It’s official: IndyCar is coming back to Road America in 2016

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – A day that many thought would never come is indeed, coming.

In 2016, it’s official. IndyCar is coming back to Road America. The IndyCar weekend will occur from June 24-26, along with the full Mazda Road to Indy and the Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS classes.

Track president George Bruggenthies formally announced the return on Saturday morning, at this weekend’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at the iconic, picturesque 4.048-mile road course.

“We listened to the fans and the local community, and after careful negotiations struck a deal to bring back one of the greatest forms of open-wheel racing ever to grace our beautiful 4-mile road course,” Bruggenthies said in a release. “We have wanted to bring INDYCAR back for quite some time and we knew what it would take to make it work for everyone involved.”

Added Mark Miles, Hulman & Co. CEO, “We know how revered Road America is by our drivers, teams and fans and we’re confident it will be a great event on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

“We’re thankful to (Road America president and general manager) George Bruggenthies and his staff for their collaboration in bringing INDYCAR back to one of the most iconic road courses in North America. This event, along with a new street race in Boston, are integral additions for 2016 as our efforts to finalize the entire schedule continue to progress.”

Following discussions, rumors, speculation and consistent wishing of fans, drivers, teams and media, the North American open-wheel series will make its return to the track for the first time since 2007, which was then under Champ Car sanction.

In addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series, all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will compete on race weekend. Road America officials have been overwhelmed with fan requests for Indy car racing to return to the venerable track, and worked hard with INDYCAR to make it happen.

Derrick Walker, INDYCAR’s outgoing president of competition and operations, was integral in helping put this deal together and was cited in the release.

“It’s truly great news that open-wheel racing will be back at Road America,” Walker said. “It’s a classic road course: long, with almost every type of challenging corner. The track is designed to make full use of the natural terrain, which makes for great spectator locations to see the Verizon IndyCar Series at its best.”

This year, Pirelli World Challenge raced on the last weekend of June, opposite IndyCar at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and opposite the TUDOR Championship at Watkins Glen International.

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.”