IndyCar

Danica Patrick: NASCAR cars ‘way easier than an Indy car to drive’

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Following Wednesday’s practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick made her opinion very clear when asked to compare driving a NASCAR stock car vs. an Indy car.

“All the IndyCar fans out there might find this warm and fuzzy, but everyone would always ask me if I had a hard time driving those big old stock cars and if they were really physical, and I’m like (she snickers), ‘No, they are way easier than an Indy car to drive.’”

Patrick also said driving an Indy car is more of a finite exercise, where attention must be paid to everything more closely than in a stock car, all the way down to the safety belts.

“Maybe this isn’t a popular thing to say but you didn’t have to run the belts all that tight in a stock car,” she said. “You didn’t have to worry about your helmet or the padding that much (in NASCAR). It was all just like fine.

“But in an Indy car, it’s all critical.”

I miss that relevancy of being in the game and being someone like before the race, where they’re like, ‘Who do you think is going to win today?’ My name did not pop in NASCAR, you know?

Patrick’s comments echo those of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch following his first practice sessions while preparing for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

“With a Cup car, we have to lift – not necessarily get on the brakes, but at least know they’re there – and settle the car down before you turn in,” Busch said. “This, you’re driving down the middle of the straightaway, then you swerve wide to gain that nice arc into the corner – and there’s no deceleration rate.”

It’s clear Patrick still holds a strong affinity to IndyCar racing. It’s where she first made a name for herself. It’s also where she won a race, while her best career finish in a NASCAR Cup race was sixth.

And it will be in an Indy car that Patrick will compete in the last race of any type in her career, the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

“I remember watching the Indy 500 the first year I wasn’t in it and I missed it,” Patrick said. “I miss that relevancy of being in the game and being someone like before the race, where they’re like, ‘Who do you think is going to win today?’ My name did not pop in NASCAR, you know?

“I missed being relevant. So I’m going to try and achieve that here this month. It’s going to be hard because everybody is really good.”

As she prepares for the opening of practice for the 500 on May 15, Patrick isn’t just thinking about winning the race, she’s also soaking in all the atmosphere and legacy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It always feels like home here at Indy,” she said. “The track feels so familiar, everything like from the walk to pit lane. I’m just waiting for the alley cats to show up, basically.”

Check out the following tweet to hear more of what Patrick had to say.

After two days of practice, Patrick is consistently up to 220 mph in laps around the 2.5-mile IMS oval. It doesn’t look like she’s lost much from her previous IndyCar tenure.

When her comments about NASCAR and IndyCar first hit social media, battle lines between fans of each genre of motorsport were quickly drawn.

One tweet in particular, however, helped make more precise what Patrick said, leading the Illinois native to respond in kind by saying simply, “thank you.

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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.”