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MRTI: Nico Jamin’s Pro Mazda effort leads trio of recent signings

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The last 24 hours have been busy for Mazda Road to Indy driver confirmations, with Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda champion Nico Jamin’s confirmation of his Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires team leading the way.

Here’s some quick synopses:

Jamin will step up from USF2000 to Pro Mazda with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, thus following the identical path ventured by countryman Florian Latorre this time last year. Jamin, who blitzed the USF2000 field with 13 poles and 10 wins last year, will take up residence in the Mazda scholarship “Soul Red” livery.

“I am very happy and proud to stay in the Cape family for my 2016 season and have the opportunity to race in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires,” said Jamin. “This team is seriously amazing, we did a great job together in 2015 for our USF2000 campaign, and that teamwork allowed me to get the championship win and the big scholarship from Mazda Motorsports.

“I’m very honored to be a Mazda scholarship driver, and this is a lifetime opportunity for me. We’ll be 100-percent dedicated this year to bring the Soul Red Pro Mazda car in victory lane, as my only goal is to win this championship and race Indy Lights in 2017!”

Cape ran three cars in 2015 and Jamin is the team’s first confirmed driver for 2016. Of the 2015 drivers, Neil Alberico is stepping up to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with Carlin, while Daniel Burkett has moved into sports cars with the No. 33 CJ Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Latorre, the third driver from 2015, is yet to finalize his plans.

In USF2000, Brazilian karting ace Lucas Kohl is the second confirmed driver for John Cummiskey Racing, announced on Thursday.

“I’m very excited to work with John Cummiskey Racing, he is well known for his dedication to the Team and attention to every detail,” Kohl said. “The team has Louis D’Agostino, a very dedicate and smart engineer who has helped in the past many youngster in their careers. Roberto Moreno, an experienced F1 and Indy car driver will also be helping me to catch up with the knowledge that I will need in my first year of racing in the USA.

“I’m confident that together we will strive to perform at the top level and achieve good results in this very competitive Championship. I want to thank the team for the chance to race with them on the Mazda Road to Indy.”

Additionally, Team Pelfrey has rounded out its four-driver lineup in USF2000 with the confirmation of 19-year-old New Zealander James Munro.

“I think the team environment is great and that together we can challenge at the front of the field. I feel confident that I’m with the right team to move forward with my career. The ladder provided by Team Pelfrey on the way up to IndyCar is really great. It’s always good to keep continuity with a team so I’m hoping that I can go all the way through the Road to Indy with the team,” Munro said.

Munro, who will drive the  No. 83 Team New Zealand / Team Pelfrey Mazda, is the fourth rookie to sign with Pelfrey. Others are Robert Megennis (No. 80), Jordan Cane (No. 81) and TJ Fischer (No. 82).

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”