IndyCar: Dixon at Penske’s heels during Barber test

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Team Penske driver’s Will Power and Simon Pagenaud had company at the top of the speed charts during IndyCar’s two-day test at Barber Motorsports Park.

Scott Dixon.

Power, the defending Verizon IndyCar champion, and Pagenaud topped the charts for the third and first of four sessions respectively.

But it was Dixon, in his No. 9 Target Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, that sped to No. 1 in the second and fourth session, where he grabbed the spot from Power on the very last lap Monday with a time of 1:07.3118 (123.010 mph).

“We spent the morning really chasing the changing track conditions today,” Dixon said afterward. “The track was a lot hotter today compared to yesterday and we had to adjust to that with the Target car.”

While Dixon topped Power’s final session speed, it was the latter who left the Alabama circuit with the overall best lap time of the test, at 1:07.3118 (123.010 mph).

“There are so many variables with the new aero kits as well,” Dixon said of the package that was revealed last week. “We worked a lot on aero and tried to do as many things as we could with the tire allotment we were given here. Overall I think it was a good test for the Target team and I’m looking forward to coming back for the race here next month.”

In five-career starts the Birmingham, Dixon has never started worse than fifth, led 39 laps and finished on the podium every time, just not as the winner. Power on the other hand has three poles in five starts and two wins, coming in 2011 and 2012.

“The aero kits produce so much more downforce and there’s a lot of grip, so the cars are faster everywhere,” Power said. “I would expect to break lap records just about everywhere.

“I think we found some good stuff as a team for St. Petersburg and when we come back to race here.”

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be held on April 26.

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.”