Team Penske sports car drivers still hunting for new rides in 2021

Team Penske IMSA future
IMSA
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Saturday will mark the midpoint of an IMSA season turned upside down by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has contributed to scuttling the future for Team Penske drivers.

With a delay of more than five months between IMSA’s Rolex 24 at Daytona opener and its second event (also at Daytona) — and with numerous WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races subsequently canceled or rescheduled — the six-hour TireRack.com Grand Prix at Michelin Road Atlanta is the sixth of a scheduled 11 events.

In the previous six seasons since major-league sports car racing came under one banner, there annually have been only two races after Labor Day weekend, and the driver-team lineup for the following season largely can be settled by this point on the calendar.

ROAD ATLANTA ENTRIES: Who will be racing Saturday in the six-hour event

But much uncertainty remains this year. And it starts with the defending series champions in GTLM and DPi.

In GTLM, Porsche is exiting IMSA after this season with its 911 RSR-19 teams of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor (who won the 2019 title) and Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki. That quartet could find placement in other Porsche racing programs.

A Team Penske hauler at an IMSA race (IMSA).

The prospects seem hazier at Team Penske, which is mothballing its DPi program after this season in a split from Acura.

A year after their title in the No. 6, Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya are exploring new opportunities, as are No. 7 teammates Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, who just ended a two-year winless drought in the most recent DPi race at Road America.

It’s unfamiliar territory for Taylor, who won 12 races in four seasons with Wayne Taylor Racing before joining Penske in 2018.

“I’ve been spoiled the past four or five years coming from my dad’s team and being kind of in a relationship with GM for a while, and it was a little more secure,” Taylor said Wednesday during a Zoom media call.

“This year has been weird in more than one way. Although it is relatively early, it’s always stressful. All four of us are looking and working on stuff, and it’s always difficult. It’s another one of those weird things where you’re not going to be able to just walk around the paddock and go meet people, either. It’s odd for sure.”

Even if the paddock access were less restrictive for pounding the pavement, the conversations still might not be conducive for finding a new ride. The season won’t conclude until Nov. 14 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, about a month later than usual.

Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya won the DPi championship last season (IMSA).

“In the industry, everybody’s timeline is very different at this stage,” said Cameron, who added an Intercontinental GT Challenge race to his schedule Thursday. “It makes it a little bit more challenging than normal with the traditional schedule and in a world that’s a little bit more stable than we have right now. Some people aren’t ready to talk about it even though we are now in September.

“Yeah, it’s a bit hard to see quite where everything is going to go just yet, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough. It’ll be do or die time here before you know it when you get toward the back end of the year. You’re going to have to make decisions and make plans because 2021 will be here before you know it.”

Cameron and Taylor both are 31-year-old sports car champions who seem committed to staying in IMSA. The outlook might be different for their teammates, who are both in their mid-40s and have multiple victories in the Indianapolis 500. Castroneves openly has lobbied for a full-time return to the IndyCar Series.

Montoya said he’d consider running the Indy 500 again if offered a contending car, and he also has been involved with helping further 14-year-old son Sebastian’s career in Europe. But the veteran of IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR doesn’t know what 2021 will hold yet.

“I have no idea,” Montoya said. “When I know, I’ll tell you. If a good opportunity is there and worth doing, for sure. I don’t want to stop. I love racing. I still want to try to win (the 24 Hours of) Le Mans and everything.

“We have to make sure the right opportunity is there. If the opportunity is not there, then we’ll see what happens.”

IMSA

Peacock to stream all Supercross and Motocross races in 2023, plus inaugural SuperMotocross Championship

Peacock Supercross Motocross 2023
Feld Entertainment, Inc.
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NBC Sports and Feld Motor Sports announced that Peacock and the NBC family of networks will stream all 31 races of the combined Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the newly created SuperMotocross World Championship beginning January 7, 2023 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and ending October 14 in the place where Supercross was born: the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The combined series will create a 10-month calendar of events, making it one of the longest professional sports’ seasons in the United States.

The agreement is for multiple years. The season finale will air live on Peacock and the USA Network.

Peacock will present live coverage of all races, qualifying and heats across both series. The 31 total races will mark a record for the combined number of Supercross and Pro Motocross events that NBC Sports will present in a single season.

NBC, USA Network and CNBC will provide coverage of all races, including the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs and Final, through 2023 and beyond. For more information about the Peacock streaming service, click here.

“With our wide array of live and original motorsports offerings, Peacock is a natural home for Supercross and Pro Motocross races,” said Rick Cordella, Chief Commercial Officer, Peacock. “We’re looking forward to providing fans with an easily-accessible destination to find every race all season long, including the exciting finish with the newly formed SuperMotocross World Championship.”

MORE: A conversation about media rights created the new SuperMotocross World Championship Series

The NBC family of networks has been home to Supercross for the past several seasons and this is a continuation of that relationship. The media rights for both series expired at the end of 2022, which allowed Supercross and Motocross to combine their efforts.

In fact, it was that conversation that led to the formation of the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

The SMX series will begin on September 9, 2023 after the conclusion of the Pro Motocross season. Points will accumulate from both series to seed the SMX championship, which creates a record number of unified races.

“The SuperMotocross World Championship adds a new dimension to the annual Supercross and Pro Motocross seasons that will result in crowning the ultimate World Champion,” said Stephen C. Yaros, SVP Global Media and Supercross for Feld Motor Sports. “We are thrilled to be extending our relationship with NBC Sports so our fans can watch all the racing action streaming live on Peacock and the option to also watch select rounds on NBC, USA Network and CNBC.”

Complete 2023 coverage schedules for Supercross, Pro Motocross and the SuperMotocross World Championship on Peacock, NBC, USA Network and CNBC will be announced in the near future.