IMSA: Penske, Acura partnership progressing amid tough start

Photo courtesy of IMSA

To say that the newly formed Acura Team Penske partnership in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship had high expectations would be an understatement.

From the team aspect, there might not be an operation in existence that is more successful than Team Penske. And their return to IMSA last Fall was not exactly inconsequential – they took the pole at the Motul Petit Le Mans in October, their first sports car race since 2009.

On the driver front, the lineup in both the Nos. 6 and 7 entries represents a “Who’s Who” of talent from both IMSA and the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The No. 6 features Dane Cameron, a former IMSA Prototype champion, and Juan Montoya, a former IndyCar champion, Indianapolis 500 victor, and multiple-time race winner in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Add 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud as a third driver in the endurance races, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger driver lineup.

That is, until you look at the No. 7 entry. Former Rolex 24 winner and defending IMSA Prototype champion Ricky Taylor partners IndyCar star three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Add in IndyCar stalwart Graham Rahal for the endurance races, and their lineup is no slouch, either.

And even though the ARX-05 is a new platform, it uses the same twin-turbo V6 from the NSX GT3, and the chassis is a variation of the Oreca 07, arguably the best of the LMP2 platforms.

The combination of team, drivers, and car has been very fast to start the year, with at least one of the Penske Acuras qualifying inside the Top 3 at every race, and both entries have led laps and ran amongst the leaders.

Yet, reliability has been their achilles heel – both entries fell out of contention at the Rolex 24 at Daytona after contact in separate incidents, and mechanical problems befell both entries within minutes of each other at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

They rebounded at the BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach, with Montoya taking the team’s first pole. But, strategy prevented Montoya and Cameron from contending for the win in the No. 6, while tire wear hampered the efforts of the No. 7 machine, with Ricky Taylor finding things especially problematic late in the race.

Still, as Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development (HPD) described, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic, and their speed right off the bat comes as no surprise.

“With the Acura DPi program, with the drivers that we have and the team that we have, we expected to come out of the gate being very competitive,” St. Cyr asserted. “We’ve been in sports car racing a lot. Team Penske has been in sports car racing a lot. We did a lot of testing. We did thousands and thousands of miles of testing getting ready for the season, so we thought we’d be competitive – at least in the mix – starting right off.”

Still, he knows there is lots of room for improvement, especially given that the program is still relatively new, and their reliability troubles are evidence of an obvious area that needs sharpening.

“We have shown early season speed, but obviously, there’s been some bugaboos or some gremlins that we’ve been tracking, which happens in sports car racing,” St. Cyr said. “We really look at every race and we expect to win every race that we’re in.”

St. Cyr is also enthused by the chance to prove the platform’s strength in IMSA, a series he holds in the highest regard.

“It’s fantastic,” St. Cyr said of the IMSA competition. “I mean, the whole series is just fantastic. This is all we’ve ever asked for is a chance to compete against these top teams. There’s top drivers, top teams and you’ve got to be on your game every week.”

He added, “I mean, we’ve showed that. You have a couple of problems and you’re relegated to the back of the field or not finishing. It’s made things very, very entertaining. It’s good for our Acura brand, because we want to compete against these vehicles on the production-car side as well. It’s very exciting for us and it’s very exciting for the Acura people to have this really close, tight competition.”

Acura Team Penske will look to break into the will column for the first time this weekend at the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.



Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports