DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Ricky Taylor won five races last year, five poles, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the IMSA championship. So it seemed a little strange when he didn’t qualify Team Penske’s new Acura entry.
Turns out, Taylor is in practical quarantine with the flu.
Helio Castroneves instead qualified the car and wound up second behind Renger van der Zande, the driver who replaced Taylor when he left Wayne Taylor Racing to join the Penske operation.
“It makes sense for Ricky to qualify the car because he’s got so much experience,” Castroneves said Friday. “But he’s sick. We can’t even see him. We can only text him.”
The bug has hit several members of the Penske organization, but Taylor is the only driver so far to fall ill.
Had Taylor not been sick, he’d have qualified the Penske Acura and gone head-to-head with his former team. Taylor drove with his brother, Jordan, last year on their father’s team and the duo had a career year. When it was over, Ricky Taylor had a job offer from Roger Penske that he couldn’t refuse.
Wayne Taylor chose Dutch driver van der Zande to replace his oldest son, and the newest driver knocked Castroneves from the pole.
“When they told me I had to qualify, I knew I had to put it out front because that’s what Ricky does,” Castroneves said. “I was almost there.”
The defending race-winning Wayne Taylor team will start with the pole Saturday with van der Zande behind the wheel, while Castroneves will line up next to him for Penske.
The Penske organization did not reveal Taylor’s status for the rest of the weekend. In 2016, Jordan Taylor was suffering from mononucleosis at the Rolex and the team brought in Rubens Barichello to help ease Jordan Taylor’s driving responsibilities in the twice-round-the-clock endurance race. Jordan Taylor did drive in the event and the team finished second.
The Team Penske entry consists of Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Graham Rahal, so unless they bring in another driver, Ricky Taylor will have to do at least one stint during the race.
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