While the season-closing Petit Le Mans went the way of Action Express and Cadillac, Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya did just enough with their fourth-place finish along with their enduro teammate Simon Pagenaud for Acura Team Penske to claim the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship for drivers by five points ahead of race winners Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr — the same gap by which their No. 6 Acura ARX-05 defeated the No. 31 Cadillac by for the team title. Cameron earned his third WeatherTech Championship crown, following the GT Daytona title in 2014 and the Prototype championship in 2016 — ironically with Action Express.
“It’s cool to just win the championship for something you’ve had so much influence in its development and its growth,” Cameron said. “It’s a nice rebound from the learning year we had last year to come back and win three races and win the title, it’s fantastic.
“For me, it’s the first time to be in this tight and in-depth with a manufacturer, so it’s something I’m excited to be a part of. I think Juan and I said earlier in the year we were excited to come to this program because it had potential. We fell a bit short of it last year and this year we got it to the level it should have been all along.”
For Montoya, whose many racing accomplishments include two Indianapolis 500 wins and seven Formula 1 victories, it was his first season championship of any kind since taking the CART title in Indy cars 20 years ago. The thought of it brought a smile to the 44-year-old’s face.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s fun,” Montoya said. “When you join Team Penske, when you come to this program and with Acura, they expect this. It’s great that we won it, but if we didn’t, they’d be disappointed. As hard as everyone works in the program, and how well we prepare the cars and how everything is done, it’s great. You’re so proud of the guys. They are so pumped.”
McMurry, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports win LMP2 championship
The LMP2 class was decided by the halfway point of Saturday’s 10-hour race. By just taking the green flag, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 wrapped up the team championship, with driver Matt McMurry clinching the drivers’ title.
The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA won the LMP2 pole in qualifying on Friday but was eliminated less than 90 minutes into the race. Cameron Cassels slowed in the esses to let the No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPi go past. But the trailing No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi ran into the rear of the No. 38, sending it into the Turn 4 barrier and bringing out the first full-course caution of the day.
That left the No. 52 driven by McMurry, Dalton Kellett and Gabriel Aubry alone in class on track. Just past the halfway point, however, smoke erupted from the rear of the car, and it headed to the paddock and didn’t return.
“I wish we could have raced into the night to see how the track is and how the lead would hold,” Aubry said. “We had a good car. I think something happened on the rear suspension and took us out of the race. The track is tough on the car, but that’s how it goes.”
The victory was the sixth in a row to close the LMP2 season for the No. 52. It propelled McMurry, the 21-year-old from Phoenix, to the first major championship of his young racing career.
“It’s amazing,” McMurry said. “I’ve been watching IMSA my whole life. My dad drove in LMP2 and P1 for years, and to be the champion is pretty special.
“The team did great all year, I couldn’t have done it without them. They performed pretty flawlessly all year. There were a couple of unfortunate things that happened, but it was nothing the team could have done to prevent it. The team, all the pit stops were perfect, the suspension and setup were almost always spot on as soon as we pulled it off the trailer.
“It’s special, and I’m glad I did it with PR1, and with Dalton and Gabby.”