Helio Castroneves joins Tony Stewart/Ray Evernham SRX series

Superstar Racing Experience Helio Castroneves
Chris Jones/IndyCar
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Superstar Racing Experience has added another Indy 500 winner to its lineup Wednesday, announcing Helio Castroneves would join the series’ debut season next year.

Castroneves, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2001-02 and ’09, was the fifth driver named to the SRX. The series, which is expecting a lineup of a dozen drivers, also has Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte (who was announced last week), Paul Tracy and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner.

Castroneves has been openly exploring new opportunities for next season. He has raced full time in IMSA this season for Team Penske, which is ending its Acura sports car team after the season, and will be making his 20th Indy 500 start with the team on Aug. 23 (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

‘I STILL HAVE A LOT OF FIRE’: Castroneves determined to race 2021

SRX was co-founded by NASCAR Hall of Famers Stewart and Ray Evernham and was unveiled July 13. Several drivers have expressed interest in the new circuit, which is modeled on the International Race of Champions (IROC) series that matched drivers from various auto racing disciplines in equally prepared cars for an annual four-race series for 30 years.

With the addition of Helio Castroneves, Superstar Racing Experience has yet to reveal a schedule or tracks, but it’s expected that Stewart’s Eldora Speedway will be on the slate. Kanaan and Tracy were both on Evernham’s SRX driver dream list, which also included Scott Dixon, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Here’s the release from SRX:

NEW YORK — Superstar Racing Experience is excited to announce the addition of Hélio Castroneves to the inaugural SRX driver lineup. Castroneves, a Brazilian IndyCar driver has had a historic career, totaling 30 wins and 50 pole positions.

Castroneves’ career highlights include winning the 2001, 2002 and 2009 Indianapolis 500. Castroneves is set to race for Team Penske in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“I am so excited to be joining the SRX series. I look forward to competing with legendary drivers at historic short tracks and bringing the fans an awesome racing product. Evenly matched cars, elite driving talent and a primetime window on CBS – this will be fun,” said Castroneves.

Castroneves joins Tony Stewart, Tony Kanaan, Paul Tracy and Bobby Labonte as the fifth confirmed driver for the series that will air Saturday nights in primetime on CBS Television Network in the Summer of 2021.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds