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Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi looking forward to Road America return

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The last time 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi raced at Road America was in 2008 – when he was 16 years old!

“I won quite a bit at Road America in Skip Barber and Formula BMW,” Rossi said in a recent IndyCar teleconference. “The last race I had at Road America was in BMW.

“It was a triple-header weekend, actually, and I won two of the three. I definitely like the track and know my way around there.”

Even with the lengthy time away from the 4.048-mile, 14-turn track – one of the premier road courses in the world – Rossi believes that now that he’s older (24), wiser and an Indy 500 champion, he’s ready to pick up where he last left off at Road America eight years ago for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Kohler Grand Prix race.

“I wouldn’t say the outlook has changed,” Rossi said. “My goal from the beginning of day one in IndyCar was to be fighting at the front. That outlook is no different.”

When Rossi first heard that the Verizon IndyCar Series would be racing at Road America in this, his rookie season in the series, it further added to his anticipation of the next step in his racing career.

“When I first looked at the schedule, the three races I was most looking forward to was Long Beach, the Indy 500 and Road America,” Rossi said. “I’m very, very excited to get going there.

“It’s one of my favorite tracks in the world, and I think it’s a fantastic venue, and I’m very excited that the Verizon IndyCar Series is returning back there.”

Even though he’s enjoyed past success at Road America, Rossi isn’t looking back at what he previously did there, but rather what he hopes to do this weekend and going forward from there.

“No, (past) results don’t play into that,” Rossi said. “I think the layout is awesome. It’s very high speed. It’s long. It’s over four miles, which is a different type of challenge. You know, there’s three very long straightaways. Yeah, I like everything about it.

“I didn’t say it would be easier. I just said it would be an easier weekend for me just because I know the layout of the track. I think that the guys in the IndyCar championship are incredibly capable, and it’s a very, very, very competitive group of guys. So nothing about it will be easy, it’ll just make my life a little bit better when I roll out of pit lane for the first time.”

That’s especially true given that at his core, Rossi is a road course specialist. And with Road America, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma still to come, not to mention street courses like Toronto, the second half of the season could bring additional surprises like what he did at Indianapolis.

“Yeah, for sure there are certain tracks that I am looking forward to from the aspect of I just know where they go and kind of how they drive a little bit,” Rossi said. “I think the tracks that I know (that will host upcoming IndyCar races) are Road America, Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, so those will be, for lack of a better word, the easier ones for me.”

And which may potentially lead to his second career IndyCar win — or maybe even more.

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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.”