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Indy 500 winner Will Power hopes to get back on track

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Will Power got out of his broken-down car at the Road America garage and turned down a drink.

He might not have been in his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet long enough to break much of a sweat.

Just another frustrating finish for Power in what has been an uneven Verizon IndyCar Series season for the 2014 series champion.

He won the Indianapolis 500 in late May, the second of two straight victories. A month later, Power finished last (23rd) at the KOHLER Grand Prix after being forced out of his car following two laps because of mechanical issues. It was the Australian’s second straight early exit from a race, and fourth of the season.

“It is unbelievable the amount of DNFs I have had this season,” Power said Sunday after the 222-mile road course race won by Penske teammate Josef Newgarden.

“I have never had this many in my career in such a short period of time,” Power said. “Yep, that’s racing. Goes one way and then the other.”

Life was good after Power’s win in the 500 lifted him atop the driver standings. It erased the disappointment of two “did-not-finishes” over the season’s first four weeks. Power followed the 500 by finishing seventh and second, respectively, in the twin races at Belle Isle.

The next two races brought problems.

Power was running in the top 10 on lap 205 in the DXC Technology 600 on June 9 when he made contact with rookie Zachary Claman De Melo, who was high on the outside coming out of turn 4 when Power slid up heading toward the frontstretch.

The race at Road America began with optimism for Power as he started on the front row next to pole sitter Newgarden.

It was the ninth time in 10 races that Power was starting third or higher, with the exception a sixth-place start in the first race at Belle Isle. His only start on the pole came in the Indy Grand Prix, which he won.

“Obviously this year I’ve had plenty of front-row starts, missing out by hundredths of seconds, so I’ve got to change something,” Power said Saturday after qualifying. “What do you do to find a hundredth? Or five-hundredths?”

By Sunday, Power had other issues. He noticed problems with his car during the last warmup lap before the green flag.

“Literally from as soon as I started warming it up, there was something amiss,” Power said.

The team said it initially thought it was a boost issue on the first lap, and owner Roger Penske asked his driver to power cycle the car to solve the problem. Power was called in after the second lap so the team could take a closer look.

They took the car into the paddock, thinking the problem was a blown header. But when Power returned to the track on lap 14, the car misfired. Back to the paddock came Power, this time for good.

Newgarden dominated on his way to victory , leading all but two of the 55 laps. Unlike Power, Newgarden had a nearly perfect afternoon. The third Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud, started a disappointing 14th, but finished in seventh.

Power hopes to reverse course at the next race in two weeks at Iowa. He has dropped from first place in the standings after Belle Isle to fifth.

The last time the Indy 500 winner went on to win the IndyCar points title was in 2010, when Dario Franchitti did it. Juan Pablo Montoya nearly pulled it off in 2015 but lost the season title on a tiebreaker to Scott Dixon.

“As quickly as it is down, it can swing the other way quickly in a good way,” Power said. “When I think about it, we came into the month of May … fifth in points and left as the leader, so it can change.”

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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.”