Graham Rahal hopes to build on consistent 2015 at Barber

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On paper the first three races of Graham Rahal’s season to date, with one Top-10 finish and two P11 finishes, might not seem overly impressive. But consider the environment in which they’ve occurred.

Rahal races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, a one-car team co-owned by his father, Bobby, that is running consistently near the front of a field dominated by the multi-car teams of Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. This is after team restructuring in the offseason.

With the Verizon IndyCar Series heading to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. this weekend, the team could have reason to believe they’ll be able to move higher on grid for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

“We had a really good test at Barber,” Rahal said in a release two days of testing in March at the 17-turn, 2.3-mile permanent road course. “Obviously the conditions were cooler than what we will see this weekend but all in all I feel pretty good about our ability to be competitive at the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.”

At the two-day testing session, Rahal’s fastest lap in his No. 15 Honda was 1:07.6203. That put him at P7 for the entire weekend and gave him the fastest time among the Honda powered teams. The next highest was Foyt driver Takuma Sato in P10 at 1:07.6638.

Rahal goes into Barber as one of eight drivers in the field to have competed in all five IndyCar races at the track, beginning in 2010.

In those five races, Rahal’s best finish, and his only one in the top 10, was P4 in 2012 with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Sunday will also be Rahal’s second race with Steak ‘N Shake as his primary sponsor. The first was last weekend at Long Beach where he finished 11th after starting eighth.

“The Long Beach race was frustrating but I feel like we can have a strong rebound,” Rahal said. “We won’t find out until we get on track but certainly at the test we were right up there so I’m hoping we can have a good show on the weekend because we need the points.”

Rahal is currently 10th in points after three races, 57 behind Juan Pablo Montoya.

“Since it’s only a two day event this year we have to be right on top of our game in the practice sessions and qualifying,” Rahal said. “We definitely can’t miss a beat.”

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.”