Helio Castroneves upset after hard crash sends Penske to garage


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Less than four hours into the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a crash knocked one of Team Penske’s Acuras from contention and left Helio Castroneves steaming.

Driving the No. 7 entry, Castroneves was hit in the left rear by the fellow DPi car of Harry Tincknell when entering the tricky Bus Stop section of the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

Castroneves told NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider that he had been radioing his team to relay to Tincknell to be patient as they worked through traffic.

“It’s not even four hours into the race, I was taking my time, dealing with traffic, and then the guy just decided to dive into (me) in a place that’s probably 120 mph,” Castroneves said. “For a risk that’s not going to pay off.

“We had a great car. It’s just … 24 hours! Ugh! I’m sorry that I expressed my feelings right now, but it’s just ridiculous. Especially when we tell the guy, look, we’re communicating and taking it easy. I’ll let you by, no problem. So many hours to go. It’s just frustrating.”

Tincknell, whose car sustained minor damage, received a drive-though penalty from IMSA for “incident responsibility” and took the blame for the incident (“it was late on my part”) but also noted that Castroneves made passing more difficult by moving through the braking zones and backing off on the straightaways.

“It looks pretty bad for me,” Tincknell said. “I’m sorry for him, sorry for their team, sorry for our team as well because we damaged the car. If you’re dicing that so hard, sometimes you get sent to the wall. That’s what happened. I am sure I will take the blame for it and I will just take that on the chin. Sorry to them.”

Tincknell said Castroneves’ requests for patience and offering to let him by weren’t relayed but intimated it might not have mattered because of the massive closing speeds.

“He’s moving in a braking zone, and I had massive closing speed on the straight, and unfortunately got too close,” he said. “There’s a long way to go, and it’s easy to look back in hindsight on those mistakes and say, ‘Yeah, I shouldn’t have done it.’

“But if he was so worried about me being crazy, he could have just let me through.”

After repairs that took about 35 minutes, Castroneves returned to the race 23 laps down with just more than 20 hours remaining. Team Penske’s remaining No. 6 entry of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud still was running second, but the No. 7’s chances were done despite also having decent speed.

“We found a good setup,” said Castroneves, who shares the car with Alexander Rossi and Ricky Taylor. “We actually were taking it easy. I was making sure I was staying away from the curbs. Ugh! Sorry. It’s just frustration right now. We’re going to cheer for the 6 car, hopefully, we can make this situation better at least. But it’s just stupid.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”