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Castroneves pushing on amid uncertain IndyCar future

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Despite being the Verizon IndyCar Series most recent winner and only trailing championship leader Scott Dixon by eight points heading into Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC), Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves faces a very uncertain future.

With the recent confirmation of Penske’s IMSA DPi program with Acura, Castroneves’ name has been tossed around as one of its potential drivers. However, a move to IMSA would mean the 42-year-old’s career as a full-time IndyCar driver would likely come to an end.

Even though moving to sports cars is a natural progression for open wheel drivers, Castroneves’ strong form, especially in the 2017 season, indicates he still has plenty of life left in his IndyCar career.

Nonetheless, Castroneves’ future remains unknown. However, as he explained in a press conference on Saturday in Toronto, he isn’t letting it distract him.

“To be honest, if you start thinking about the future, that’s where it starts being distracting to be honest, right at this point. The only future that I’m thinking about is the race, which is Toronto, which is only one day from now,” he asserted.

While Castroneves admits he would love to be a part of the new IMSA program in any capacity, the ultimate decision on drivers for those entries, along with his driving status for 2018 and beyond, is far from finalized.

“It’s difficult to assume, and right now there is a lot of speculation for sure, and even between when we have some conversations, we’re just still on the same page,” Castroneves added.

“I mean, the team is going to make a sports car team, and we all here would love to drive. I mean, no question about it. We would like to drive whatever they have an opportunity, like you have in the past. But at the moment, there is no commitment, no official decision, and I’m just focused — in my case, I’m just focusing on doing my best for the race here and the championship.”

Along with his victory at Iowa, Castroneves has two additional podiums this year and has finished in the top ten in every race except the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished 20th following an early race crash.

The discussion of his future this morning followed a funnier earlier intro period in the press conference among Castroneves and his three IndyCar teammates, Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“Let me introduce here José Nuevo Jardín. That’s Josef Newgarden. We’ll just start with the new times,” Castroneves laughed.

“What can I say about the mumba power? As you can see — actually I never understood why they say Three Musketeers but they have four guys. Have you seen that movie?

“Yeah. They say Three Musketeers but they have four guys. There’s always an odd man out. Ha, ha, very funny.”

Asked who the odd man out was, Castroneves replied, “It’s pretty obvious who’s the odd man out.”

For his own future, he’ll be hoping it’s not him in IndyCar.

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Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.