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Firestone using data, 100th Indy 500, as key focus for 2016

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One of the good things about Firestone’s presence in the Verizon IndyCar Series is that they’re generally not a story.

Why is almost no press, good press, you ask? Because it means that the tires are nearly universally praised by the paddock, and they’re not a story line for being unsafe or having blowouts, as occasionally happens in other championships.

In a first-person piece for IndyCar.com, Dale Harrigle, Chief Engineer and Manager of Race Tire Development, Firestone Racing, laid out how Firestone preps for a new season. As he notes, it’s never really an “offseason” but what he calls the “preseason.”

Two key areas of focus for Firestone in 2016 are maximizing the tire specification for the 100th Indianapolis 500, and using their vast amounts of data to prepare specifications for the remaining 15 races.

“From a race tire perspective, we conducted a test to develop the 2016 Indy 500 tire back in August. After a thorough period of analyzing data, talking to teams and extracting as much information from that test as possible, we decided on a specification for Indianapolis,” Harrigle said, via IndyCar.com.

“Without giving too much away, we are excited to celebrate Firestone’s rich history at the Indy 500 and we’re going to display that excitement in a way that only Firestone, with our 100-year history at Indianapolis, can.”

About the data, Harrigle noted, “Our last focus area this preseason involves the analysis of a significant amount of tire data from last year’s races and tests. This data is used to assess not only the past performance of the tires, but to also identify specific focus areas for future development.”

We’ll see what Firestone comes up with when the Phoenix test occurs next week, and then leading into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season-opener on March 13.

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.”