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Alexander Rossi, Al Unser Jr., 23 others named to Road Racing Drivers Club

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The Road Racing Drivers Club has voted 25 new members to its 2016 class.

Numerous former stars are included, with 17 regular members from open-wheel and sports car racing, as well as five associate members and three honorary members.

The newest members takes the RRDC’s overall roster over 500 members, to 510.

“We are honored to welcome a group of outstanding racing champions and high achievers in the auto-racing arena,” RRDC president and Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Bobby Rahal said in a release.

“It’s clear that they are not only accomplished representatives of the sport, they have conducted themselves honorably off the track, a quality the RRDC members take into consideration when voting in new members.

“We also appreciate that each new member has enthusiastically accepted membership in the RRDC. We look forward to working with them as the RRDC continues to pursue its goals of recognizing and mentoring aspiring race-car drivers through a variety of programs.”

Here are the new members of the RRDC:

Regular members:

JONATHAN BENNETT: Two-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge Driver Champion, 2014-15.

MATTHEW BRABHAM: 2012 USF2000 Champion; 2013 Pro Mazda Champion.

GABBY CHAVES: 2009 Formula BMW Americas Champion; 2013 Indy Lights Champion; 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year.

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Three-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Champion (with Joao Barbosa), 2014-16; three-time Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup Champion, 2014-16 (with Joao Barbosa).

JOHN FITZPATRICK: 1966 British Saloon Car Champion; the 1972 and ’74 European GT Champion; Porsche Cup titlist in 1972, ’74 and ’80; plus 1980 IMSA GT Champion.

GEORGE FIZELL: 1984 SCCA President’s Cup winner; four-time SCCA National Championships in Formula Vee.

SAGE KARAM: 2010 USF2000 National Champion; 2013 Indy Lights Champion; 35-time World Karting Assn. and IRL Stars of Karting National champion.

JOEL MILLER: 2006 ICA North American Champion; 2013 Rookie of the Year in Rolex Grand-Am Championship; driver coach.

SPENCER PIGOT: 2015 Indy Lights champion; 2014 Pro Mazda Champion; 2010 Skip Barber Racing Series National Champion.

JEFF PURNER: 1985 Skip Barber Racing Series Champion; 1990 IMSA Firestone Firehawk GS Champion; 1993 Trans-Am Rookie of the Year.

ALEXANDER ROSSI: 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion and Indy Rookie of the Year; competed in five F1 races in 2015 before switching to IndyCar.

AMY RUMAN: 2015 and 2016 Trans-Am Champion; first female Trans-Am Champion in 50-year history of the Series.

JORDAN TAYLOR: 2013 DP-class Champion in Rolex Grand-Am Championship (with Max Angelelli).

RICKY TAYLOR: 2006 Skip Barber Karting Shootout Scholarship winner; competes with brother Jordan in  IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

AL UNSER JR.: 1981 Super Vee Champion; 1982 SCCA Can-Am Champion; two-time Indy 500 winner, 1992 and ’94; two-time IndyCar Champion, 1990 and ’94.

ALEX WURZ: Retired pro driver; two-time 24 Hours of LeMans winner; F1 consultant, driver coach, president of GPDA.

JEFF ZWART: 1990 SCCA U.S. Pro Rally Open Class Champion; 2004 Baja 1000 Challenge Class Champion; Pikes Peak International Class Championships, 1994-98, 2002, 2010; directs high-performance TV commercials around the world.

Associate Members:

CRAIG BENNETT: 1987 SCCA National GT-1 Division Champion and Rookie of the Year; currently VP of RM Motorsports (high-end race-car/road-car restorations)

JOHN DOONAN: Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations since 2011; licensed race-car driver since 1995, competing in SCCA, IMSA, IndyCar, etc.

DOUG FEHAN: Program Manager for Corvette Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and 24 Hours of LeMans; raced a Chevelle stock car in USAC in late ’60s.

DON KITCH JR.: Veteran of more than 25 years and 200 pro and amateur racing starts; founded, with wife Donna, the ProFormance Racing School, where he is chief instructor; helped develop the Team Seattle “Heart of Racing” program at Alex Job Racing.

ED PINK: The drag-racing Hemi engines he’s built over 60-plus years have won races from Midgets to IndyCars; earned Lifetime Achievement Award from Petersen Automotive Museum; also built IMSA, LeMans and NASCAR engines.

Honorary members:

WALT CZARNECKI: Executive Vice President of Penske Corporation; Vice Chairman of the Board of Team Penske. 40-year-plus tenure with Penske.

CHRIS POOK: Creator of annual Grand Prix of Long Beach, in its 43rd year; has also created temporary racing venues in Las Vegas, Dallas, Meadowlands, N.J., Denver, Del Mar, Calif., and St. Petersburg, Fla. Served on the F1 Commission of FIA.

ANDREW SCRIVEN: Draftsman on 1984 Tiga Race Cars; produced the 1985 design for the GT285 IMSA Lights/C2 Car; currently is Chief Designer for Aerospace, Military and Racing projects for Crawford Composites, LLC.

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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.”