NASCAR AMERICA: One-on-one with Chase Elliott (VIDEO)

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Chase Elliott’s future path is set. In 2016, the 19-year-old phenom moves up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time and replaces Jeff Gordon as driver of the famous No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

But that’s still a year away. 2015 will be big for Elliott. There are the five Cup races he’ll run in the No. 25 HMS Chevy but there’s also the matter of defending his Xfinity Series championship, which he earned last year with one race remaining.

Elliott knows he can’t be complacent. And in a one-on-one interview with NASCAR AMERICA’s Nate Ryan, he vowed that he won’t be.

“I’m excited about this season and I’m not gonna let 2016 take my mind off of what’s going on this year,” Elliott said. “This season is still a very important year to me. It’s an important year to [sponsor] NAPA, [team owner Rick] Hendrick, JR Motorsports, [crew chief] Ernie Cope, all the people that are involved.

“For me to show up with my mind not being where it needs to be would be very unfair to all of them, and I don’t want that to be the case. I want to make sure I do my part for them, give my best shot this year, and hopefully, we can be more consistent and try to compete for some more wins.”

For more of Elliott’s thoughts on the 2015 season and what lies beyond that, check out his full interview with Ryan at the top.

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.”