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Sainz secures overlooked, welcome career-best P6 at home GP

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For Carlos Sainz Jr., sixth place in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix marked a career-best in his 24th Grand Prix start in one of the two Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferraris.

The 21-year-old from Madrid had been perhaps overlooked in recent weeks within the Red Bull empire – Daniel Ricciardo had led Red Bull’s charge in the opening races, while the recent Daniil Kvyat drama and his subsequent switch with Max Verstappen between Red Bull and Toro Rosso had dominated headlines in the run up to the Spanish Grand Prix.

Then of course, Verstappen decided to go off and make F1 history as the youngest winner ever on Sunday, in his first start for Red Bull.

But Sainz, who qualified eighth, made out like a bandit on Sunday when he made it up to third at the end of the first lap behind Red Bull teammates Ricciardo and Verstappen and ahead of the Scuderia Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, following the first-lap Mercedes coming together of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Sainz fell back slightly from there but still secured sixth place, which beat his prior best result of seventh at Circuit of the Americas last year by one spot.

“You know it was a great weekend for me,” Sainz told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race. “We found a really good balance. Finally we did a very good race. It was just a matter of time everything would come together for me.”

Sainz hailed his start as one of the best of his career.

“The start was an amazing feeling to be in podium position on merit,” he said. “One of the best starts of my life. First laps were nice. The Ferraris, I had to let them go, otherwise it would have been compromised my race.”

However, post-race, it was revealed Sainz would be under investigation by the stewards for possible leaving of the pit lane with the red light on. But following the review, there was no further action taken.

Sainz, who along with Verstappen had had a bit of a disagreement earlier this year in Melbourne, was happy for his former teammate.

“I’m honestly very happy for him and for the Red Bull family,” he said. “It’s great they keep bringing talent into Formula 1.

“From my side, I look forward to fighting for victories down the road with him, like we were for P8s and Q3 in Toro Rosso.”

Interestingly Sainz didn’t do himself any harm against Kyvat this weekend either in the Russian’s return to the team.

Kvyat failed to make it out of Q2 and lined up 13th, and did make it into the points in 10th place.

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.”