NASCAR AMERICA: 1-on-1 with the King – and Hall of Famer – Richard Petty (VIDEO)

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As the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Induction Ceremony (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) draws closer, some of the sport’s biggest figures are starting to arrive for the occasion.

One of them is seven-time Sprint Cup champion Richard Petty, who was part of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural Class of 2010. That group also included NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and son Bill France Jr., legendary driver and team owner Junior Johnson, and another seven-time Cup champ, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Being part of that first class remains a major accomplishment in the eyes of The King.

“That was the name of the game with us – if you ever run a race, you have to win it,” Petty said to NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast from the red carpet this evening. “We were fortunate to get in on the first go-round, and that will always be a big plus on my side.”

With 200 Sprint Cup wins on his resume, it was almost a given that Petty would enter the Hall on his first try. But he told Stavast that five years later, he’s still grateful that he doesn’t have to worry about getting in.

“I’m glad I went ahead and got in, and don’t have to go up against some of those guys that are in now,” he said. “It’s gonna be a really good [Class of 2015]. It’s a real versatility deal across the whole board. It shows from NASCAR’s standpoint…all the different scenarios of what it takes to be in the Hall of Fame.”

For more of Petty’s thoughts, check out his full interview above.

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.”