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AMA Supercross kicks off Daytona Bike Week

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Next week Supercross will hosts its 46th Daytona race in the 450 class and its 34th in 250s. This is a race that through the years has become interwoven into the fabric of the sport.

The 1974 450s race inaugurated the series with a victory for Pierre Karsmakers. In 1985, the 250 class got underway for the first time with a win for Eddie Warren.

Daytona has never fallen off the schedule – it is the only venue that has hosted a race every season – and with its unique position on the frontstretch of Daytona International Speedway, there is ample room to create one of the longest and most grueling tracks the riders will face all year.

Designed by NBC analyst Ricky Carmichael for the 12th consecutive year, the course features long straightaways, tall jumps and a variety of surfaces as the course transitions sand to dirt. The course stretches 3,100 feet in length.

Making this one of the most prestigious events to win is that it is part of Daytona’s famed Bike Week.

Seven riders have won their first Supercross race on this track, including Carmichael in 2000 and Justin Brayton last year.

Earlier this year, Blake Baggett scored his first win in Round 2 at Glendale, Ariz. Cooper Webb got his first career win at Anaheim II and has gone on to dominate Victory Lane.

In 250s, Travis Pastrana won his first race in 2000. Marvin Musquin followed in 2013.

Still, because of the uniqueness of this track, this is not a harbinger of the season champion. The winner of the Daytona Supercross has taken top honors only 21 times in 45 seasons. Ryan Dungey was the last to do so in 2015.

The action continues after the Supercross riders leave the track.

When they pack up and head for Indianapolis, the best in amateur racing hit the track for the 10th annual Ricky Carmichael Daytona Amateur Supercross scheduled for Sunday and Monday. In turn, that is followed by Vintage Supercross and ATV Supercross on Tuesday.

Finally, the American Flat Track series will kick off their season next Thursday with a dirt and asphalt TT track. This third annual event will use the tri-oval at the start / finish line. Jared Mees won that race last year by only .462 seconds over JD Beach.

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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.”