Justin Wilson finishes second at Mid-Ohio, best result in two years

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Like a gentleman, Justin Wilson raced against a “demon” for his first Verizon IndyCar Series win in three years and the demon, Graham Rahal, won.

The part-time driver for Andretti Autosport finished second in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, his best result since finishing third at Houston in 2013.

Wilson’s last, best shot at Rahal came on a restart with eight laps remaining. Wilson’s No. 25 and Rahal’s No. 15 cars drag raced toward Turn 1 and Wilson utilized his last push-to-pass.

“I was pushing hard. I knew I had one push-to-pass left and Graham was out,” Wilson told NBCSN. “I knew he was going to take the inside, I had to go to the outside and then try to get ahead and brake as late as I could.”

But the push-to-pass wasn’t enough for the Englishman against the braking ability of Rahal, who was racing in front of his home crowd.

“Graham was demon on the brakes today and there was no way to beat him,” Wilson said. “He was a man possessed.”

Wilson was near Rahal through a few corners, but as a part-time driver during the season’s final five races, he wasn’t about to be the person to create a hazardous obstacle for Rahal’s championship hopes.

“I so wanted it, I was close to being able to pull ahead there.  But I know Graham’s going for the championship and contact wasn’t an option,” Wilson said, later adding, “He braked so late. I can’t believe he actually made it stick. He can’t either.”

The race was Wilson’s fifth of 2015 for Andretti and he has two more left at Pocono and Sonoma as he drives to earn a permanent ride in 2016.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Wilson said of his finish. “It’s great to get a result here and we’re just building toward next year to see what happens. I have no idea at this point. We’re pushing hard, but it’s never easy.”

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.”