Felix Rosenqvist wins Rookie of the Year by five points

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MONTEREY, Calif – With a fifth place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca, Felix Rosenqvist clinched the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year award, a title he ironically won by a margin of five points over Colton Herta,

It was all smiles on pit road for the 27-year-old Swede following the race, as Rosenqvist was immediately greeted by a sea of congratulations from his car owner Chip Ganassi, mentor Dario Franchitti and several members of his pit crew. He was the first Chip Ganassi Racing driver to win the title since Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999.

“It was a hell of a year,” Rosenqvist told reporters following the race. “My Chip Ganassi NTT DATA crew has just been flawless all season, especially the pit crew.

“They’ve just never done any mistakes, just a few slip-ups, but I think we had the most solid crew of anyone this year, and I think they deserve this sixth finish in the championship and Rookie of the Year.”

For Rosenqvist, the great finish helped end the weekend on a high note, as Rosenqvist was anything but happy following qualifying a day prior.

Rosenqvist failed to advance from Round 1 qualifying Saturday afternoon after INDYCAR officials disallowed his first two qualifying runs, which greatly angered the normally reserved driver.

“You know, this weekend was our time to sort of end the season on a high, and starting 14th is not normally the way to do that,” Rosenqvist said. “I tried to use that little bit of anger to go forward today.”

And go forward Rosenqvist did. Driving like a man on a mission, he quickly moved his way up the field, evening coming too close to comfort with championship contenders Alexander Rosssi and Simon Pagenaud at times.

Still, Rosenqvist insisted his wild run at Laguna was all a controlled drive.

“You kind of had to be sensible when you had to and aggressive when you had to, and actually made a really interesting race here at Laguna.

“I think everyone enjoyed that, so looking forward to coming back here next year.”

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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.”