Taylors hit the high-five in Detroit; Acura breaks through in GTD

Photo courtesy of IMSA

DETROIT – Not even an accident in qualifying and further Balance of Performance adjustments could stop the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor parlayed a mix of great driving and great strategy to secure their fifth straight win in as many races in Prototype and overall, an incredible effort by the drivers and the Wayne Taylor Racing team.

Meanwhile the Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 team broke through for its first win yet in GT Daytona, courtesy of an excellent drive from both Andy Lally and Katherine Legge in the No. 93 car, while Performance Tech Motorsports continued its own streak in Prototype Challenge with its fourth win in as many races in that class, courtesy of James French and Pato O’Ward in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09.

Ricky Taylor had the fastest time in qualifying on Friday afternoon for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic race, but crashed out at Turn 4. IMSA set the grid in Prototype by points and although the No. 10 car was the points leader, it was sent to the back of the combined Prototype and Prototype Challenge entries for causing the red flag.

It mattered not. The older Taylor brother made it up to seventh on the grid from 12th place on the opening lap, and was up to fifth before pit stops.

Past half distance and after the first and only full course caution of the race, now with Jordan Taylor in the car, the No. 10 car was fourth behind the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P of Joel Miller and Tom Long, and the polesitting No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi.

With 48 minutes to go, the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi set in motion the final round of pit stops to get to the checkered flag. Others followed, with the Nos. 5, 55, 85 and 10 cars all pitting within the next seven minutes. While the No. 2 car took another set of Continental tires, the rest took fuel only.

What was imperative to watch was whether the gap would be enough for the No. 31 car to pit with enough of a gap to get Cameron in for a final splash and sustain the lead.

Taylor gained five seconds in four laps from Lap 37 to 41 and got as close as 26.501 seconds but lost time in traffic.

Cameron, however, did not bank enough of a gap to pit and keep the lead. It was a 29.066 second gap over Taylor but that wasn’t enough, and Taylor swept through to the lead once Cameron pitted on Lap 49.

Cameron was second in the No. 31 car with Miller and Long able to finally score a podium in the No. 70 Mazda. This is the third straight street race the Mazda has been on the podium, starting with Detroit last year and Long Beach again this year.

The Prototype battle behind them for the final positions got a bit nuts within the final 15 minutes. When trying to pass Barbosa for fourth, Stephen Simpson spun at Turn 1 in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson and Tristan Nunez took crazy evasive, drifting action to avoid them in the No. 55 Mazda.

With less than 10 minutes to go, the No. 2 Nissan went behind the wall, which made for a similarly frustrating late race end as occurred at Circuit of The Americas.

The GTD lead was shifted entirely on the first and only full-course caution, caused with two separate incidents just shy of the 30-minute mark. Ben Keating, in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3, impacted the Turn 8 wall on the exit and caused significant right front damage. Meanwhile, at Turn 3, an apparent brake failure shot Kenny Habul’s No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 across the road and into a hapless Renger van der Zande, the Dutchman in the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson with absolutely nowhere to go except into the tire barriers.

Lawson Aschenbach had led from the pole from the off in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS, with one of the BAR1 Motorsports PC cars acting as a buffer to the rest of the GTD field.

At the pit stop, the No. 57 Audi led the No. 93 Acura, No. 48 Lamborghini, No. 28 Porsche and No. 16 Lamborghini.

After the pit stops, the No. 93 Acura moved ahead of the No. 28 Porsche, No. 63 Ferrari, No. 57 Audi and No. 48 Lamborghini.

The No. 16 Lamborghini and No. 28 Porsche both received penalties which knocked them back, and later issues hit both the No. 57 Audi and No. 50 Mercedes-AMG.

It left the No. 93 Acura clear of the No. 63 Ferrari of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan at the finish.

Shank’s team was poised for a double podium, but with five minutes remaining, Jeff Segal ran wide at Turn 7 and lost third place, with Madison Snow (sharing with Bryan Sellers) in the No. 48 Lamborghini and Jens Klingmann (sharing with Bret Curtis) in the No. 96 BMW slipping through. It was a bittersweet end to that race after Segal and Ozz Negri drove the rebuilt car.

PC was uneventful from the off, Performance Tech Motorsports leading flag-to-flag for its fourth win in as many races ahead of the pair of BAR1 Motorsports entries. French and O’Ward now have wins at 24-hour, 12-hour, two-hour, 40-minute and 100-minute race distances.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)