IMSA: Helio Castroneves makes late pass in rain to win at Road America

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Helio Castroneves took the lead from Renger van der Zande with just more than 5 minutes remaining Sunday to win a rain-plagued IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America, which featured a wild finish of multiple lead changes among all of its class winners in the final stint.

The skies opened up after the midpoint of the two-hour, 40-minute race, leading to a 21-minute red flag and a full-course caution period for 22 minutes.

The race still was restarted with seven and a half minutes remaining, and van der Zande’s No. 10 Cadillac took the lead as Oliver Jarvis’ No. 77 Mazda pitted for rain tires.

RESULTS, POINTS: Click here for standings, finishes, fast laps at Road America

SCHEDULE CHANGES: IMSA moving races to Road Atlanta, Charlotte Roval

But Castroneves, whose No. 7 Team Penske Acura started on the pole position with co-driver Ricky Taylor, pounced a couple of minutes later — while driving blindly through the spray kicked up by van der Zande’s Wayne Taylor Racing car.

“I couldn’t see a thing, but I noticed a little gap, and every time you have a little gap when there’s a few laps to go, you go for it,” Castroneves said. “I had a confidence in the car. I knew what to do, especially from Daytona this year we learned a lot. Put all those things together, you are confident enough to drive the car, you push it.”

It was the second overall victory — and first in more than two years — as a duo for Castroneves and Taylor, who joined Team Penske in 2018 after a successful run as a Rolex 24 winner with his father’s team.

“It’s been way too long for both of us,” Taylor said of the drought. “It’s nice to get the monkey off our backs after the start of the season. It’s really great motivation for all the teams to get some momentum back and some points. If we can keep this trend going, maybe we can get back into the championship.

“We’re so motivated. The more you struggle, you start working harder and harder to overcome it. All the Acura Team Penske guys never gave up. Everyone became more motivated to get back in it and get the momentum going.”

Helio Castroneves (left) and Ricky Taylor celebrate their first victory together as a Team Penske duo (IMSA).

Beyond the mediocre results, it’s also been a tough start to the season because Penske announced its sports car program won’t be back next season after a split from Acura.

“Everyone knows the program is going be forced to an end, but we don’t think about that,” Castroneves said. “We want to finish on a high note, and that’s our goal. This is good momentum.”

The victory was well earned as Castroneves couldn’t cruise once he had the lead again. The rain began intensifying in the final two laps and created “basically a river on the back straightaway.”

The race ended under yellow after the No. 24 BMW of John Edwards crashed out of the GTLM lead — but the wrecks didn’t stop there.

Townsend Bell, who helped deliver AIM Vasser Sullivan its third consecutive victory in GTD, crashed his No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 on the cooldown lap in the final corner at about 20 mph and barely limped back to the pit lane before his steering rack broke.

“If that happened a lap earlier, we would have lost the race under caution at 20 mph, that’s how bad the conditions were,” said Bell, who took over the GTD points leader with co-driver Frankie Montecalvo. “Kind of embarrassing, but I’m not sure I could do much. I was just driving in a straight line as slow as I could go, and it just started floating off the track.”

After the red flag, Bell thought, “there’s no way we’re going back to green, and then I remembered we got Beaux Barfield in race control. I call him ‘CowBeaux.’ Send it!”

Here’s how the finishes went in other classes:


GTLM

Edwards’ spin handed the victory to the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia and co-driver Jordan Taylor. It’s the third consecutive victory for Corvette and its second 1-2 finish in a row after the No. 4 of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner won at Sebring.

It also marked the second victory of the season for Garcia and Taylor and the first for both at Road America.

Garcia said he spent the final few laps battling the Porsche of Nick Tandy, who also spun on the final lap.

“We had many, many times when we were alongside and kind of sailing together instead of racing together,” he said. “The line I took on the previous lap seemed to work while defending from Tandy. I was probably one of the few cars that made it through. Luckily enough, Tommy did the same.

“The Carousel and the Kink were almost impossible to go through that part of the track, like going into a swimming pool. There is really nothing much you can do there. It depends on your car, depends on how deep the water. The Corvette C8.R survived it better than the rest. It’s a credit to how good the C8.R is in the wet.”

Antonio Garcia inherited the lead on the final lap to lead the second consecutive 1-2 finish for Corvette Racing (IMSA).

GTD

Bell and Mario Farnbacher traded the lead over the final two laps with Bell retaking first for good when Farnbacher’s Acura slid off course in the Kink.

“I hit that standing water and I thought I was going to lose it and for a split second I thought I was just going to lift and coast,” said Bell, who had 32 laps prior to the pass by Farnbacher. “I saw him off there, and I just put my foot down and started grabbing gears basically and the Lexus barely hooked up and got by him. That’s all it took and then the yellow came out there.”

Farnbacher, who went from fifth to first in five laps after the final restart on the benefit of a pit call for rain tires by team owner Mike Shank, hung on for second. “We should have won it, but that’s racing sometimes,” Farnbacher said.

It was the first Road America victory for Bell and the first in Montecalvo’s IMSA career. They lead by four points over the No. 14 of teammates Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz, who had won the past two races. Bell took the lead from Hawksworth during a pit stop sequence Sunday that he said was the key to the victory.

“It’s been really satisfying for the team to have the 1-2 qualifying and the 1-2 finish, but quietly we get a little frustrated because we want a chance at the top step, too,” Bell said. “We did the undercut, they did the overcut, and coming out of the pits, I got Jack (Hawksworth) exiting turn 3. I had a run and I knew that was my chance. If we didn’t make it happen there, it was probably going to be tough to get something done, so I got the position and just settled into a good pace and off we went.”

Townsend Bell navigates the rain in his No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3 (IMSA).

LMP2

In LMP2, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley scored their second victory in the No. 81 ORECA for DragonSpeed, taking advantage when Simon Trummer went off course under yellow with about 45 minutes left.

Hedman and Hanley also won the LMP2 class of the Rolex 24 and would have won July 18 at Sebring International Raceway if not for a penalty.

“The 52 car (of Patrick Kelly and Trummer) probably should have won this race and they didn’t, so we’re happy to take it, and this was a team victory for us today,” Hedman said. “Rules are rules, and we made a mistake (at Sebring). One of the very few that DragonSpeed has ever made. It is what it is. Today we were lucky, but a win is a win, so I’m happy.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)