It might not have been the quite the way they wanted to do it, but an eighth-place finish Saturday night for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R driven by Eric Curran, Felipe Nasr and Gabby Chaves captured the second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title in three years for Action Express Racing. The Whelen squad also secured the Team championship, along with the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
Curran and Nasr combined to lead 77 laps at the 2.54-mile circuit, and later ran second for 24 consecutive laps during the eighth hour, but the record-setting race pace saw a range of strategies develop to set the stage for a dramatic final 30 minutes of racing as teams took different approaches to fuel strategy – and the No. 31 team found itself in a tight spot. Nasr had to balance his pace with a fuel strategy. Driving to clear instructions from the team, the disciplined Nasr delivered exactly what was required to secure the title. Curran and Nasr wound up four points up on the CORE autosport duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett in the drivers’ standings.
“It was an exhausting last stint, to be honest, three-plus hours in the car,” Nasr said. “Somehow, we lost power halfway through the stint so the only chance we had to make it happen was to look at that fuel mileage, and hitting that target perfectly on every lap.
“I want to thank Eric, Gabby and Mike (Conway),” Nasr added. “Even though Mike wasn’t here this weekend, he’s been a great part of the team. And thanks to all the Action Express guys who made all the calls, all our sponsors, everyone who is behind this effort. The Whelen car has won two championships! I’m so excited. This is my first year in the series, and getting the championship, I couldn’t ask for a better way for the season to go. It seemed impossible, but somehow, we made it. I just need time for it all to sink in.”
“It was amazing to pull it off at the end,” said Curran. “The last 20 minutes were just on the edge, and it really wasn’t looking good for us. We had Felipe back off on the fuel and save as much as he could, so we wouldn’t have to do one more stop.”
“Our Whelen Cadillac was strong the whole race long,” Curran continued. “It’s interesting to win a championship by going slow. It’s a funny way to do it. What an unbelievable teammate!”
“This is definitely the best yet,” said Action Express Racing owner, Bob Johnson. “This was so exciting, I don’t know how you top this. Thank goodness we’ve got these young drivers like Felipe who can do the endurance events and spend three hours in the car there at the end! This was very big. It was a great job up on the top of the box, a phenomenal strategy. The entire team did a great job and this feels fantastic!”