Breakthrough Weekend for Team Penske, Acura as Taylor and Castroneves Win in Return to Mid-Ohio; Porsche GT Team and 3GT Racing Claim GT Classes

LEXINGTON, OHIO — A return to glory played host to a new beginning.

With sports car racing gracing the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, all eyes were on the Team Penske Acura DPi to break through for their first victory in the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship after dominating all sessions across the weekend. The team, having suffered various issues in the season’s previous rounds, finally saw the stars align as the No. 7 entry of Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor stood atop the podium next to teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.

Ahead of the race, defending series champion Taylor detailed the frustrations of the team’s near misses in the first few races of the season. Days later, as he sat in the media centre detailing the team’s victory, the team’s progression came into perspective.

“Every time, the pressure was growing, and growing, and growing,” Taylor admitted, acknowledging the importance of performing for Acura. “[It] made our job so much more important to validate the program and to give back to the hard work that everybody has done. The result this weekend is something that if it was going to happen on any weekend, this is the one where we had to really perform and execute.”

While the duo of Castroneves and Taylor would start the race on the pole, they faced tense competition early on from the No. 6 Penske entry and particularly from Cameron. At the helm to start the race, it was up to Castroneves to keep the No. 7 Acura ahead and navigate GT traffic. Cameron would use the traffic to his advantage and get alongside his teammate as the Mazda of Jonathan Bomarito lurked behind the leaders looking to pounce.

While Castroneves was able to maintain the lead despite heavy pressure from his teammate, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner had nothing but positive feelings towards the battle as he bounced around the press conference in jubilation of his first IMSA win.

“That’s one of the qualities of this team: we push each other,” Castroneves said. “They let us fight, fair and clean. I have to say, Dane did a phenomenal job where I left a little bit of a door open because I was passing a GT and he tried to take advantage. In the end, we wound up having a little bit of a battle but did not even touch. We were close, but didn’t touch paint or anything like that. It was great.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing at the front of the pack for the No. 7 team. After a double pit stop by the Penske entries, the Mazda Team Joest duo would catch and surpass Ricky Taylor as he entered the race. Issues for Spencer Pigot, aggressive passing by Taylor, and pit strategy would see the pole sitting car reclaim the lead and never look back.

“This guy, he got himself in a situation but never lost his cool,” Castroneves said, gesturing to Taylor. “I felt the dynamic was very good. We were able to get the car up front on pole position, and he was able to deliver the checkered flag. Hopefully that was the beginning of something that we might see in many other races.”

Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor would take the win in GTLM after a long run of their Porsche team running 1-2. They would be trailed by the BMW Team RLL of Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi. The two teams would trade the lead back and forth, similar to their tense battle at the series’ previous stop in Long Beach. Using pit strategy to muscle their way onto the podium, the Corvette Racing duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia fought back from a rough start to finish P3. Magnussen put on a blocking masterclass, keeping the hard-charging Chip Ganassi Ford of Joey Hand behind him while pushing farther up the field.

3GT Racing would dominate the GTD class, leading every lap of the race and posting a major breakthrough for the team and Lexus GT3 program. Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli took the checkered flag ahead of the Meyer Shank Racing Acura of Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente in an entry brought specially for owner Michael Shank’s hometown event.

For Marcelli, Sunday marked his second win of the weekend. The Canadian had won a tense Continental Tires SportsCar Challenge race the previous day and took his experience to Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

“It’s an absolute dream come true weekend,” Marcelli said. “My goal was just to build a gap and keep the car clean. But my teammate, Dominik, he had the pressure at the end to deliver the result. He held up his end of the bargain and brought Lexus and 3GT the win. Just a great weekend all around.”

While the echoes of engines fade in Lexington, the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio has left a permanent mark on the historic race course. Teams and fans alike packed to leave the track safe in the knowledge that sports car racing had returned to where it belongs.