In just two short IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship seasons, Acura Team Penske has risen to the top of the series with Dane Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International (DPi) team capturing the organization’s 11th sports car title in its 53-year history. The championship was part of a historic 2019 season for Team Penske that set new records for total wins and total pole positions in a season, in addition to championships in the NTT IndyCar Series and the Virgin Australian Supercars Championship that brought the team’s total to 37 national titles.
Team Penske made the decision late in 2017 to return to their roots as the team began in 1966 as a sports car operation, three years before their first attempt at the Indianapolis 500. Sports car racing had long been a discipline that the team wanted to return to since their last year of the American Le Mans Series in 2008, but Roger Penske and Team Penske President Tim Cindric wanted to make sure they found the right manufacturer to ensure they were competitive.
Acura Motorsports and Honda Performance Development (HPD) proved to be the perfect fit and the partnership began to bear fruit immediately. Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves won the fourth race for the new program at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2018 in the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi, with Cameron and Montoya showing remarkable consistency throughout the year. That steady production laid the foundation for what would be a championship run in 2019.
The 2019 season, however, began without any signs that the No. 6 Acura DPi team would be the most dominant of the year. Despite leading 119 laps in the Rolex 24 at Daytona to open the season, the team was relegated to a sixth-place finish. A ninth-place result followed a month later at the 12 Hours of Sebring which left the team seventh in the point standings following the Florida swing. The No. 7 team faired slightly better despite also having rough starts in the season’s first two events. A third- and fourth-place finish, respectively, placed them third in the championship standings early on.
The season began to turnaround for Acura Team Penske with the third round of the season championship at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Castroneves qualified the No. 7 on the pole for the team’s first top qualifying spot of the year before finishing in the second position with Taylor. Montoya qualified the No. 6 in the third position and Cameron would finish in the same spot after the two-hour and 40-minute event, beginning a streak of seven-consecutive podium finishes.
The next round of the championship came at the same Mid-Ohio circuit that produced the team’s first win in a 1-2 finish in 2018. With Montoya qualifying in the third position and Cameron using a no-holds-barred approach to victory, Acura Team Penske made it two-in-a-row in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio with the No. 6 team taking the vicotry this time around. The Cameron/Montoya combination made it back-to-back wins with a victory on the streets of Belle Isle Park in Detroit, with the No. 7 team making it a strong day by finishing third in the Motor City.
Following the Detroit weekend, the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 DPi team claimed the points lead for the first time as the team continued to produce podium finishes. A third win came in the Monterey SportsCar Championship at Laguna Seca to setup the season’s final race at Road Atlanta in the prestigious Petit Le Mans. While the streak of podium finishes came to an end at Road Atlanta, a fourth-place result secured the championship for the team. The No. 7 Acura squad, despite not visiting Victory Lane during the season, capped the season off with a third-place finish at Petit Le Mans. For the year, Taylor and Castroneves never qualified lower than third and also earned five podium finishes.
The 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship belonged to the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 team, however. After winning 30 percent of the races and scoring seven-consecutive podium finishes, the team stood tall after Petit Le Mans with the Bishop-France Trophy. In addition, the No. 6 Acura DPi sported an average starting position of 2.3 and an averaging finishing position of 3.3 with 408 laps led on the year.
Cameron became the first three-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion following his GTD class title in 2014 and his first DPi title in 2016.
“Becoming the first three-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion is not something I really thought about,” stated Cameron. “The fact that I did that this year just means that everyone at Acura Team Penske did a great job and were very consistent. I think Juan and I continue to get more and more comfortable with each other, and that led to a great year in 2019. We still have other goals to accomplish in 2020 and that starts in January with the Rolex 24.”
Juan Pablo Montoya was able to add another premier racing championship to an already-unparalleled legacy in motorsports.
“I really enjoy racing the Acura ARX-05 with Dane, along with Simon (Pagenaud) for the endurance races,” said Montoya. “It’s an amazing car that is one of the most-balanced I’ve ever driven, and it think it suits all of us really well. The championship is always the goal, but now that we have one of those under our belts, we can focus on the Rolex 24 and Sebring. To be able to win those two races, along with the IMSA championship, over our first three years would be amazing.”
The consistency shown by Taylor and Castroneves in 2019 will hopefully serve as a springboard for 2020, similar to the progress made by the No. 6 duo from 2018 to 2019.
“Pace wasn’t an issue for us this year,” said Taylor. “We just needed a few things to go our way that didn’t. Mosport comes to mind when we ran over debris early in the race after qualifying on the pole. Hopefully that will turn around for us in 2020 and we can be the ones holding the Bishop-France trophy following Petit Le Mans.”
Castroneves concurred with his teammate.
“With Acura and HPD we had all the speed needed to win races,” said Team Penske’s longest-tenured driver. “Had the Rolex 24 not had so much rain I think we would have kept up with the No. 10 Cadillac and that would have put us in a different position to start the season. That is the goal for 2020, coming out of the box strong and contending all year.”
The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season begins January 3-5 with the annual Roar Before the 24 test session that serves as a season-opening appetizer to the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 25-26, one of the most sought-after races in the world. Cameron, Montoya and Simon Pagenaud will once again compete in the No. 6 Acura ARX0-05 DPi with Taylor, Castroneves and Alexander Rossi racing the No. 7 in a strong 2020 lineup.