Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Simpson tops opening day of Road America practice

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson topped the charts in the first day of practice for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads to Road America.

Stephen Simpson’s lap of 1:55.057 was best on a rainy day at the Elkhart Lake track, the rain finally relenting in the second of two one-hour practice sessions in the afternoon.

Simpson and co-driver Misha Goikhberg have impressed all season for the John Church-led team, an elusive first win thus proving the only thing they haven’t accomplished. They sit third in the Prototype points standings heading into this weekend’s race.

The pair of Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.Rs (from Mustang Sampling Racing and Whelen Engineering Racing) were next, ahead of the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson – first of the Ligiers with Olivier Pla and Jose Gutierrez back in that car this week.

The new Ligier racing this weekend, the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson, topped the morning session with Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens at 1:59.977.

The second session times were more representative with a smaller amount of rain.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 66 Ford GT (GT Le Mans) and the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R (GT Daytona) topped the GT classes in the second session, while Performance Tech Motorsports led both PC sessions.

There were no major incidents during the day, the only real issues being that the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS and No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis didn’t run in the morning session.

Of note, the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 lineups are switched up this weekend. Scott Pruett moves to the No. 15 Lexus he’ll now share with Jack Hawksworth, while Robert Alon goes to the No. 14 Lexus with Sage Karam. Also, the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE has been removed from the entry list. The team was incorrectly listed and is yet to confirm its race return to action for any further races this year.

Third practice runs at 8:55 a.m. CT and local time on Saturday.

RESULTS: Practice 1, Practice 2

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”