Five Takeaways: Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren
Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Let's start this week's five takeaways with an interesting nugget.

Sunday's two-hour, 40-minute Monterey SportsCar Championship Powered by McLaren was the third IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race this season to run without a full-course caution. The race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was the second straight with all four classes to go caution-free following last month's IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America, while July's GT-only round at Lime Rock Park also went green for the entire distance.

There was still plenty of action, however, with six lead changes among five different cars in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, four lead changes between two cars in LMP2 and seven lead changes among four cars in GT Le Mans (GTLM). That the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 shared by Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis was able to lead all 110 laps in the GT Daytona (GTD) class that featured a race-high 11 starters was impressive in its own right.

In the end, Acura Team Penske scored another 1-2 sweep in DPi with No. 6 Acura ARX-05 co-drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya scoring the win ahead of the No. 7 shared by Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves. In GTLM, Sacramento native Joey Hand scored an emotional home-state win in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with his "German-brother-from-another-mother" Dirk Mueller, while Matt McMurry unofficially clinched the 2019 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 title in the No. 52 PR1 Mathaisen Motorsports ORECA alongside co-driver Dalton Kellett.

Here's what some of the other podium finishers had to say in victory lane:

Taylor Believes Acura Team Penske Accomplished its Mission in Monterey

On Saturday afternoon, Ricky Taylor picked up his first Motul Pole Award of the season in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi, setting a new WeatherTech Championship track record in the process.

Sunday, Taylor quickly grabbed the lead at the drop of the green flag and stayed there for a while until Cameron got past in the No. 6 and eventually pulled away to the victory ahead of Castroneves in the No. 7. That was all part of the plan, said Taylor postrace.

"The objective was to maximize the points for the No. 6 car and do whatever we could to make sure we could finish 1-2," he said. "So it was a perfect day for the team. We couldn't ask for anything more. They're going into Petit with a (12-point) lead. That's the main goal. The win is just a bonus. I'm happy with the team, and the car was fantastic."

There was another happy face in victory lane, and that was legendary team owner Roger Penske.

"It's always nice to win for The Captain when he's able to make it to the races," Taylor said. "It puts a lot of pressure on, but it's a great experience."

Nasr, Derani Keep DPi Title Hopes Alive with Podium Run

The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R team of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani spent most of the race playing catch-up after some opening lap "argy-bargy," but catch up they did. With less than 15 minutes remaining, Derani battled his way onto the podium, taking third place away from Renger van der Zande in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac.

It was a valuable move, as it gave the No. 31 team two more WeatherTech Championship points at a time of the year when every point matters most. Nasr and Derani are now 12 points behind Cameron and Montoya, 274-262, heading into the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

"It was good to be back at the podium after a couple of rounds," Nasr said. "It's nice for the whole Whelen team and the No. 31 Cadillac. We got ourselves back on the podium. After a hard beginning of the race – we got pushed out after Turn 2 and we dropped a few spots – it was a recovery race and we were able to get ourselves in a position to push again. Once Pipo took over the car, it was a fuel-strategy race at the end. We were pretty tight on fuel at the end and he was still able to get the No. 10 car with a nice overtake there. So, being the best Cadillac, I think that's the positive of the day."

It will be tough for the No. 31 team to take the title away from the No. 6, but they can do it. All they need to do is win Motul Petit Le Mans and have the No. 6 finish ninth or worse.

"All I can say is I'm looking forward to Road Atlanta and I want to get a win," Nasr said. "I want to close the year with a win for the team. That's all I can look forward to now."

Solid Weekend for No. 24 BMW Squad Comes as Somewhat of a Surprise for Edwards

Given the team's recent record at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where BMW Team RLL had won three of the previous four GTLM races prior to Sunday, it wouldn't seem that a podium result would be that much of a stretch.

But for No. 24 BMW M8 GTE driver John Edwards, who partnered with Jesse Krohn to finish second after Krohn qualified on the class pole position, the performance was somewhat unexpected.

"If you asked me at the beginning of the year which tracks would suit us and which wouldn't, I would say Laguna would maybe be our second-worse after Lime Rock and on the flipside, VIR, I thought, would be one of our best," said Edwards in victory lane. "Meanwhile, we had no pace at VIR in reality and we had pace here, so it's a little unexpected, I would say.

"We made a lot of changes from last year when we struggled for pace, although we were running up front and the sister car won last year, it was a fuel-save race, so that's why it got everything mixed up. But here today, we really, truly had pace. Obviously, not enough for the Ford, but compared to the rest, we were much better than VIR and it feels good. Some good momentum to take to Atlanta where we had a podium last year."

Yet Another Podium for No. 3 Corvette Racing Teammates Magnussen, Garcia

It's safe to say there's no team in the GTLM class with a knack for podium finishes like No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R co-drivers Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have over the past three seasons.

The two-time and defending WeatherTech Championship GTLM champions had five podiums en route to the 2017 title and eight last year on the way to their second consecutive. On Sunday, they picked up their sixth trophy of the season following a third-place run.

"It wasn't bad," said Garcia postrace. "I mean, track position is a thing here. I think we were in the right spot also to gamble on a three-stop (strategy). So, maybe that's all we could do. I mean, it was a big risk towards that. We probably needed a yellow, especially a yellow on the last run because we would have had more tires against the rest. But it was a green race and it's difficult to make up a full stop.

"We gambled on having better tires at the end, but there was no caution, so that made it even more difficult. But on pure pace, that allowed us to push, push, push and we kind of gained a ton of positions, so we knew we could do that, pretty similar to what we did at Road America without the battery change. We lacked pace to the 66 regardless, but it was a good podium finish. Knowing how tight this category is, I'm very happy for Corvette Racing. They did a good job and I'm happy for them and my teammate."

MacNeil, Lally Pleased with Podium Finishes in GTD

As mentioned earlier, nobody had anything for the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini on Sunday, but that didn't mean there weren't other happy drivers around the GTD podium.

Cooper MacNeil was all smiles after qualifying a strong third on Saturday and finishing second alongside co-driver Toni Vilander in the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 from Scuderia Corsa. It was their best result of the season and followed a third-place showing last month at VIRginia International Raceway.

"It was great," MacNeil said. "This place is really tough. With the tire degradation we saw this weekend, it was just about managing the tires and playing the tire game. So, I think we did really well with that. Our car was light on the tires all weekend. Not to say it wasn't a struggle there at the end of the stint.

"We were holding on for everything we were worth there at the end, but we didn't have anything for the Lamborghini. I don't think anybody did. They were really quick. A good job for them all weekend. It's good to have two in a row for the team. It's good to reward them with two podiums in a row and on to Petit where we won last year, so hoping to repeat."

No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 co-drivers Andy Lally and John Potter were happy campers too. They finished third for the first podium result since a second-place run at Sebring in March.

"I'm happy," Lally said. "John Potter drove an amazing first stint. He got held up by guys that just refused to take the green and left a huge gap. Once he got around them, though, he just drove forward and did an amazing job. He made some great passes and put us in position to allow our guys an opportunity to make a great stop. We did. We leapfrogged a couple guys and we were able to run through the rest of them.

"So, it was really cool. This was the longest dry spell between podiums of my life. So, to get back at a great place like WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is awesome. I'm thrilled with this one. I was sad at the end of Sebring because we didn't win, but we fought back up into the podium here and that was really cool."