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Castroneves optimistic about another shot at Indy 500

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Helio Castroneves is optimistic team owner Roger Penske will give him another chance to win the Indianapolis 500 for the fourth time next year.

Castroneves no longer races full-time in IndyCar after a nearly two-decade career with Penske that included Indy 500 wins in 2001, 2002 and 2009. He now drives for Penske’s IMSA sports car racing team, and Penske brought him back to IndyCar for the month of May the past two years.

Will he be able to pull off a similar deal with Penske next year to go after a record-tying fourth Indy win?

Castroneves said it will depend largely on finding a sponsor, a search he believes will be helped greatly by the fact that another Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud, won Indy in May.

“The good news is, the team won the Indy 500,” Castroneves said. “Which helps tremendously to talk not only with sponsors, and with Roger. I did hear he’s talking about a fourth car. But who knows? I’m feeling confident that there could be another year, but let’s see.”

In a text message to The Associated Press, Penske said, “At the moment I think he will be in our plans.”

Outside of another shot with Penske, Castroneves’ options appear to be limited. Castroneves said his contract to drive for Penske’s IMSA team has a clause that prevents him from racing against Penske in any other series that the team competes in.

“I don’t think my contract allows a possibility of (racing Indy for another team) next year with (a Penske contract in) IMSA still,” Castroneves said. “We’re not allowed to race against them. I can race in Brazil, or Europe – anything that they’re not competing in. Which is understandable.”

Castroneves, who was at the IndyCar race at Road America over the weekend as a corporate ambassador for race title sponsor the REV Group, acknowledged it is difficult to be at an IndyCar race and not to be behind the wheel.

“When you jump in at the Grand Prix and jump in in Indianapolis, it’s like a case of `why?’ It’s actually worse,” Castroneves said. “Because I know I can do it. Especially after Indy Grand Prix. I only had one day (in the car,) and I was five hundredths away from the fast six (in qualifying.) Which shows that I have it, you know? But I trust the system, I trust the team and we’ll see what happens. And also doing the sports car program, it’s a great challenge. It’s very nice.”

The 44-year-old Brazilian is exploring some business opportunities outside racing, but wants to continue his career.

“I want to keep going, obviously,” Castroneves said. “I love racing. To be honest, that’s what I know what to do best.”

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.”