Photo: Rick Dole/Panoz DeltaWing Racing

DeltaWing’s improvements coming at right time into Long Beach

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Ahead of today’s third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the Panoz DeltaWing Racing team’s continuous effort and hard work is starting to pay dividends.

It hasn’t come yet in terms of outright results, but is in terms of increased competitiveness.

Katherine Legge led overall in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe at Daytona, and the car she shared with Andy Meyrick and Sean Rayhall was poised for a lead lap finish at Sebring before heartbreak inside the final 20 minutes. The car retired with an issue in the steering rack.

“It’s been an encouraging start,” DeltaWing team manager Tim Keene told NBC Sports. “It was a shame to DNF with 17 minutes to go, but we were still on the lead lap. Potentially, we could have ended up sixth.

“We got what we got due to a crack in the steering box. One of the teeth broke off the rack. It’s just something we can’t do a lot about; given the way the car is designed and built, it’s like racing on railroad tracks for 12 hours.”

Also encouraging was the car’s improved pace in the morning two-hour practice session. Last year, the car was 2.078 seconds off the pace (1:16.063 to a 1:18.141); this year it’s just 1.313 off seconds (1:15.917 to 1:17.230). The time improved to a 1:16.578 by Meyrick in the afternoon, just 1.104 off the pace.

“I certainly don’t expect to be at the top of the field, I don’t think. But we are a lot closer than we have been,” Keene explained.

“We have to keep making gains. We didn’t make many significant changes. Made some shock adjustments and one spring change. Mainly it’s been to the drivers to get them to be more confident into the corners.”

Legge and Meyrick share the car this week, with Meyrick making his track debut and really enjoying the atmosphere of the Southern California street circuit. Legge, of course, won her first race in North America in the 2005 Formula Atlantic season – a race that put her on the map in the country.

Meyrick qualified a very solid sixth at a best time of 1:16.006. He’ll start the race before handing off to Legge at a pit stop sequence. This year the car was only 1.044 off pole; last year, it was 2.615 seconds.

“Qualifying went very well,” Meyrick said. “P6 is fantastic and the whole team should be congratulated on the job they’ve done today but also on the improvements to the car from 12 months ago.

“The team has progressed so far from where they were here only a year ago. Last year, the car was nearly three seconds off the leader’s time, whereas this year, we are barely over a second. We know we have a good race car and that’s the most important thing going into the race tomorrow.”

The team is also sending best wishes to senior race engineer Catherine Crawford, who continues to recover following emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor. The below signs are up on the team’s transporter this weekend.

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.”