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Acura Team Penske confirms Graham Rahal for Petit Le Mans

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NTT IndyCar Series regular Graham Rahal will return to IMSA competition and race for Acura Team Penske in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta next month, the team confirmed in a press release Wednesday.

Rahal will be teamed up with Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi and replace fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi, who will be in Australia that weekend competing in the Bahurst 1000.

“It will be great to team up with Helio and Ricky again as they close out the season and we’ll be working to get the best possible result to help Acura lock up several championships that weekend,” Rahal said in the press release. “I really enjoyed working with Acura and everyone at Team Penske last year and I have missed racing with them this season. But when this opportunity came up for Petit Le Mans, it was an easy decision. I hope I can help them win one of the biggest races of the year.”

Rahal previously raced with Castroneves and Taylor in three endurance events last season, with a best finish of fifth in the Petit Le Mans after leading 128 laps.

Acura Team Penske will be attempting to win both the driver’s and team’s titles at Road Atlanta next month, with the No. 6 ARX-05 of Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron currently sitting first in the point standings, seven points ahead of the Action Express duo of Felipe Nasar and Pipo Derani.

Acura will also be attempting to win the Manufacturers’ Championship, with a current five-point lead over Cadillac in the standings.

The Motul Petit Le Mans takes place on Saturday, October 12, with live race coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET on NBC.

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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.”