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A special bond was forged early between Newgarden, Tandy in U.K.

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Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden’s road to the title this year had several key moments and people along the way that saw his potential to win races.

In his first full season in Europe in 2009, eventual Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Nick Tandy saw that in Newgarden, by way of his late brother’s, Joe Tandy, race team – Joe Tandy Racing.

Newgarden had drawn the team’s attention by way of his performance in the 2008 Formula Ford Festival, after he and Conor Daly had won the year’s Team USA Scholarship. Nick Tandy picked up the rest of the story from there.

“I paid attention to him the last eight years. We saw Josef come over to the U.K. the end of 2008, via the Team USA Scholarship,” Tandy told NBC Sports.

Photo courtesy of IMSA

“He raced in the 1600 division of Formula Ford Festival and won that in that class. I think I was racing in the other class at the time. So I kind of noticed what was going on with him.

“Then he decided it’d be a good thing, between he and his family, to race in the U.K.

“He joined my brother’s team, Joe Tandy Racing, as we started the team in 2007. It was well-established by then. He very nearly won the title in his first year. He won the most races of anyone in the season; he just had a bit of bad luck that cost him a few races.”

The year between the Tandys and the Newgardens was one of triumph and tragedy, as Joe Tandy lost his life that year in a road accident at age 26. The bond between Newgarden and Nick Tandy, 32, has remained strong to this day.

“We’ve been great friends ever since. It was nice when we raced at Long Beach, IMSA and IndyCar. We’d always check in on each other to see what he’s up to,” Tandy reflected.

Tandy said how Newgarden integrated himself into the European scene spoke to his determination to succeed, since it can be difficult for Americans living abroad to do so.

After his one year with JTR in the British Formula Ford Championship, where he finished second in points, Newgarden moved onto GP3 the next year with Carlin.

“He’s got on really well in U.K. He came over literally on his own. And sometimes that’s not so nice for young guys coming over, moving away from home,” Tandy said.

“He integrated into the team and our family at JTR. And he’s been part of the team ever since.

“So we’ve always followed him. It was great to see him win at Sonoma.”

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.”