IndyCar / Stephen King

View from the pits: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Today, the NTT IndyCar Series has its final race before the Month of May with the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, California.

Alexander Rossi claimed his 5th career pole on Saturday, and will look to become the first repeat winner at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais’ run of 3 in a row from 2005-07. It’s worth noting that Rossi has converted three of his previous four poles into wins, including his victory last year at the Beach.

You can catch the action today at 4pm ET on NBCSN, the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. In the meantime, IndyCar on NBCSN pit reporter Marty Snider checks in with his thoughts on the weekend…

Long Beach never disappoints. The crowds are fantastic. The racing is outstanding. The atmosphere is unrivaled for a street circuit. Sunday, there will be people watching from rooftops, from boats in the harbor and on TV. This is a race that really should be on every race fans bucket list.  It is truly, not just a race, but an event.

The “event” at Long Beach takes such a center stage, that people forget how unforgiving the racing can be here.  Narrow streets, tight walls and the potential for chaos all around the circuit. Several drivers have been off course or just barely grazed the wall in practice and qualifying so far this weekend. The consequences could be even harsher on Sunday…beware turn one on the start!

Pit strategy will be key. While Alexander Rossi had the best car in last year’s race, it was the call by Rob Edwards to pit him earlier than the other leaders that really gapped him from the rest of the field. On the first set of stops last year, Rossi gained five seconds by pitting four laps earlier than Will Power. So when you pit for fresh Firestone rubber tomorrow could decide who wins this race. On a warm Southern California day…tires will matter tomorrow.  

Popular wisdom is that Alexander Rossi is the guy to beat on Sunday. Hard to argue against that. But something tells me this is a Scott Dixon kind of a day. I think Dixon quietly has the best car for Sunday and Dixon’s uncanny ability to create speed during in and out laps around a pit stop could be the difference.

Even though it has not been one of his best tracks over the years, Scott Dixon is my pick to win his second Long Beach GP on Sunday.

Enjoy the event, race fans…this is one of the best on the motorsports calendar.

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.”