Anthony Martin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Barber Warmup Weekend times, notes

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The three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder had three busy days of running at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend, with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires running on Saturday, March 5 and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series out Sunday and Monday, March 6-7.

Given the slightly cooler conditions and limited sets of Cooper Tires on offer this “Warmup Weekend” test, these times might not be entirely representative of what we see when all three series come back in April, or what the series will do at St. Petersburg this weekend for the season-opening doubleheader.

Nonetheless, here’s the quick recaps and times:

INDY LIGHTS

On a run on new tires, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Santiago Urrutia set the fastest time of the test at 1:12.4479 in the No. 55 Soul Red Mazda Dallara IL-15 Mazda. The Uruguayan edged Belardi Auto Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist and Team Pelfrey’s Scott Hargrove.

While Urrutia and Hargrove have past track experience, Rosenqvist loved his first day at the track: “This circuit is fantastic. I think it’s one of the top-five best circuits I’ve driven, it’s really nice and flowing. It’s a proper circuit – you’ll pay for it if you make a mistake. It’s very high speed and very physical, so it really tests the teams, the cars and the drivers.”

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PRO MAZDA

Team Pelfrey laid down its intention of continuing its Pro Mazda title run with its trio of drivers at the first official test of 2016. Rookie Aaron Telitz measured up nicely to Weiron Tan and Pato O’Ward, the latter of whom made a last-minute cameo for testing in a third car.

“All three Team Pelfrey cars were quick. Going up against my two teammates, who have a great deal of experience in the Pro Mazda cars after having a full year under their belts, shows me where I can improve. We work really well as a team,” said Telitz, the Rice Lake, Wisconsin native who now resides in Minnesota.

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USF2000

If testing was any indication, the USF2000 field will be stacked. Between Anthony Martin (pictured) and Parker Thompson (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), James Munro (Team Pelfrey), Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing), Garth Rickards and Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing), there is no shortage of talent – and that’s just the top six runners. The top 12 were all within one second of the fastest time for the week.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”