Mazda wins Twelve Hours of Sebring; Acura Team Penske takes DPi championship

0 Comments

Mazda Motorsports was the winner of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Saturday while Acura Team Penske scored a podium finish and a DPi championship in its final IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race Saturday.

Harry Tincknell, co-driving the No. 55 with Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Hunter-Reay, brought home the checkered flag in the season finale ahead as the No. 77 of Oliver Jarvis (co-driving with Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla) suffered a tire puncture while leading with just less than 30 minutes remaining.

“We’re feeling for those guys obviously on the 77; they had a dominating lead, but it’s motor racing, and we all ran hard all race long,” Bomarito told NBC Sports’ Kelli Stavast. “Two Mazdas on the podium, 12 Hours of Sebring winner, it’s unbelievable. This is huge, one of the most physical (tracks), hard on equipment and drivers. To get Mazda the victory in an endurance race, hats off to all the guys.”

RESULTS, POINTS: Where everyone finished and final 2020 standings

Mazda winners Ryan Hunter-Reay, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito celebrate on the podium with champagne and orange juice (IMSA).

It was an emotional victory for Mazda, which scored its first Sebring victory before scaling back to one car in 2021 (Tincknell will return full time, but Bomarito is expected to be used in endurance races only).

“We’ve had three great years together,” Tincknell told Stavast. “We’ve had our ups and downs this year and the last few years but what a way to cap off this chapter of Mazda Motorsports.”

Harry Tincknell and Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrate their Twelve Hours of Sebring victory (IMSA).

Said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner who drives for Andretti Autosport: “This is the overall win I’ve been looking for and to do it with these boys, such great teammates and did such an awesome job. We had two Mazdas up front, and we put together a great race. This team did a great job, it’s just awesome to finish off 2020 like this.”

Jarvis finished third behind the No. 6 Acura Team Penske of Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud.

Its sister car, the No. 7 Acura of Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, finished last in the DPi class but still one point ahead of Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 to clinch the 2020 title.

Penske, which is putting its sports car program on hiatus as Acura moves to Meyer Shank Racing and WTR next season, exited by winning the past two championships in IMSA’s premier class.

It was the first championship with Penske for Castroneves as the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner closed a 21-season career with the team before returning to IndyCar next year with MSR.

“For me, being able to finish the championship with an amazing organization, an amazing group of people and true friends that last forever,” Castroneves, who joined Penske as an IndyCar driver in 2000,  told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider in a tearful interview. “It’s a new beginning for me. But this I’ll never, ever forget. Can’t thank enough everyone, and Roger (Penske) of course. What an incredible journey.

“I get emotional. It’s so many years, putting this thing together and ending like this is absolutely incredible. It’s a blessing. This is why I fell in love with this sport. It’s amazing. I’m speechless just thinking of so many ups and downs. As RP always says, you lose more than you win.”

Castroneves also praised his teammate, Taylor, as “an incredible man and a hell of a driver” after he  finished the race.

“It was everything,” Taylor told Snider about winning the championship for Castroneves. “After what he’s done for Team Penske, to me, he is Team Pesnke. It was a privilege of a lifetime to get to drive for Acura Team Penske and to have the best three years of my carer.

“To contribute to (Castroneves’) amazing career of not having a championship yet and to win it with him was one of the highlights of my life. We’ll be friends for life.”

Other class winners were:

–The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 and No. 912 of the Porsche GT team swept the top two spots in GTLM, closing Porsche Motorsport’s run in the IMSA division.

It was the third consecutive Twelve Hours of Sebring victory for No. 911 drivers Fred Makowiecki and Nick Tandy, who did a long burnout to mark the final race for the car and team.

“It’s been such an emotional time, especially this weekend, knowing this is the last time we come together as a group,” Tandy said. “I said before the race it’ll make it a lot better if we can celebrate a decent result. I was hoping we were going to win and a three-peat was always on.

“But to do a 1-2 and for the whole team, everybody Porsche, everyone who has put seven years of their lives as much as we have into this program. It’s just a perfect finish, really.”

Porsche drivers also closed the season with three consecutive GTLM victories.

“To finish like that for the team, we put so much energy, so much time, and it’s really a family,” Makowiecki said. “It means so much. This is positive for everybody. We work so hard, so a big pleasure to win three times and in the last race with my buddy (Tandy).”

The GTLM podium for the Twelve Hours of Sebring included both Porsche GT cars (IMSA).

–The No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R of Wright Motorsports in GTD but still came up two points shy of the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian for the GTD championship.

“We were biting our nails the whole races; a lot of ups and downs,” MSR driver Matt McMurry said. “We just did consistent laps and made it to the front. The team did an awesome job, and crew performed perfectly.”

It’s the final race for the GTD championship entry as Meyer Shank Racing moves into DPi with Acura. “It means everything” to win the championship, No. 86 driver Mario Farnbacher said after the third-place finish at Sebring. “It hurts a bit that the program ends, but a new chapter will open next year. Great to finish with a championship and podium.”

Wright Motorsports ended its first season on a winning note despite drivers Patrick Long, Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen having to overcome a broken left rear shock absorber three hours into a race on perhaps the bumpiest track in auto racing.

“It really bounces you and was hard to put traction down, but we kept our heads in it,” Long said. “The team put us in position at the end.”

Said Hardwick. “This is a monumental day for us. We came with one goal: To win the race. We gave it our all. It was a tough curveball with the shock, and it really was a difficult car to drive. These two (co-drivers) were monsters, man. They probably drove some lap times that most people couldn’t do. Our crew didn’t miss a beat with pit stops, and it was truly a team effort.”

–The No. 52 ORECA of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports won in LMP2.

All three DPi championship contenders encountered trouble from nearly start to finish of the 12-hour race.

Needing a victory to secure a long-shot title, Pipo Derani overshot a corner and locked up the brakes while trying to pass Montoya’s No. 6 Penske for the lead with two and a half hours remaining. Montoya ran into Derani off the turn while retaking the lead.

A minute later, Derani made a dive-bomb move into a corner and rooted Montoya out of the lead. The Action Express driver, who was trying to win his fourth Twelve Hours of Sebring, then gave up the lead to Olivier Pla and served a drive-through penalty for the contact with Montoya.

When Derani returned to the track, his steering failed, and the team lost a few laps repairing the right-front damage in the pits.

The contact with Montoya marked the third Team Penske driver that Derani has been involved in a shunt with over the past three race weekends.

“I’m surprised, we still got 3 hours to go,” Montoya, who went winless this season and has announced his future plans, told Stavast. “We knew we needed to save a lot of fuel, and we were doing that. They didn’t need to save as much. We knew they were going to be coming. He was just a little impatient.

“He’s done it a couple of times, and put themselves in a bad situation, but it ruined our race. We were leading the race, had a shot at the win, and this is 2020 for us.”

He collided with Taylor while battling for the lead in the Petit Le Mans with 10 minutes remaining (which led to a headed postrace confrontation). Two weeks ago, Derani and Castroneves smashed into each other during practice at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway.

Saturday’s race got off to an inauspicious start for Penske’s final race with Acura. A mechanical disaster struck for its No. 7 barely 40 minutes into the race when pole-sitter Taylor lost power after his first pit stop.

The team discovered a broken left intercooler and needed 25 minutes for repairs, sending Taylor back on track 11 laps down.

For the next four hours, the championship catbird seat was occupied by Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac, which entered the Sebring season finale trailing Penske by two points.

But in the fifth hour of the race, the No. 10 lost five laps replacing a radiator after Scott Dixon was punted by the No. 77 Mazda being driven by Jarvis.

Dixon also picked up a drive-through penalty for passing under caution (the second penalty of the race for the No. 10 after Renger van der Zande was penalized for an improper lane change on the start).

“That was two stints of hell for me,” Dixon, who had won in his previous two endurance races with the team this season in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Petit Le Mans, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Getting connected in turn 10 did a ton of damage to the car. We were having a smooth day until that happened.

“I think there was no way (Jarvis) was going to make the corner. I kind of saw him coming and tried to give him enough (room) without braking myself. I don’t think it was our fault.”

After the incidents, Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 duo of Taylor and Castroneves (who were joined by endurance driver Alexander Rossi from IndyCar this weekend) was a point ahead of the WTR tandem of Ryan Briscoe and van der Zande (who had six-time IndyCar champion Dixon as an endurance teammate).

That turned out to be the winning margin as the No. 7 finished seven laps down in eighth for Penske in closing out on top after a three-year run with Acura.

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”


Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.


Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500