Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud paces Penske 1-4 sweep in Barber first IndyCar practice

Leave a comment

Team Penske and Chevrolet was poised to go 1-2-3, in numerical order, in the opening 45-minute practice session for this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the third round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

And then they went one better with a 1-4 sweep right at the end of the session.

Defending race and series champion Simon Pagenaud took the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet to the top of the timesheets at the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course at 1:08.1104.

The 2015 race winner Josef Newgarden took his No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kit Chevrolet into second at 1:08.1822.

“It’s obviously a good start with our teammates. I think we were happy at the test; it seems to suit us well. We will try to capitalize on this the rest of this weekend. It’s great having Fitzgerald Glider Kit on board; they’re Tennessee boys, just like me,” Newgarden told IndyCar Radio’s Jake Query after the session.

Will Power, in need of a clean weekend in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and a past two-time winner at Barber, leapt into third at the end of the session with Helio Castroneves in fourth in the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet.

Eight Hondas were next, led by Alexander Rossi in the No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda in fifth at 1:08.4560. Rossi and Marco Andretti are in revised liveries this weekend, red and blue and red and white respectively.

The only red flag came when points leader Sebastien Bourdais ran wide exiting Turn 1 in his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and collected a yard sign, which was funny but didn’t cause any damage to his car.

Series debutante Zach Veach clocked in at 1:10.6346 in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet, about 1.7 seconds off teammate Spencer Pigot in his first official IndyCar race weekend filling in for the injured JR Hildebrand.

Hildebrand is on site this weekend and provided an update to IndyCar Radio’s Query during the session:

“It was really hard to tell initially,” he said. “The X-rays at Long Beach didn’t look that bad. Different place, set of circumstances. Once they dug into it via a CT scan, it was more blown up than they thought it was. The doctors tried to keep my expectations out of control. There was a high risk of doing further damage if I got in the car this weekend. Phoenix is the goal for next weekend.”

Times are below. Owing to the track delay for barrier repairs from the morning’s Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires practice session, the Friday schedule is an hour behind.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

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.”