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Aleshin gets his work visa sorted, looks set for St. Pete

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Mikhail Aleshin has missed the final two preseason tests before the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season owing to last-minute visa issues, but appears set to go for next week’s season opener at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Aleshin posted a tweet this morning with his updated work visa, although he has since deleted it.

Assuming all checks out with the process, it would mean the Russian will be back – as planned – for his second full season in IndyCar in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Aleshin spoke highly of his return to IndyCar when I caught up with him at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where he wound up qualifying fastest in Prototype and started on the overall pole in the No. 37 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan after the starting grid order was rest by class, owing to rain conditions.

“For me, I didn’t have any real issues to get back and be in the top-10 in IndyCar (at Sonoma last year),” he said. “It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it was not harder than when I did it the first year, for sure.”

The visa confirmation for Aleshin would means that for the second time in a handful of weeks, a potential opportunity has slipped through Gabby Chaves’ fingers, but nonetheless the Colombian American should be available on standby at a moment’s notice, as he was for these two tests at Phoenix and Sebring.

Chaves said he plans to be at most, if not all, IndyCar events to stay noticed and is working on finalizing his Indianapolis 500 program within the next couple weeks.

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.”