Veteran Canadian motorsports editor predicts Jeff Gordon will race in 2016 Indianapolis 500

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All Jeff Gordon did was drive a few laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Corvette Z06, announcing he would drive the pace car to start the Indianapolis 500, and imaginations are already running wild.

Speculation has started as to whether Gordon, a former native of Pittsboro, Ind., and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, could make a run in the Indianapolis 500 in the future.

But Norris McDonald, veteran Canadian writer and “Wheels” section editor for the Toronto Star, isn’t just speculating. More than a year before the 100th running of the Indy 500, McDonald is calling his shot.

McDonald believes leading the 33-car field around the 2.5-mile track will plant a seed in the mind of Gordon, who will retire from NASCAR after this season.

“It’s going to give him a taste of what the Indy 500 is all about,” writes McDonald.  “All he’ll have to do is look in his rear-view mirror and see 33 Indy cars behind him, all snorting to be turned loose. He’ll get the fever. You watch. Gordon has said he will retire from the Sprint Cup circuit after this season but he never said he was retiring from motor racing.”

Then McDonald takes his keyboard and points it toward center field Turn One.

“I predict he will race in the 2016 Indianapolis 500, which will be the 100th renewal of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” wrote McDonald. “In fact, he could already have a deal with Roger Penske. Remember where you heard this. It’ll happen.”

McDonald doesn’t predict Gordon will attempt to complete the “double” of racing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

At the pace car announcement, Gordon, who hasn’t attended the 500 since 1983, shared why he has never tried the feat in his 24-year NASCAR career.

“I’m the type of person where if I’m going to do it, I want to do it in a way where I feel like I can spend the proper amount of time behind the wheel and really get used to the car and appreciate and respect the competitors that race these cars every weekend and throughout the season,” Gordon said. “Do I wish I had the opportunity to race in the Indy 500? I think it’s any race car driver’s dream to race in this race.”’

Four drivers have ever successfully attempted the “double” of competing in the Indy 500 and Coke 600 in the same day, with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch the latest to try in 2014.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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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.”