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Long Beach heartache for Andretti Autosport

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The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was setting up very nicely for Andretti Autosport. Although Takuma Sato struggled in qualifying, teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made the Firestone Fast Six. Marco Andretti, too, excelled in qualifying, taking the tenth spot and the grid.

Race day started off well, too. Hunter-Reay and Rossi rocketed around pole sitter Helio Castroneves off the start to run in the top five, and they ran in top three for much of the race, only dropping back during pit stop sequences.

But, the day unraveled from there for the entire team. First, Marco Andretti slowed on lap 17 and pulled off the circuit due to a sensor failure. Then, it was Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi slowing with less than 30 laps to go, both with engine issues. Then, it was Ryan Hunter-Reay’s turn, with his car coming to halt as he closed in on leader James Hinchcliffe in the final laps. Hunter-Reay problems appeared to be electrical as he said the car eventually restarted, but he never rejoined the fight.

While optimism is still high, there is disappointment that they couldn’t capitalize on their potential, as Hunter-Reay explained. “It really hurts when it’s that close to the end and I was closing on (Hinchcliffe); we were going to have a good showdown there at the end,” he said of his issues. “That’s why this sport can be so rewarding and so cruel, there’s nothing you can do. Frustrating for sure but today it was out of our hands.”

Similarly, Rossi lamented a lost opportunity to fight for the win. “I thought we had a really good shot at winning. The pace of the car was really good all day and we were able to recover from a little bit of a tricky pit stop sequence on the first stop, so it’s unfortunate because the NAPA Auto Parts car was awesome. We’ll just have to fight back at Barber. Honda has done an amazing job so it’s unfortunate,” said last year’s Indy 500 winner.

The team’s struggles saw Hunter-Reay fall to eighth in the championship, just ahead of both Sato and Andretti, who sit ninth and tenth, while Rossi sits 19th.

 

Following Kyle Lavigne.

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.”