Ganassi, Sabates praise McMurray as team’s ‘big game hunter’ into 2015

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Running in the Rolex 24 at Daytona every year has its advantages for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers – particularly this year with the testing ban and fewer crossovers in the race — those who raced have received more attention.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray is one of those drivers. We spoke to McMurray at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test to outline his Sprint Cup goals in working with new crew chief Matt McCall.

But in the interim something changed, and the narrative about McMurray has centered more on what he accomplished at this year’s Rolex 24.

McMurray was a key cog in the overall winning lineup with Cup teammate Kyle Larson and CGR IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford.

McMurray joined two of the all-time greatest racers in Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers in history to have won the Daytona 500 and Rolex 24.

A week later, McMurray reflected on the accomplishment and its impact.

“To win last week was huge… growing up racing karts, my goals were to make it to NASCAR Winston Cup at the time, contend for wins and one day the championship,” McMurray said. “I never had the dream of winning the Rolex 24. But without driving for Chip and Felix, you don’t have the opportunity.

“Racing in it is big. It’s my favorite race. It’s one I look forward to because of the other bonding with drivers, the crews from Indy I don’t get to see. You get to hang out with drivers, and to win it is quite unbelievable.

“With two to three hours to go, I stood on side of pit box and realized it could happen. We had Scott Dixon in the car – I think the world of him – and he was the most talented guy on the track that weekend.”

Ganassi and minority team owner Felix Sabates both spoke highly of how McMurray has evolved and forecast their hopes and expectations for 2015.

“We saw Jamie last year win the All-Star Race,” Ganassi said. “That was pretty big. You’d have to call Jamie … a ‘big-game hunter.’ He wins all the big races.”

McMurray’s presence also has expanded into national ads. He’s been featured recently with LeBron James for a McDonald’s Monopoly game, and CGR president Steve Lauletta said McDonald’s is looking at another.

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.”