, before the new aero kit homologation date of January 18. The newest IndyCar testing schedule is yet to be released.

NASCAR and F1 won’t have any official on-track action, but should still have enough news to carry through the month before their seasons – racing and testing-wise – kick off in February.

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.”