A year ago, Acura Team Penske celebrated its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio with a sweep of the top two podium spots.
No. 6 Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron came home second that day as their teammates in the No. 7, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, celebrated the victory. Following Sunday’s two-hour and 40-minute battle at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it was the No. 6 team’s turn to celebrate.
Montoya and Cameron turned the tables on the weekend-long battle with Mazda Team Joest in Sunday’s race – showing speed when it mattered most, both on the racetrack and on pit road. Montoya took the lead with an hour and 18 minutes remaining following the middle pit-stop sequence and the No. 6 Acura outmuscled Tristan Nunez in the Motul Pole Award-winning No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi, pulling away on a restart with 24 minutes remaining to win by 2.022 seconds.
“I think we just executed well,” Montoya said. “We had been unlucky with mechanical issues and stuff this year, but we executed today the way it needed to be.
“I think the pace was good, but it’s tough because if you push hard you go quicker, and you open up a bit of a gap. But you can catch the cars in the wrong place and the seven-second gap you had becomes a two-second gap. So you want to run at an easy pace and just see how the traffic comes. The big difference was I did a good job on the restart with cold tires, and I did a good opening lap. We have races and race tracks that suit our car are coming up and we should be able to get some good results. The key here is not to make mistakes and give in to pressures and stuff like that.
“Last year we had a lot of races where we would finish second and third, but could never get it done. If you had told me last year when I made the deal it was going to take me this long to win my first race, I would have said no way. So it’s nice to finally put it together, it’s a pretty big day.”
It was the first WeatherTech Championship win for Acura Team Penske since last year’s race at Mid-Ohio. Montoya picked up his first WeatherTech Championship win and his fourth IMSA win after recording three previous Rolex 24 At Daytona triumphs in GRAND-AM competition. For Cameron, the victory was his 13th in IMSA competition – including 11 in the WeatherTech Championship and one each in GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series.
“It’s really satisfying to win today,” Cameron said. “We definitely didn’t expect to have the year we had last year. Or even the first couple of races this year, so it’s really nice to have a really close to perfect race today.
“Juan did a great job on his stints. I was able to get up to the lead and turn it over to him. It really couldn’t have gone any better. Hopefully, we can get a bunch more wins from here now that we’ve reminded ourselves we do know how to do it. We just need to continue to execute, and there are a couple of tracks coming up that suit us, and suit our car, and I think we just need to take advantage at the ones where we can and find the difference in the tracks that we don’t.”
The victory wasn’t lost on Cameron for the importance of winning a race that their manufacturer sponsored.
“Obviously, it’s a super important day,” he added. “It’s great to see Acura so involved in our sport and this series, and this type of racing. Everyone wants to win the big marques enduros, but before that, it’s just as important to win the title sponsor races. Hopefully, they can continue to grow their involvement in motorsport, and we can continue to work with them.”
Mazda Team Joest swept the final two spots on the podium led by Nunez and co-driver Oliver Jarvis in second aboard the No. 77. Jonathan Bomarito and past IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay – standing in for regular driver Harry Tincknell – came home third in the No. 55 Mazda DPi, duplicating the team’s 2-3 performance at last year’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani retained their WeatherTech Championship DPi points lead with a fourth-place run in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R. With 120 points, the No. 31 teammates now have a four-point lead over No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi co-drivers Castroneves and Taylor, who finished fifth Sunday.
In the LMP2 class, No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA co-drivers Eric Lux and Matt McMurry scored a dominating victory, their first of the season in the WeatherTech Championship, after the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA driven at the time by Cameron Cassels encountered difficulties on the opening lap of the race.
It was McMurry’s first-ever victory in IMSA competition, and was the fifth IMSA win – but first WeatherTech Championship victory – for Lux.
“It feels good to have luck on our side this time, McMurry said. “I’ve had a couple of unlucky races before with a couple failures and incidents. So it was nice just to have a clean race where we could just put down laps and stay clean and end up on the top step of the podium.”
For Lux, it was his basically his first time in a prototype in over five years, and the feeling of winning wasn’t lost on him.
“Except for Daytona last year, it’s been five years since I’ve been in a prototype,” he said. “So it was quite a steep curve jumping back into it. But I couldn’t have asked for a better team to get back into it with. I’m happy to make this the weekend I came back and to end up on the top step of the podium.”
A television re-air of the Acura Sports Car Challenge will be on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park on Saturday, June 1. The race will feature the DPi and GT Daytona (GTD) classes.
NBCSN will televise the race live beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET, with live coverage also available via IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio. Tickets are available now on DetroitGP.com.