If leading all 125 laps from pole wasn’t enough of a statement for how far the Acura Team Penske IMSA DPi program has come in its first four aces, the total mastery of Mid-Ohio from the first practice through the final checkered flag sent an even stronger message to the rest of the field.
The Captain’s twin-turbo V6-powered prototypes are ready to upset the establishment in their maiden season and barring big changes to IMSA’s Balance of Performance tables, the Penske drivers should expect to feature everywhere they go.
Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor turned their pole into Penske’s first sports car win since 2008, and as the team’s most tenured driver, the Brazilian knows how much the victory means to his boss.
“You know, the core of this team is sports cars; that’s where Roger [Penske] got his start and he’s always wanted to come back, so when Acura jumped in, he said ‘let’s go,’” Castroneves told RACER. “He invited me to be a part of it with Ricky [Taylor], and it’s a huge first win for Team Penske and Acura.
“And at Acura’s home track in Mid-Ohio with [the sister entry of] Juan Pablo [Montoya] and Dane Cameron right there behind us; it couldn’t be more perfect.”
For Taylor, the defending IMSA Prototype champion, earning the first win for Acura Team Penske and scoring his first victory as a Penske driver was a thrill and a relief.
“If we’re going to dominate a weekend, this is a good one to do it,” he said. “Man, it’s so hard to win these races. We’ve been fast, but it didn’t happen in the first three races. And we did it twice today with both of our cars leading. For us, nothing went wrong and every call was perfect, every pit stop was perfect, and it’s such a difficult accomplishment. Now I can breathe a little [after winning]. We have to take time and enjoy this one.”
Castroneves, in his first full season of sports car racing after an illustrious IndyCar career that netted three Indy 500 wins, was all smiles after climbing from the car. Almost an hour later, the grin was still there as he and his champagne-soaked teammate basked in the accomplishment. After decades of winning as a solo artist, he’s taken a liking to the group dynamic involved in endurance racing.
“At the beginning of the race, Dane [Cameron] was all over me,” he said. “We were the only one to change drivers early, guys got past Ricky, he kept his cool, passed them back, and we worked the strategy to win. It was all about teamwork, working together as a team. This is awesome.”