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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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in the final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a victory over Pipo Derani in the the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

With the rebranding of DPi to GTP for the new LMDh cars, Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”