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

0 Comments

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.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.