(Photo courtesy IndyCar.com)

Indianapolis to once again ring in New Years with IndyCar ‘descent’

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IndyCar will ring in the New Year for the second straight year with a ceremonial drop of one of its open-wheel cars late Thursday in downtown Indianapolis.

But instead of calling it a drop, IndyCar officials have rechristened the ceremony as an “IndyCar descent.”

“No one wants to drop an IndyCar,” Bob Schultz, Downtown Indy’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Events, told the Indianapolis Star. “It’s just too precious.”

Not to mention expensive.

So, instead, the two-seat open-wheel racer will descend in downtown Indianapolis, similar to the way the Waterford crystal ball descends in Times Square in New York City.

By the time the IndyCar reaches the ground, those attending the celebration will be yelling “Happy New Year” and hugging, kissing and cheering in the new year.

This year’s “descent” will have extra special meaning as it will be the official kickoff to the celebration of what’s to come nearly six months later: the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The event begins Thursday night at 8 pm ET on Georgia Street in downtown Indy and will include a number of musical performances by popular local bands.

The car will begin its descent at 11:59 pm ET, followed by a fireworks display.

A test run of the descent took place Tuesday and everything went off without a hitch.

“It was completely safe last year, but now the aesthetics have been improved to contribute to an incredible midnight experience,” Schultz said.

Weather last year was below zero; this year temperatures are expected to be higher. As a result, organizers are anticipating larger crowds, as well.

“It’s where the people are going to be,” Schultz said. “So if you want to be in the heart of that the energy of our downtown, there is no greater time than New Years Eve this year.”

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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.”