Rahal once again leads Honda’s charge, banking another top-five in Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing continued their hot streak, with Rahal taking the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda to its third straight top-five finish.

After runner-up finishes in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Rahal ended fifth in the 99th Indianapolis 500, following a drive up through the field from 17th on the grid.

Rahal quietly got into the top 10 by Lap 68, then methodically moved forward from there.

Despite his, the team’s, and Honda’s best efforts, Rahal said post-race that the Chevrolets had a notable edge.

“I’m really, really proud of these guys, all the effort they continue to put in,” Rahal said. “I mean, once again today, the top Honda. The Chevy was just in a league of its own unfortunately on horsepower. I was happy we were as close to Chuck and Dixon at the end as we were. I thought there was no hope. With 15 to go, to be tenth or ninth, charge up through those guys, pretty tricky.

“A lot of fun. I thought the racing was really good. Again, 500 miles. We were good at times, bad at times. Lucky we ended on a high note.

“More importantly than anything, I said to my boys coming into today, no matter what, two things I wanted, that was to be the top Honda, and to keep up with the top three in points, top four. Unfortunately three of those guys finished ahead of us, but still had a very good points today.”

To that point, Rahal ranks fifth in the standings heading into Detroit next weekend. That marked the site of his only podium finish last year, a runner-up finish in race one.

Rahal said he wanted to record a result for team co-owner David Letterman, who was on site this weekend in his first weekend in retirement following the conclusion of “The Late Show” earlier this week.

“Yeah, I mean, we wanted to win for Dave. I think we all knew that we were going to have an uphill battle today. At the end of the day we finished a lot closer than I expected.

“I think Dave will be very happy. It’s good talking to him. He assured me we’ll see him around the racetrack more. I’m excited to have him at this stage of his life. Talking to his wife, she’s feeling the same.

“It’s about time he can enjoy himself a little bit, and hopefully that includes IndyCar racing.”

Rahal also praised the racing itself on the day.

“One point needs to be made, which is what Will (Power) said.  I think the racing today was very hard, but very clean.  The people I was racing with, we had some good battles, but the guys did an excellent job.  A lot of outside passes which I’ve rarely ever seen here.  A lot of inside.  Very good battles but very clean.”

The result is Rahal’s best in the Indianapolis 500 since ending a career-best third in 2011.

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.”