Photo of the 1999 IndyCar race in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Getty Images

IndyCar downplays Brazil’s announcement of Rio race in 2020

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Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella excitedly announced Thursday that the Brazilian city will host an IndyCar race in 2020.

Crivella revealed the street race would pass through Rio’s iconic sambadrome, which is where the majority of 120,000 spectators and floats pass through during Brazil’s annual Carnival festivities.

There’s only one problem: no one from Brazil seemed to tell IndyCar about the race.

Perhaps looking to steal some of the thunder from Sao Paulo’s Brazilian Grand Prix Formula One race this weekend, Crivella’s announcement was made without any input from IndyCar.

When NBC Sports reached out to IndyCar regarding Crivella’s announcement, the sanctioning body released the following statement from Stephen Starks, IndyCar Vice President, Promoter and Media Partner Relations:

“We are always exploring first-class cities to host our events, and the sport has had exceptional races and racers from Brazil.

“However, at this point we are only exploring the possibilities that might exist in that country.”

IndyCar first raced in Brazil in 1996 at the Jacarapegua racetrack, where the Rio Olympic Park was later built upon.

IndyCar’s last Brazilian race was 2013 in Sao Paulo.

The city of Brasilia was slated to host an IndyCar race in 2015, but the event was cancelled shortly before it was to be held.

Still, it’s no secret that Brazil wants IndyCar back racing within its borders, particularly since three drivers of Brazilian heritage are currently competing in the series: Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist and Pietro Fittipaldi.

Also, Helio Castroneves, who switched from a long career in IndyCar to IMSA for the 2018 season, is also a Brazilian native and major fan favorite.

It’s unclear where Brazil and IndyCar go from here.

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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.”