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MRTI: Multiple USF2000, Pro Mazda teams announce driver signings

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Teams featured in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires had a busy week, as several teams in both series announced drivers for the 2018 season.

Pro Mazda actually sees a couple of new entrants. Exclusive Autosport, which contested last year’s USF2000 season with Parker Thompson, officially revealed that they will be full-time Pro Mazda entrants as well, with Thompson staying on as their driver.

The combination of Thompson and Exclusive Autosport was a potent one in USF2000, winning three times in a four-race stretch between rounds on the streets of Toronto and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Elsewhere, European team RP Motorsport will make the jump to the United States in the 2018 Pro Mazda season. Race winners in the now defunct Formula 3.5 V8 Series and runaway champions in the 2017 Euroformula Open Championship, they will bring with them Harrison Scott, with whom they won the aforementioned Euroformula Open crown, and Lodovico Laurini.

In USF2000, Pabst Racing announced that 15-year-old Kaylen Frederick has joined them for the 2018 season.

Frederick was one of the surprises of 2017 when, as a 14-year-old when the year started, he scored five podiums on his way to fourth in the championship with Pabst Racing.

Also, Newman Wachs Racing detailed that they have signed F1600 competitor David Osborne, who will join Darren Keane and Oscar Deluzuriaga in a three-car effort.

Pro Mazda and USF2000 begin their 2018 seasons on the streets St. Petersburg, Florida as part the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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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.”