Helio Castroneves upset after hard crash sends Penske to garage

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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.”

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”