It’s safe to say that no one predicted Jon Bennett’s new Pro-Am IMSA Prototype team would have twice as many wins as Roger Penske’s Acura DPi program, double the amount of ESM’s Nissan effort, and stand 2-0 against Mazda and Wayne Taylor Racing in the closing stages of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
CORE has made the most of the opportunity since IMSA brought the spec LMP2s into play midseason with overdue Balance of Performance adjustments for the DPis. Coming off back-to-back victories with the No. 54 ORECA 07-Gibson, it’s also safe to suggest the former LMPC class champions have taken a liking to humbling the high-dollar DPi factories through speed and guile.
Excellent driving from the rocket-fast Colin Braun and the increasingly quick Bennett, plus smart strategy calls and great pit stops have elevated the team to third in in the Prototype championship with two rounds left to run.
“I’ll be completely honest with you … [when] we bought the cars and entered this arena…I knew Colin was capable of going toe to toe with the guys, and was concerned where I would fit in,” Bennett told RACER. “Just like we unlocked [Road America] with strategy, Colin has helped me over the years to get faster and faster and I’m slowly closing the gap to Colin. You need to keep your ego in check when you share a car with Colin.
CORE’s only match in the win column so far is the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, which holds second in the standings thanks to a three-point advantage over Bennett and Braun. Due to IMSA’s miserly points-paying structure, catching and passing the championship-leading No. 31 AXR Cadillac — 10 points ahead — with only Monterey and Road Atlanta left on the calendar could be an overly ambitious goal.
But if you consider how far CORE’s come on its Prototype debut, especially in light of how heavily disadvantaged spec P2s were during the first half of the season, it’s clear the North-Carolina-based squad is authoring an amazing comeback performance.
“One of the things I think our team is really good at is focusing on execution and things we can control. The results are something we don’t control,” Bennett continued. “We come to the race circuit intending to win, but we don’t come with a result-focused approach to the race. We come with an execution approach. And I think it makes it easier when the result is not what you expect, and it’s certainly great when it’s above your expectations.”
How high can CORE fly in the championship? And once we’re done with the season finale, will Acura, Mazda, and Nissan be left wondering how they were outgunned by a privateer P2 team? We’ll know after 10 hours of racing at Petit Le Mans on October 13.