Joao Barbosa’s passion for racing made possible by IMSA

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In his first Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car race in 1999, Joao Barbosa earned a class win at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. He went on to score class poles in his next three races. Since then, his career has been inextricably linked to sports car racing and IMSA.

But it was not until his time with Brumos Racing in 2007 that Barbosa claims as the true turning point in his career.

“The most defining moment of my career was when I moved to the U.S. and started racing with Brumos Racing,” Barbosa told the NASCAR America crew on Thursday. “I was able to do some races with Hurley Haywood. Then I was probably the right time in the right spot, which doesn’t happen very often with me – when Hurley decided to retire from racing and I was there.  And they said, ‘why don’t you just jump into Hurley’s seat.’ ”

In the Rolex Grand-Am Series, Barbosa scored 12 wins. Since the series has become the Weathertech Sports Car Championship Series, he’s added nine more with at least one win per year in the first five seasons.

“IMSA has been the most important part of my career … that’s where my career has been; that’s where my heart has been. I couldn’t be in a better spot to race right now,” Barbosa said.

The 2019 campaign did not get off to the start he wanted. Experiencing technical issues at the beginning of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, he ultimately lost 20 laps to the lead and finished seventh in class.

“Last year, we had a really good Rolex 24 – we won the race – we had a terrible Sebring 12 Hour race,” Barbosa said. “This year, we had a not-so-good 24 so hopefully we’ll catch up on Sebring.”

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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.”