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Kimball: “None of us in IndyCar want to see anyone get hurt”

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Charlie Kimball has had, by any objective analysis, his most complete season yet in his sixth full-time Verizon IndyCar Series campaign from a pure qualifying and results standpoint in 2016.

He’s finished between fifth and 12th in 13 of the 15 races, and he’s on pace to have his best qualifying average (10.8 through 15 races) by a country mile (his first five years: 18.0, 17.4, 12.8, 16.3, 13.3).

So the driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, who currently sits ninth in points and could match or exceed his career-best finish in the championship (ninth in 2013) with a strong run at the Sonoma Raceway season finale is qualifying and racing higher up the field than he’s used to.

But hearing some of the comments from his competitors on-track, you’d think as though Kimball was this evil competitor who races dirty, drives people off the track and doesn’t have proper race craft. Reading Will Power and Rick Mears’ respective comments after Kimball’s eventful day Sunday at Watkins Glen International made it seem as though Kimball was out for blood on track. When instead, Kimball is actually one of the nicest people in the paddock and has thoroughly improved – and impressed – this season.

Here’s the thing – while both Power and Graham Rahal were understandably aggrieved in the heat of the moment after crashing out on Sunday, in both incidents where Kimball was involved, it was hard to call them anything other than racing incidents.

Looking at the Power collision first, it was really hard to think that Power saw Kimball, who got a monster run up the hill through the Esses, before it was too late when Power transitioned back to the natural racing line, then cutting across Kimball’s bow and crashing into the Armco barrier.

Could Kimball have perhaps transitioned from his run to the inside of the track rather than outside? Sure, but in a split-second decision like that, the momentum was carrying him more around the outside and a rapid dart back to the inside could have also had consequences. Remember, it’s not like Kimball was trying to take himself out of the race when he got the run on Power.

“From my side, knowing the result, if I knew going into that lap that it would cause an accident I wouldn’t make the move,” Kimball explained to NBC Sports. “Once he had no idea I was there or wouldn’t give me the room, it was too late to avoid the incident.”

With the Rahal incident earlier in the race, Kimball left Rahal enough room to the inside and was wide on corner exit of Turn 1. Rahal and Kimball collided and Rahal went into the inside tire barriers after the contact.

“With Graham, I was on the curb,” Kimball explained. “His comment was, he said he had the pass completed, but if there was any contact at all, it was tire to rear, so he was established alongside, and I left him a lane, which I did. It looked like he was going for the overtake button. I don’t know what I should do there, other than give up.”

But Kimball expressed the far more important point that Rahal was fine and Power was cleared to drive earlier this week, to race at Sonoma.

“There’s been a lot of vitriol, and follow-up comments. And frankly, the single most important thing is that Will’s cleared to drive tomorrow and race next weekend,” Kimball said.

“None of the drivers – none of us – wants to see any of us got hurt. We are a family. If a driver can’t compete because of concussion-like symptoms, injuries, we as the IndyCar family aren’t complete. That’s the most important thing.

“There’s always different perspectives of racing incidents. Monday morning quarterbacking is the easiest thing to do in sport! There’s so many people that give highlight reels, question coaches calls, and players’ calls, for weeks.”

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.”