Pagenaud leads on another day at IMS where an incident steals headlines

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Speeds dipped slightly from Wednesday on Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Simon Pagenaud leading the way in at 228.793 mph in his No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet. Pagenaud also had the day’s fastest no-tow speed of 227.628 mph.

The remainder of the top five overall was Wednesday leader Carlos Munoz, then three Chip Ganassi Racing entries driven by Sage Karam, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.

In the no-tow department, Pagenaud led Dixon, Will Power, Kanaan and Juan Pablo Montoya – all between 227 and 226 mph.

However the story emerging at the end of the day was Josef Newgarden’s accident in the final hour, which while similar to Helio Castroneves’ on Wednesday was not identical.

Pagenaud was asked in the post-practice press conference whether he thought the cars were still safe, to which he immediately said yes.

“These cars are safe. IndyCar is trying to make it safer,” Pagenaud said. “We’re going past 230 mph on corner entry. If you have a crash it’s gonna be a big crash.

“It’s still early days. I can’t comment for Josef’s crash, or for Helio’s crash either. It’s too difficult for me to say. The car seems plenty safe because both drivers were OK.”

He did have a one-liner about his Team Penske teammate, though.

“I knew Helio was OK because the first thing he did (after the crash), he adjusted his hair in his suit.”

Speeds from Thursday are below. Note James Hinchcliffe sampled Conor Daly’s No. 43 Smithfield Foods Honda for a bit, Tristan Vautier did his first laps in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, as did 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier in the No. 91 Wynn Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.

Simona de Silvestro returned to the track in her No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda while Pippa Mann was the only driver not to take part in Thursday’s running, as her Coyne crew repaired her No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda.

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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.”