Rookie Skillman, veteran Anderson set Pro Stock track records at Route 66; Ellis sets Motorcycle track mark

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JOLIET, Il. – Drew Skillman continues to impress in his rookie season on the NHRA Pro Stock circuit.

Skillman drove with the savvy of a veteran, setting an elapsed time track record in Pro Stock (6.528 seconds) in the process (at a speed of 210.97 mph), to earn the provisional pole in Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying for the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

“The track’s in great condition,” Skillman said. “We had a great opportunity to actually get with, took a swing at it and had a great pass.

“We still have tomorrow to go, but it’s really nice to have that No. 1 at the beginning, so it’s a good start.”

Skillman isn’t letting himself get too far ahead, knowing there are two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday. But if he wins his first pole of his Pro Stock career, he already knows how he’ll react.

“I’ll feel real excited,” Skillman said. “That’s what you want, of course. It means you have the baddest hot rod out there and have the best chance of winning. I’ll take that any day.”

Veteran Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson also set a track speed record (211.30 mph).

Chris McGaha was the provisional No. 2 (6.533 seconds at 211.59 mph), followed by Anderson (6.533 at 211.30), defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders (6.536 at 211.26) and Jason Line (6.546 at 210.57).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis also got into the track record mode with an elapsed time of 6.856 seconds (at a speed of 195.68 mph).

“We just need to take the success we’ve had in qualifying and transfer that over to race day,” Ellis said. “I knew from the very moment I first rode that bike that it was fast.”

Defending PSM champ Andrew Hines took the provisional No. 2 spot (6.882 at 193.99), followed by Jerry Savoie (6.883 at 195.11), Eddie Krawiec (6.891 at 193.85) and Matt Smith (6.893 at 192.71).

Two more rounds of qualifying take place Saturday starting at 5:30 pm ET. Final eliminations take place Sunday, beginning at Noon ET.

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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.”