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Power, Castroneves headline Indy 500 practice on day 2

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After Andretti Autosport hogged the headlines of opening practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, it was Team Penske’s turn to steal the show on Day 2. The Penske duo of Will Power and Helio Castroneves turned the two quickest laps of the day, both clearing 224 mph for average speeds around the 2.5-mile oval.

In fact, they were the only drivers to clear the 224 mph barrier, as speeds continue to be down in comparison to last year at this time. As Power indicated, this is both down to the weather (it has been well above 80 degrees ambient on both days of practice this week) and teams focusing on race setups in the early days of running.

“(The heat) has definitely made the track greasy. But it all has to do with whether people want to practice qualifying. That’s when you start to see some bigger speeds, and we don’t get the boost until Friday that we’re running qualifying and probably not practice qualifying until Thursday. So these first three days — which being hot, yeah, it will make it slower,” he asserted in a press conference afterward.

The speed charts also indicated a slight turn in favor of the Chevrolet teams after Honda dominated Day 1. In fact, four of the top five times on Day 2 came from Chevrolet teams, and Marco Andretti, who led opening practice for Honda and Andretti Autosport, ranked 25th at the end of Day 2.

However, as Castroneves indicated, this could be down to gamesmanship between the manufacturers, and even hinted that the Honda teams aren’t showing their speed in reaction to mechanical failures suffered on Day 1. The most notable of these was Graham Rahal, who saw a plume of smoke billow from his No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during opening practice.

“I can only speculate that they don’t want to keep blowing up the engines now,” Castroneves explained. “They’ve got to wait until Saturday so that they can finish the qualifying and then put the race engine in, otherwise they’re going to have to do something like that. Right now it’s the name of the game. We’ve just got to focus on our work.”

Castroneves later quipped, “You saw what they did yesterday: (226 mph) and today Marco was (221 mph). So for sure, five miles an hour: it’s not the setup.”

All told, Power and Castroneves remain focused on their own programs, and their focus is made all the more imperative given the presence of Roger Penske. “Roger definitely just puts everything into this race,” Power said of his influence. “Yep, as a team, I think we did a lot of homework in the off-season for this race, and we tested here twice, so you know, we’re getting the most out of our package.”

Helio Castroneves prepares for practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo: IndyCar

Castroneves added, “I’ll tell you what: obviously Roger is my strategy. For him to leave his day job, which is a pretty busy schedule, I took him over here on Tuesday, actually he’s staying here all week: (it) shows the commitment that he has and it shows what he wants.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil continues tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. ET.

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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.”