IndyCar: Rahal’s charges propels him to lead at GP of Indianapolis halfway mark

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INDIANAPOLIS – Graham Rahal leads the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis through 41 of 82 laps, in the final tune-up race before the Indianapolis 500 two weeks from Sunday.

For the second consecutive race, it seems the driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is turning in the drive of the day.

Rahal started 17th, but made it up to sixth following a frantic first lap fracas at Turn 1, and methodically moved forward to fourth.

He jumped both Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais at the first pit stop sequence, although he lost a bit of time to polesitter Will Power in traffic.

Power led 34 of 41 laps, before his second stop on Lap 40. He resumed the net lead after Rahal pitted later, on Lap 42.

Power, Rahal, Pagenaud, Bourdais and either Luca Filippi or Juan Pablo Montoya spent the most time in the top five in the opening lap of the race.

The leaders now appear to be switching back from Firestone black tires to red tires for the third stint.

It has been a mostly clean 41 laps, save for the first turn of the race, which featured a debris field of aero kit shards.

Contact in Turn 1 involved Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Jack Hawksworth, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden. Castroneves and Hinchcliffe kept going while Dixon, Hawksworth and Newgarden were stopped in Turn 1, assisted by the Holmatro Safety Team, restarted and return to the field.

A lap later, Justin Wilson, Charlie Kimball, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, James Jakes, Dixon, Newgarden, Huertas and Hawksworth pitted for wing changes. Wilson, Huertas and Hawksworth replaced their front wings, Newgarden replaced his rear wing, and the others replaced both.

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.”