Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor score fourth IMSA victory for Team Penske

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Team Penske drivers Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves renewed their championship charge Sunday in the DPi division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning at Laguna Seca Raceway.

It was the fourth victory in the past five races for the Acura Team Penske No. 7, which finished 0.487 seconds ahead of Penske’s No. 6 of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya in the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship.

Taylor took the lead with one lap remaining when Cameron pulled behind a lapped car to yield first to his teammate.

RESULTS, POINTS: Full stats package from IMSA at Laguna Seca

“You want to win it on your own, but when you’re part of a fantastic team like Acura Team Penske, the goal is for a team win,” Taylor told NBCSN pit reporter Kevin Lee. “I have to give a huge thanks to Dane, Juan and the entire No. 6 team. They were the best car all weekend long, and we were up against it a bit with some reduced track time.

“We pushed really hard there and didn’t have much tire left at the end, but Dane was a great teammate and we owe the win to them today.”

Defending series champions Cameron and Montoya, who qualified on pole, finished second Sunday after winning at Laguna Seca last year.

“I can’t even describe how proud I am of the effort by everyone on the No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi team,” Cameron said. “This car was the absolute class of the field all weekend and we showed how strong we were in the race today.

“Last year we were the recipients of some good fortune from our teammates on the No. 7 Acura. That is one of the great things about racing for Team Penske. For us to finish 1-2 as a team, and for those guys to have the points lead heading into one of the toughest races on the schedule in the 12 Hours of Sebring, is exactly what we wanted to do this weekend.”

Taylor and Castroneves will take a two-point lead in DPi over the No. 10 Cadillac of Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe (who were sixth Sunday) heading into the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring season finale Nov. 14 at Sebring International Raceway.

After a slow start that left them eighth in the points through three races, they got back in IMSA championship contention with a three-race winning streak at Road AmericaMichelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The team is trying to go out on top as Team Penske will be exiting the series next year after ending its relationship with Acura, which is moving to Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing.

The Whelen Engineering No. 31 Cadillac of Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr finished third overall.

Other class winners in Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race in Monterey, California:

–In GTLM, the No. 912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor scored its first victory of the season, holding off the No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor.

It was the second consecutive victory after a winless start to the season for Porsche Motorsport, which will be exiting the WeatherTech Series after this season.

“That was super intense,” Bamber told NBCSN pit reporter Kelli Stavast after the team’s first victory at Laguna. “This was the track we’d never gone great at, but I knew we had a good feeling this weekend.”

Said Vanthoor: “Up until two weeks ago, 2020 was kind of a disaster for us. Seems like the 2020 streak seems to be over, we’ll try to get one more at Sebring.”

Garcia and Taylor still clinched the GTLM drivers and team championship with their runner-up finish.

–In GTD, Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry scored their second victory for Meyer Shank Racing in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3. After leading 103 of 108 laps Sunday, they will take a seven-point lead into the Sebring finale.

“It means a lot,” Farnbacher told Lee. “It was three hard races in a row where we got taken out or had contact. This win means so much for us. It puts us back into the fight of the championship.”

–In LMP2, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA of Patrick Kelly and Simon Trummer was the only entrant.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”