Photo: Tony DiZinno

Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Thursday notes

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DETROIT – A fair number of nuggets gleaned from the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship paddocks here at Belle Isle Park. In no particular order, they’re below:

INDYCAR

  • The No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Vernon’s Honda has a slightly new livery – back to the light blue and white colors – and also had a camouflage front wing assembly on display in the paddock.
  • Meanwhile blue and white is also making an appearance on Carlos Munoz’s No. 26 car, which now carries Magneti Marelli primary signage:

  • Conor Daly is running what was Bryan Clauson’s chassis this weekend. Daly, who drove the red, white and blue ShirtsForAmerica.com/Lilly Honda at the Indianapolis 500, sustained chassis damage that was too much to repair ahead of this weekend and instead will run what was Clauson’s No. 88 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Daly, whose full season entry is the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, is now back in that black, green and white color combination this weekend.
  • Simon Pagenaud has the green, white and black of Hewlett Packard Enterprise on his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet with Helio Castroneves back in Hitachi black-and-white for his No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Charlie Kimball also returns to his usual No. 83 after a one-off switch to No. 42 and Mikhail Aleshin resumes in the DOOM car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. As noted separately, Graham Rahal premieres a dark blue and black car this weekend.
  • It may be an off weekend for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series but several drivers are on site in Detroit. Zach Veach and Dalton Kellett are part of the pace car team, which also includes Martin Plowman, Ayla Agren and Gianmarco Raimundo. Additionally, Neil Alberico was on hand as part of today’s Rising Star Racing event with Spencer Pigot, who joins Ed Carpenter Racing for the seven remaining road and street course races this year.

SPORTS CARS (IMSA, PLUS ADDITIONAL)

  • Crazy weekend on tap for Michael Shank, who will field his usual No. 60 Ligier JS P2 Honda here in Detroit and has the No. 49 Ligier JS P2 Honda already at Le Mans for the Test Day there on Sunday (what was the Tequila Patron ESM chassis for Daytona and Sebring). The goal, he told NBC Sports, is for John Pew to get his 10 laps. Shank and Ozz Negri, who’s here this weekend, among others, will fly from Detroit to Le Mans – commercial to Paris but a private jet expected from Paris to Le Mans. Pew has been working on Jeff Segal’s simulator in Miami to prepare for the race. Shank has six of his crew over in Le Mans, then five in Detroit, with some of his past No. 6 car crew here in Detroit along with Kevin Doran, who is helping to oversee the effort.
  • Katherine Legge, who deputizes for Pew this weekend, won’t have her own firesuit but instead will wear AJ Allmendinger’s, Shank’s usual Rolex 24 at Daytona extra driver. The two are very good friends.

  • Had a brief catch-up with Mazda Prototype drivers Jonathan Bomarito, Tom Long and Tristan Nunez. Despite a minimum weight addition, the trio (along with Joel Miller, you’d expect) hopes to overachieve on this street course similar to the way they did at Long Beach.
  • Black Swan Racing is a late scratch, business commitments sidelining Tim Pappas and Dutch co-driver, the talented Nick Catsburg. It takes the GTD grid down another car with the No. 540 Porsche 911 GT3 R joining the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 from Change Racing – which team owner Robby Benton still hopes to field in a majority of remaining rounds this year – out of the streets of Detroit. Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler share the Lamborghini.
  • A handful of updates schedule wise for the IMSA-sanctioned Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America and Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires:  “Rounds 7 and 8 of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America are rescheduled to Aug. 26-28 during the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) in Danville, Virginia. Those races originally were scheduled for the event Sept. 2-4 in Boston, which was canceled in May. Tentatively, an additional round for the Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires will be added to the series’ event weekends at Watkins Glen International and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, replacing the rounds scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at VIR. Three rounds of Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires are expected to take place June 30-July 2during the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in Watkins Glen, New York, and Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Confirmation of both events is expected shortly.”
  • Although Pirelli World Challenge isn’t at Detroit this year, Cadillac Racing still is with media ridealongs on the Thursday. The Steve Cole-led, Pratt & Miller-operated team is based locally, and features Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper as drivers in World Challenge.
  • With PWC out, Trans-Am takes its place both on the weekend schedule and in terms of paddock space.

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.”