Photo courtesy Royal Purple Raceway

NHRA: After aiding Houston hurricane relief, Royal Purple Raceway to reopen with new track surface

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When the NHRA returns to Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston for the NHRA SpringNationals on April 20-22, things will have a different look for racers and fans alike.

The Baytown, Texas track will have a brand new racing surface, which should make for faster speeds and quicker elapsed times.

RPR suspended operations last September to assist with the massive Hurricane Harvey and resulting flooding relief effort in the Houston area.

Among the ways the track, which sits on 400 acres, helped in relief efforts was serving as a large storage facility for thousands of vehicles that were damaged or destroyed in the hurricane and flood last September.

With the resurfacing job nearly complete, the track will reopen March 2. RPR has a large local racing program that runs from March through October.

When both local racers and NHRA stars return to the track, they’ll also notice some other significant capital improvements.

“We’re very happy to reopen in March for the 2018 race season,” RPR general manager Seth Angel said in a statement. “In this extended offseason we had a great opportunity to complete a series of major facility projects, most importantly the repaving of our race track.”

That includes widening and resurfacing access and return roads around the drag strip.

Winners of last year’s NHRA SpringNationals included Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Bo Butner (Pro Stock).

“We have always taken great pride in having one of the quickest and fastest drag strips in the country and these enhancements should continue that legacy for many more years to come,” Angel said. “The racers themselves suggested these upgrades and we always like to deliver for them.”

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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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.”