TriStar Motorsports announces several changes to its corporate and four-team Xfinity Series lineup

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A busy off-season continues for TriStar Motorsports, which announced several personnel changes to the growing four-team Xfinity Series operation.

Here’s a rundown of who’s new, who has returned and who will have new duties for the 2015 season, per a team media release:

* Former TriStar general manager Keith Barnwell has returned to the team as the new Executive Vice President of Motorsports for 2015. Barnwell has a Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 win as a spotter for Jamie McMurray in addition to two XFINITY Series Championships.

* NASCAR veteran Rick Viers joins as the organization’s new general manager. Viers has a long and colorful history as both a crew chief and tire changer. He was with Harry Gant when he won four races in a row, as well as was part of Dale Earnhardt’s team when he won the Brickyard 400.

* Bruce Cook is the new crew chief for the No. 8 Toyota Camry driven by Blake Koch. Cook’s previous career stops include JR Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc.

* Veteran crew chief Wes Ward moves to a new role as shop foreman. Among drivers Ward worked with previously as a crew chief are Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett.

* Eddie Pardue is the new crew chief for Cale Conley’s No. 14 Toyota Camry for 2015. Pardue was previously TriStar’s competition director. Pardue’s previous crew chief stints included working with Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and the late Jason Leffler.

* NASCAR Veteran Mike Bliss extends his partnership with TriStar Motorsports for a fifth straight season. Paul Clapprood returns as Bliss’ crew chief. The pair come into 2015 with 133 starts together.

* Greg Conner remains as crew chief for the No. 44 Toyota Camry for a third straight season. Announcements of who will drive the No. 44, as well as sponsorship, is expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

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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.”