Photo: PWC/K-PAX Racing

PWC: Road America beckons as thoughts for Palmer continue

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The show goes on for Pirelli World Challenge this weekend at Road America, which is back with its full complement of seven classes a month after its races at Lime Rock Park.

This weekend for PWC is its third straight last weekend in June event at Road America, but its third different type of event.

In 2014, the series returned to Road America after a several-year hiatus, as part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series (then called Nationwide Series) weekend. It rained a bit but the PWC races got in just fine.

Last year, this was a PWC feature weekend, with Maserati GranTurismo MCs entered in a support race.

Now, without calling PWC a “support race,” it’s now part of the Verizon IndyCar Series weekend – and as such, it doesn’t get the best time slots for its races. The Touring Car classes in particular get the short shrift, with Thursday at 4 and Friday at 6 their race times. There’s one GT and one GTS race apiece on Saturday and Sunday each.

There’s still 97 cars entered for the weekend across the seven classes.

It’s two cars that aren’t entered though, whose drivers likely will be on the thoughts and minds of the paddock: Andrew Palmer and Jorge de la Torre.

Both are recovering following their devastating accident at Lime Rock. While de la Torre was recently released from the hospital and will continue his rehabilitation in Texas, there has been little to no news on Palmer’s status.

Simply put, we continue to wish the best for both – Palmer in particular – as the paddock likely will do too this weekend in its first race event since Lime Rock.

Points-wise, in GT, just 24 points separate Alvaro Parente and Patrick Long, who combined have swept the last four races in May.

Parente, in the No. 9 K-PAX McLaren 650S GT3 that has a Flying Lizard Motorsports technical partnership, won both at Lime Rock after Long, in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, won both at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Four lackluster races have resigned the pair of Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs to third and fourth in points although with a pre-Road America boost addition from 6000 to north of 8000 rpms, it could be a case where Johnny O’Connell and Michael Cooper get back on form this weekend.

Acura, meanwhile, is hit with a boost reduction from 4000 to north of 7000 rpms on its pair of G3-homologated Acura TLX-GTs. Both Ryan Eversley and team principal/driver Peter Cunningham, the latter of whom returns after graciously giving up his chassis for Eversley at Lime Rock with Eversley’s damaged at CTMP, will still look to shine this weekend on RealTime’s home turf, and with “PD’s” 25th annual Chicken Roast on the Friday among the weekend highlights.

Kyle Marcelli moved into fifth in points after two podiums at Lime Rock in his No. 2 CRP Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra and James Davison, who one won of three races at Road America last year (a Detroit canceled race was added on Friday), could be poised for success and his first win of the year in the No. 33 Always Evolving Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3. Same could be true for Davison’s teammate Bryan Heitkotter, who’s eighth in points in the No. 05 Nisan.

The emotional favorite, perhaps, would be Palmer’s teammate Adderly Fong in the lone No. 88 Bentley Team Absolute Bentley Continental GT3. Fong has finished fourth on two occasions and the Bentley has shown well at Road America each of the last two years.

Young guns are also interesting to note – Austin Cindric looks for success here (good feature from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Dave Kallmann on him here) along with fellow K-PAX teammate Colin Thompson, while Michael Lewis makes a welcome return to the series in a second Calvert Dynamics Porsche, with support from CURB Records among others. Meanwhile sports car veterans Andrew Davis (Calvert Porsche), Jon Fogarty (GAINSCO McLaren), James Sofronas (GMG Porsche) and Michael McCann (Viper), the latter of whom makes his first PWC start in eight years, round out the 17-car GT grid.

In the other classes…

  • Martin Fuentes has won eight of 11 GTA races and holds a commanding points lead.
  • Alec Udell and Sloan Urry are tied for the GT Cup lead (1054 apiece) so whoever emerges ahead of those two will take a momentum run going to Mid-Ohio.
  • GTS is a three-horse race between Lawson Aschenbach in the venerable Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R up against two GT4 car drivers, Brett Sandberg in the ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4 and Parker Chase in the PMG Ginetta GT4. Aschenbach leads the standings, 884 to 835 over Sandberg with Chase a further seven points back on 828.
  • TC points leaders heading into Road America are Toby Grahovec (TC), Elivan Goulart (TCA) and Will Rogers (TCB).

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.”