Acura Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor find themselves in unfamiliar territory as IMSA heads to its third race of the season.
The drivers of the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 have been a lightning rod for misfortune so far in 2020’s abbreviated WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. With mechanical maladies bringing abrupt ends to their season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona as well as the July 4 WeatherTech 240 at Daytona, the Brazilian-American duo head into Saturday night’s round at Sebring International Raceway holding last place in DPi points.
Coming off a 2019 season where Acura Team Penske captured the drivers’ championship with the sister No. 6 ARX-05 shared by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron, and five podiums from Castroneves and Taylor played a significant role in delivering the manufacturers’ championship for Acura, the team’s title defense is off to a rocky start.
“Our fighting spirit and competitive nature comes into hand,” Castroneves told RACER. “Two races into the championship, and we DNF’d at both. But that’s what it is. We can’t focus on why we aren’t on up there higher on the board; at this stage, we can only focus on the rest of the races and winning a lot of them for Acura Team Penske.”
Entering the 2h40m Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring, Castroneves and Taylor are eighth in the standings, 18 points behind the leading duo of Mazda’s Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez. And while an 18-point deficit might not look foreboding on paper, IMSA’s miserly points system will make it incredibly hard for the No. 7 ARX-05 to get back in the championship hunt with anything less than multiple wins and constant podiums over the remaining seven races.
“The odds don’t help, obviously because of the shorter season,” Castroneves said. “We’ve taken away some races with COVID, so it’s seven to go, and we’ve done two that weren’t so good for us, so we just have to have a hell of a season from now on. But this is the situation we have, and it doesn’t bother us. When things are down, that’s when you succeed — when the odds are against you. The odds are against us, but we will go race with no memory at all. It’s like a new season for us now, and we can’t let anything before hold us down.”