Castroneves and Taylor Win at a Soggy Road America

Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves were a pair of happy campers after taking the IMSA win at Road America! (Photo by Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images)

Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WSCC) event from Road America was an exciting race all afternoon long, but ended on a drenched course with a chaotic finish.

When it was all said and done, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor claimed the overall victory for Acura Team Penske at a drenched Road America.

Background

The 2020 Road Race Showcase at Road America was the fourth race of the 2020 WSCC season, currently slated for an 11 race calendar.

Sunday’s race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin also marked just the third event since returning to racing after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause following the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in January. The No. 55 Mazda Motorsports team of Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell won overall in the first race back on July 4th at Daytona International Speedway. Two weeks ago at Sebring International Raceway, the Action Express Whelen Engineering Cadillac team of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani claimed the Overall victory.

The week before teams showed up to Wisconsin, Acura confirmed that the defending DPi Championship team of Acura Team Penske would not continue past the 2020 season. The team, who swept all three championships in the DPi division, sat winless in 2020 at the time of the announcement, with their two drivers sitting 6th and 8th in the drivers’ standings.

Pre-Race

Acura Team Penske’s duo of Ricky Taylor and Dane Cameron locked out the front row in Motul Pole Award qualifying, with Taylor’s 1:49.061 minute being a half-second quicker than the next engine manufacturer. The Acura-powered Penske Daytona Prototype International (DPi) swept all sessions leading up to the race, between the team’s factory supported entries.

Meanwhile, Laurens Vanthoor nabbed the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole award in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

In the GT Daytona (GTD) paddock, the AIM Vasser Sullivan (AVS) team continued to outpace the GT4-field with Wisconsin’s Aaron Telitz nabbing the pole position at his home track in the WSCC.

The start

At the drop of the green flag, Ricky Taylor took off in the No. 6 Acura while the sister car driven by Dane Cameron battled with a competing Mazda. Cameron aggressively fought with Harry Tincknell in the No. 55 Mazda on the opening lap, evening making contact with each-other. Cameron was able to clear Tincknell into the fifth turn.

Simultaneously, Jordan Taylor immediately nabbed the GTLM race lead all because of the lane he was given to start the race.

Telitz was able to keep the GTD lead at the start of the race ahead of AVS teammate Frank Montecalvo.

Daytona Prototype International

DPi race summary

The Acura Team Penske duo carried their raw pace from Friday and Saturday right into the 2-hour, 40-minute race. Within the first 15 minutes of the event, the Penske cars caught the tail end of the GTD field.

As the race was close to 35 minutes complete, the action picked up in the DPi division. Cameron made an over-aggressive block going up the hill exiting the fifth turn on the No. 55 Mazda driven by Tincknell into the grass. As a result, the contact resulted in damage to both the Mazda and the No. 6 DPi, which led to a cut tire on Cameron’s Penske Acura. Cameron slowly limped the DPi back to the pit lane, but at where he cut the tire, it was a two mile drive back to the attention of his crew. To add insult to injury, race control penalized the No. 6 for his ill-timed block, forcing the car to serve a drive-through penalty. Cameron was lapped by his teammate even before serving the penalty.

At the 70-minute mark, Oliver Jarvis, who had assumed the seat of the No. 77 Mazda, pitted a lap after the two lead cars. Jarvis left the pit lane still ahead of his two competitors as a result, however, the cold tires on his Mazda gave an advantage to the cars he was forced to defend off. Helio Castroneves, who had been put in Penske’s No. 6, made a huge move on Tristan Nunez entering the fifth corner on the much warmer Michelin tires.

Castroneves drove away from the Mazda Motorsports duo at first, but as the run went on the Mazdas caught up to the No. 7 through traffic. Despite this, Castroneves was able to maintain the lead.

Rain

With 55 minutes remaining in the IMSA SportsCar Weekend, the skies opened up. At first, heavy rain only hit the first five corners of the 4.048-mile road course, but as more and more cars went off-course, IMSA officials decided to throw a full-course caution.

42 minutes were left on the clock when race control red-flagged the event. Once the clock reached the 30-minute mark, the clock was frozen. During a brief pause of weather, IMSA refired the engines and the caution flag once again was displayed. As the field paced behind the safety car, more rain picked up around Elkhart Lake. The green finally waved with about seven minutes, 40 seconds remaining.

Soggy aftermath

When the rain first poured on the course, several cars spun or crashed. Only one car in the DPi class fell victim to the soggy track, being the No. 31 driven by Pipo Derani going off course in the third turn. The Action Express Cadillac was able to get back going before the caution was brought out.

During the caution flag, Juan Pablo Montoya spun after hitting a piece of debris and was struck by an LMP2 entry. The crash destroyed the rear of Montoya’s Acura but the team switched engine-covers.

The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Konica Minolta Racing Cadillac had just left the pit lane with rain tires when a caution was brought out, while a majority of the field was still on slicks. The No. 77 Mazda had assumed the lead under caution but had yet to pit.

After the red flag, pit lane was open during the caution flag, however, the No. 77 Mazda still did not take the opportunity to pit as the team expected the remainder of the race to be run behind the safety car. Unfortunately for the team, the green flag was waved.

The finish

The No. 77 Mazda led the field to the green flag with just under 8 minutes remaining, but the car still had slick-tires on the soaked and ever-changing track. Jarvis ducked into the pit lane as the rest of the field shot around him going up the famous front-straight hill.

Castroneves took the lead from Renger van der Zande in the No. 10 Cadillac with five minutes remaining off of the fourteenth turn.

A caution on the final lap allowed Castroneves to coast all the way to the checkered flag.

The win is the first for Castroneves, Taylor and the No. 7 Acura Team Penske squad since the round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May of 2018.

Le Mans Prototype 2

The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class was in action at Road America with four ORECA LMP2 07 chassis competing. Patrick Kelly and PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports won the pole position during Saturday’s qualifications.

In the LMP2 class, DragonSpeed USA ended up scoring the victory by being the only car in the class to finish on that lap. Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley helped the Elton Julian-run team score their first points-paying victory in the 2020 WSCC season. Cameron Cassels and James French led the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports team to second-position. Patrick Kelly, who entered the race as the LMP2 points-leader finished last in-class with Simon Trummer sharing the No. 52.

GT Le Mans

For the third straight race, Corvette Racing won the GTLM class. Sunday’s scenario was unlike any other.

In the pouring rain with about 52 minutes remaining, the leading car driven by Earl Bamber skidded off the track to the right entering turn one and swept across the course into a sand trap on the outside of the first corner. Bamber became beached and as a result, forced race control to throw the yellow.

The lead was then assumed by John Edwards and the BMW Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) factory team.

With two laps remaining, NBC Sports cameras abruptly cut to Edwards’ No. 24 crashed exiting the infamous “kink” with a Porsche, who was running third. The crash brought the caution flag on the final lap of the race, allowing Antonio Garcia and Tommy Milner to sneak through for Corvette and coast to 1-2 finish. The result for the crashed BMW was not shown on-air as NBC’s coverage was rushed off-air in favor of a Stanley Cup Qualifying game.

GT Daytona

AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Townsend Bell took the lead from teammate Jack Hawksworth in the fifth corner after about 50-minutes into the race. The move was daring for Bell, who had just taken over driving duties in the No. 12 Lexus. The battle was for the eventual lead as the class in the midst of pit cycles. With 90 minutes remaining, Bell’s lead over Hawksworth was extending thanks to the DPi field charging through the GTD class.

In the closing minutes, however, it appeared AIM Vasser Sullivan’s shot at three straight GTD wins were dashed, as Mario Farnbacher in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura NXS got around Bell in the AVS Lexus RC F. When NBC Sports cameras picked up the GTD leaders under the caution on the final lap, Bell had re-assumed the lead from Farnbacher.

Reports have since surfaced that Farnbacher spun at turn 11 moments prior the caution flag on the final lap.

The win for Bell and Frankie Montecalvo is their first at AIM Vasser Sullivan in the No. 12 Lexus. AVS has won the last three races (all since returning from the pandemic) in GTD between the two cars.

Results

64 laps were turned during the 2 hour, 40 minute race as a result of the rain and red flag. Last year’s race at Road America went caution free and saw 83 laps contested.

DPi Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps
1: Helio Castroneves / Ricky Taylor (7) Acura Team Penske – 64
2: Renger van der Zande / Ryan Briscoe (10) Wayne Taylor Racing – 64
3: Felipe Nasr / Pipo Derani (31) Action Express Racing – 64
4: Joao Barbosa / Sebastien Bourdais (5) Mustang Sampling Racing – 64
5: Jonathan Bomarito / Harry Tincknell (55) Mazda Motorsports – 64
6: Oliver Jarvis / Tristan Nunez (77) Mazda Motorsports – 64
7: Chris Miller / Tristan Vautier (85) JDC Miller MotorSports – 63
8: Dane Cameron / Juan Pablo Montoya (6) Acura Team Penske – 61

LMP2 Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps
1: Henrik Hedman / Ben Hanley (81) DragonSpeed USA – 62
2: Cameron Cassels / James French (38) Performance Tech Motorsports – 61
3: Dwight Merriman / Kyle Tilley (18) Era Motorsports – 61
4: Simon Trummer / Patrick Kelly (52) PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports – 54

GTLM Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps
1: Antonio Garcia / Jordan Taylor (3) Corvette Racing – 61
2: Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (4) Corvette Racing – 61
3: Jesse Krohn / John Edwards (24) BMW Team RLL – 61
4: Nick Tandy / Fred Makowiecki (911) Porsche GT Team – 59
5: Earl Bamber / Laurens Vanthoor (912) Porsche GT Team – 59
6: Bruno Spengler / Connor de Phillippi (25) BMW Team RLL – 56

GTD Results

Pos.: Drivers (No.) Team – Laps
1: Frankie Montecalvo / Townsend Bell (12) AIM Vasser Sullivan – 58
2: Mario Farnbacher / Matt McMurry (86) Meyer Shank Racing – 58
3: Jack Hawksworth / Aaron Telitz (14) AIM Vasser Sullivan – 58
4: Cooper MacNeil / Toni Vilander (63) Scuderia Corsa – 58
5: Ryan Hardwick / Patrick Long (16) Wright Motorsports – 58
6: Gar Robinson / Lawson Aschenbach (74) Riley Motorsports – 58
7: Robby Foley / Bill Auberlen (96) Turner Motorsports – 58
8: Andy Lally / John Potter (44) GRT Magnus Racing – 58
9: Corey Fergus / Paul Holton (76) Compass Racing – 58
10: Rob Ferriol / Spencer Pumpelly (30) Team Hardpoint – 58
11: Till Bechtolsheimer / Marc Miller (22) Gradient Racing – 56
12: Alvaro Parente / Mikhail Goikhberg (57) – Heinricher Racing w/ MSR – 48
13: Roman De Angelis / Ian James (23) Heart of Racing Team – Withdrawn

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Adam Coon

At 17 years old and attending high school, I have spent my weekends and free time covering motorsports on my Instagram page since July 2016. From Upstate New York, I am a devoted racing fan always looking to meet more people who share the same love I do.

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