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Pedrosa fights through to stunning MotoGP victory at Misano

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Dani Pedrosa put an end to a barren run of form by claiming his first MotoGP victory of the 2016 season in Sunday’s San Marino Grand Prix.

Honda rider Pedrosa entered the race weekend at Misano with just two podium finishes to his name so far this year, having failed to match the pace of teammate and championship leader Marc Marquez throughout the season.

Pedrosa’s malaise appeared to continue in qualifying at Misano on Saturday when he could only finish eighth, trailing far behind pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo.

Lorenzo retained his lead off the line despite coming under pressure from future Yamaha replacement Maverick Vinales, but soon had current teammate Valentino Rossi fixed to the rear of his bike.

Rossi made his move on the second lap, boldly diving down the inside to seize the lead and send the grandstands draped in yellow in support of the Italian into raptures.

Further back, Pedrosa began his charge. After picking off Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Suzuki rider Vinales, the Spaniard began to gain time hand-over-fist and catch Marquez in third place.

After sweeping past Marquez, Pedrosa then made light work of Lorenzo in second place before cutting into Rossi’s lead heading into the final 10 laps of the race.

In a similar move to the one that Rossi pulled on Lorenzo, Pedrosa threw his bike down the inside and forced the Yamaha racer out wide, forcing him to yield and drop into second place.

From there, Pedrosa didn’t look back. With the warmer temperatures suiting his tire selection, the Spaniard moved clear to score his first win of the season on Rossi’s stomping ground. The result also saw Pedrosa become MotoGP’s eighth different winner in the past eight races.

Rossi crossed the line second ahead, cutting the gap to Marquez at the top of the riders’ championship down to 43 points, while Jorge Lorenzo rounded out the podium.

Marquez crossed the line fourth ahead of Vinales and Dovizioso, with Michele Pirro finishing seventh as a stand-in for the injured Andrea Iannone. Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top 10.

MotoGP returns in two weeks’ time at Motorland Aragon in Spain.

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.”