Ganassi’s younger drivers gaining experience in setup preferences at IMS

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The driver stable for Chip Ganassi’s IndyCar team for the Indianapolis 500 is a diverse group.

There’s Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan, who have a combined three IndyCar championships, 53 IndyCar/CART victories and two Indy 500 wins.

Then there’s the younger guys: Charlie Kimball and part-timers Sage Karam and Sebastian Saavedra. The trio has just one win among their 135 total races (The Indy 500 will be Karam’s fifth IndyCar event).

Kimball, the oldest of the younger trio at 30, was also the fastest on Tuesday in 13th at 225.467 mph. Kimball reached that mark on the 46th of his 56 laps of the day, which was marked by windy conditions. Kimball said the team for his No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet spent most of the day working on the overall balance of the car.

“We needed to close the loop on some things and find some grip but also find a little better balance,” Kimball said. “It was a tough day with the wind with it gusting pretty hard at times, but if we can run well in the wind, we should be able to run well in traffic.”

Kimball will be racing in his fifth Indy 500, where his best finish is eighth in 2012.

“We were really smart today with tires and were able to put ourselves in pretty good standing for the rest of the week with tire allocation,” Kimball said.

Karam and Saavedra, splitting time in the No. 8 Chevrolet outside of the ‘500,’ have the most catch-up work to do during the Month of May. But one area they’re on common ground with the rest of their teammates and the field is figuring out the new superspeedway aero kits that are debuting in the ‘500.’

That process continued Tuesday with the third practice session at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Today was pretty straightforward,” said Karam, who will drive the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. “We were close to mileaging out this Chevrolet engine and we used the remaining laps we had available to work on car setup.”

Karam finished the Tuesday session as the 17th fastest car at 224.838 mph after running 47 laps.

“We went a couple different directions today in terms of setup and found the wrong way to go,” said Karam, who will has the power of a new engine today.

Saavedra was the real odd man out for Ganassi, looking up at most of the field on the speed chart from the 31st position. Saavedra ran 31 laps and his fastest speed was 221.064 mph, about three mph off of Karam’s, on Lap 29.

“We’re using these first few practice sessions for both myself and the team to understand and really get comfortable with the new aero kits,” Saavedra said. “We just want to make sure we’re all on the same page with the car, especially since I haven’t run as many laps as some of the other guys out there. I’m looking forward to getting many more laps in this week and seeing what we need to do to improve the car.”

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.”