By John Oreovicz
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course proved to be a happy hunting ground for Acura Team Penske as Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor powered to their third consecutive race win in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Driving the No. 7 Acura DPi, Taylor claimed the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, crossing the line just 0.607 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi shared by Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr after two hours and 40 minutes of racing on a glorious fall afternoon. It also was the team’s third straight Mid-Ohio victory at Acura’s home track.
Ryan Briscoe and Renger Van Der Zande finished third in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi, while the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi that Dane Cameron drove to the Motul Pole Award earlier in the day had a fraught afternoon in the hands of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to finish seventh.
Cameron led the first stint and handed over to Montoya during a full-course caution, just 40 minutes into the race. The No. 6 Acura maintained the lead, but Montoya was not able to stretch the gap to second place and he dropped to third after going off course while trying to lap a GTD class competitor.
Montoya fell to seventh after pitting to inspect the damage, but the Penske Acura again worked its way back up to third place and a potential podium finish with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. But Montoya spun in Turn 1 and ultimately finished three laps behind the winning Acura Team Penske entry in seventh place.
Castroneves qualified second fastest, but he dropped to fourth place on the opening lap. While the No. 6 car might have had more ultimate speed, the No. 7 car remained within a few seconds of the lead all afternoon, and that consistency paid off. Taylor drove the anchor stint, leading the final 30 laps. Nasr closed to within a second at the checkered flag, but Taylor judged the finish to perfection.
The Penske pair led a total of 37 laps and their latest triumph follows victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
"This is a combination of everyone at Acura Team Penske, not just Ricky and I," noted Castroneves, who said the last time he won three races in a row occurred in 2000 in Indy cars. "We all work together and share a lot of information. The No. 6 car was probably a little faster than us today, but somehow, we keep winning. But I knew to be patient at the start, and that helped put us here (as the winners) today."
"It was a great team effort all weekend," Taylor added. "Everyone learns from each other, and I think that’s why this team is so successful."
Taylor is the first driver to take three consecutive overall IMSA victories since he and his brother, Jordan, teamed up to win five consecutive events to start the 2017 season when they both drove for the Konica Minolta team owned by their father, Wayne Taylor. Jordan Taylor co-drove the winning GT Le Mans class winning Corvette C8.R Sunday at Mid-Ohio.
"We’re best friends outside the track," Ricky Taylor related. "It’s hard enough for one of us to win one of these races. So, when we are both able to share the joy of winning, it’s extra special for sure."
Briscoe and van der Zande retained the WeatherTech Championship DPi class points lead with 180 points, but the result vaulted Taylor and Castroneves from sixth to third, just five points behind the leaders. Derani is alone in second place with 177 points, Nasr having missed the July 4 race at Daytona in July after contracting COVID-19.
Television coverage of the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio can be seen on NBCSN tonight at 11:00 p.m. ET.
The WeatherTech Championship DPi season resumes Oct. 15-17 with the Motul Petit Le Mans and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Next up for the series is a 100-minute, GT-only race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL on Saturday, Oct. 11.