Detroit races represent a missed opportunity for Castroneves

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For Helio Castroneves, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear represented a missed opportunity of sorts for a driver whose last win came at this very event in 2014 (he won Race 2 of that year’s double header).

The weekend began ominously as Castroneves briefly grabbed the pole for Race 1 before a penalty was levied against him after he failed to slow properly for a yellow flag, precipitated by a quick spin from Mikhail Aleshin.

As a result, Castroneves lost his fastest lap. While his second fastest lap was still good enough for second on the grid, behind polesitter Graham Rahal, it was a sign of things to come.

Castroneves’ three-stop strategy in Race 1 showed potential, as he was every bit as fast as Rahal throughout the day. However, a lap 26 caution for a stalled Conor Daly and spinning Charlie Kimball proved beneficial for Rahal, who ran a two-stop strategy and had just completed his first pit stop, and a handicap for Castroneves.

Though he leapfrogged Rahal and held the lead at the time, Castroneves always had an extra pit stop to make, and the caution allowed Rahal to save fuel and erase the gap between the two. Consequently, despite his pace, Castroneves could do no better than seventh at race’s end as no additional cautions flew to tilt the scales back in his favor.

“The cautions didn’t work out for us,” he lamented after Saturday’s race. “I didn’t save an ounce of fuel. The Hitachi Chevy was super fast. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the front. It’s pretty difficult to pass, so you need a few things to go your way and they didn’t.”

Things didn’t get much better in Race 2 on Sunday. Castroneves started fourth and was battling with Ryan Hunter-Reay when his left-rear tire clipped the right-front wing of Hunter-Reay. The contact immediately cut Castroneves’ tire and he limped back around to the pits.

Even though his finishing position of ninth represented a resounding comeback, all the more impressive given that the race’s first caution did not come out until lap 66 (James Hinchcliffe came to a stop exiting turn two after a mechanical problem), it still could have been more, as Castroneves again demonstrated the pace to battle for a win.

Still, driver of the No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet remained upbeat, despite the disappointing results. “The Hitachi Chevy was great again (on Sunday),” Castroneves asserted afterward. “We had a little bit of bad luck there with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and getting a tire cut down. It was early enough that I thought we might be able to overcome it, but we didn’t get a caution until the very end. I wish we could have done better with our finish, but our car was strong.”

Even though he does not have a win to his name in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Castroneves remains in a strong championship position. He currently trails championship leader Scott Dixon by only eight points as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next week for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 (Saturday June 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.