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Haas’ F1 interest piqued by Anderson’s USF1 project

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Some six years after USF1’s false start, as it never even made it to the 2010 Formula 1 season opener, Haas F1 Team remains on target, on schedule and with full focus on preparing not just for Melbourne, but the season’s first test in Barcelona.

The origins of Gene Haas’ squad, however, date back to the USF1 era, when Haas was a supplier of some USF1 machinery and had talks with his former Haas CNC Racing technical director, Ken Anderson.

The tale of Haas F1 Team, then, in a sense almost comes full circle to the USF1 project, as Haas told assembled reporters today during this week’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte.

“Everything in F1 is a long process. Guenther (Steiner), actually, approached Joe (Custer) and myself at dinner one night,” Haas said. “We’d been involved with Ken Anderson in his project. He said, ‘Hey, are you guys interested in some F1?’ He preached customer cars, which were on the table at the time.

“We spent time dillying and dallying when the customer car concept was around. Like we could think, ‘We’d just get a car from Ferrari, I know the guys over there.’ Then it came to B, ‘We can do this and be cost effective.’ But like everything else, you put these things out on the table, and hardly anything actually gets approved. So customer cars never happened, and a couple years wasted there.

“Then Guenther said, ‘What do you want to do?’ We talked to Bernie a bit, and he was a bit standoffish. It was like, ‘If you want to be serious … you’re welcome to take a shot.’ But I don’t think he took us serious. He was kind of, well, ‘I have people ask all the time. But of 100 people, hardly anyone makes it.’

“After three years, if you’re serious, we put forth a tender. And it went from there.”

Haas expanded on the Anderson/USF1 partnership later in the media session, noting that Anderson and USF1’s progress – regardless of them not actually making the grid – still piqued his interest.

“I found it rather intriguing. It was a whole different racing venue. I thought it was interesting,” Haas said.

“If anything, Ken Anderson left a taste in my mouth for Formula 1. I liked the Formula 1 format. Formula 1 has a lot of history, great racetracks. And so being able to participate in that is very gratifying.

“We supplied USF1’s CNC machines, and they had a handful of machines. I went to that shop maybe twice. He showed me how they were doing things. It was different.”

Much of Haas F1 Team’s program is different – the several location-effort between the U.S., England and Italy and the combination of two veteran manufacturers (Dallara and Ferrari) to produce the chassis and power unit.

But again, and we’ve written this before, Gene Haas didn’t get to where he is in business and racing by being status quo.

And being different is one of several reasons why Haas F1 Team is so damn intriguing heading into this F1 season.

The key is that it’s different enough from USF1, where the idea entered Haas’ mind.

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.”