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Montoya set for Team Penske Indy 500 return in 2017

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Tim Cindric said during a teleconference after Josef Newgarden was signed to Team Penske that the door remained open to Juan Pablo Montoya at the team there if he wanted it to be.

Yes, it would only be for an Indianapolis 500-only entry and a potential sports car program if one develops – as has been rumored – but it would still be with Team Penske.

And Montoya is set to do just that, per multiple reports.

Blogger “For The Love of Indy” caught Montoya, who was in Mexico this weekend for the Mexican Grand Prix and wound up doing the podium interviews, speaking to Helmut Marko and Christian Horner of Red Bull Racing. The user picked up Montoya discussing his 2017 plans on the world feed – hinting he’d planned to stay with Penske (tweet one, tweet two, and blog post).

That initial rumbling grew into a proper full-blown report late tonight on Motorsport.com, where Penske Racing president Tim Cindric confirmed Montoya was interested in taking up the offer of a fifth car, Indianapolis-only, with Penske next year. That would be unprecedented.

“It does seem as though Juan thinks that remaining at Team Penske is the right move for him so we’re now planning accordingly,” Cindric told Motorsport.com’s David Malsher.

The report also popped late Monday night via the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app, with a similar tone that Montoya would be back with Penske next year.

The move is a domino effect for a couple reasons.

One, it takes Montoya out of full-time ride opportunities with Ed Carpenter Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises, where he could have served as lead driver. This opens up both those spots for younger drivers, most likely.

Second, it means Team Penske will be a five-car program for the first time in its history at Indy. Montoya joins the full-season quartet of newly crowned champion Simon Pagenaud, newly signed full-season driver Josef Newgarden, past champion Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves.

Third, it means the likelihood of a Penske sports car program is greater rather than not at the moment. Montoya wouldn’t pass up a full-season drive, especially with the motivation of wanting to recover from a frustrating 2017, if it didn’t mean there wasn’t something else bubbling in the pipeline. And for Montoya, having the chance to win another Indianapolis 500 – it would be his third – still has a strong chance there.

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.”