Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor rebound for second straight victory

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Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves overcame pit penalties on consecutive laps during the first hour to win the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Saturday at Michelin Road Atlanta.

After winning the pole position for the six-hour event Friday, Castroneves was nailed for being too fast on pit entry for the first stop in his No. 7 Acura.

While serving his drive-through penalty, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner ran a red light at pit exit, necessitating a stop and hold penalty for 60 seconds that dropped him and co-driver Ricky Taylor a lap down.

LOOKING AHEAD: Team Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

The Team Penske duo rebounded, though, for a second consecutive victory this season after a rain-soaked triumph at Road America that also featured an impressive display of driving by Castroneves, who has joked about being “open for business” while lobbying for a ride next season.

“People say I’m driving like 20, I’m also making mistakes like I’m 20, so thank God for Team Penske,” Castroneves said. “Nobody lost faith. Everybody was, ‘Oh, it’s cool.’ Finally, the yellow came to our favor.

Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor celebrate their second consecutive victory in the No. 7 Acura (IMSA).

“Man, as soon as I got to the lead, no turning back. Absolutely fantastic.”

Castroneves and Taylor won the TireRack.com Grand Prix by 0.983 seconds over the No. 55 Mazda of Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The No. 31 Cadillac of Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque was third.

The No. 6 Acura moved up to fifth in the DPi standings after starting the season with a crash in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The No. 10 Cadillac of Renger Van Der Zande and Ryan Briscoe leads the No. 7 Acura of Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor. Both cars faced impactful penalties Saturday (IMSA).

“We’ve been fighting back all year, and today was just a synopsis of our season coming from a lap down and a complete nightmare of a start to the race,” Taylor said. “But those mistakes are so easy to happen. We’ve all done it. And then when helio went back out, I told my brother on text, ‘Helio’s angry now. Look out.’ And man, he fought back so hard. He made it look easy at the end.”

Another penalty kept the championship tight as the No. 10 Cadillac of Ryan Briscoe and Renger van der Zande maintained a narrow four-point lead.

Briscoe was penalized for avoidable contact after hitting Juan Pablo Montoya while entering the pits for his final stop. Team owner Wayne Taylor said Montoya was at fault for brake-checking Briscoe.

“It’s disgraceful for a professional driver to do that,” Taylor told NBCSN’s Dillon Welch about Montoya. “This would have put us into the lead in the championship by a long way. He just screwed our race.”

Briscoe said he was running 15 mph under the speed limit but still hit the brakes too late to avoid Montoya. “I’d like to talk to him,” Briscoe said. “I think he must have missed his mark or something. But again, unfortunately in this series, there’s no tolerance, you hit someone in the back. It was his mistake.”

It was an eventful race for Team Penske’s No. 6 Acura as Montoya crashed with less than 10 minutes remaining after contact while trying to complete a pass between two cars. Teammate Dane Cameron spun the car on the opening lap after being squeezed by Nasr, who was penalized for avoidable contact.

In other classes Saturday:

The No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE of Connor De Phillippi and Bruno Spengler (IMSA).

–No. 25 BMW drivers Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi scored their first victory of the season in GTLM. “We didn’t have the fastest car over one lap, but we did a mistake-free race,” De Phillippi said. “Flawless execution.”

–Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry, joined by third driver Shinya Michimi, took over the GTD points lead with their first victory of the season in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. “We just did everything right,” McMurry said. “All the pit stops were super fast.”

–In LMP2, the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA of Simon Trummer, Scott Huffaker and Patrick Kelly Twon as the rival car in the class had an incident on the opening lap.

The GTD-winning Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 team of Mario Farnbacher, Matt McMurry and Shinya Michimi (IMSA).

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
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