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After tough Indy, Castroneves has mind set on enjoying himself on an isle — Belle Isle

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For the seventh consecutive year, Helio Castroneves came up short in his bid to tie A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser for a fourth Indianapolis 500 title.

Even worse, Castroneves finished 11th in Sunday’s milestone 100th running of the 500, his worst finish in the 500 since 2011 (17th).

“I’m very disappointed in the way we ended up (at Indy),” Castroneves said. “It’s just not reflective of the car that we had and the pit stops that we had.

“The car was so strong. We had a car that could have won, but it wasn’t meant to be and we’ll move on.”

Rather than dwell on what might have been, Castroneves is focused on what lies ahead for him: the potential to rebound with strong performances in this weekend’s Chevrolet Dual In Detroit.

“I’m very much looking forward to putting Indianapolis behind us,” Castroneves said. “It was just such a frustrating ending there. We were in great shape one minute and not the next.”

Saturday’s and Sunday’s races are the only back-to-back, points-paying events on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit. And both races on the Belle Isle street circuit afford Castroneves to pick up some very valuable points.

Castroneves is currently third in the rankings. Simon Pagenaud leads all drivers with 292 points, followed by defending series champ Scott Dixon with 235 points, and Castroneves with 224 points.

Indeed, Belle Isle has been one of Castroneves’ stronger tracks. In nine starts, he has one win, a runner-up, two other top-five and two other top-10 finishes.

“The Belle Isle event is tremendous and one that I always look forward to,” Castroneves said. “Other than the Sunday race last year (he finished a career-low 19th there due to a crash four laps from the finish), it’s a track that we’ve been able to do well at. We’re just excited to get up there and on the track.”

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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.”