One of the toughest things to do in professional sports is to repeat as champions. In Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, the feat has not been accomplished for over two decades. The drought of back-to-back titles in the National Football League is nearly that long.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron entered the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) season hoping to be the first team to accomplish the title repeat since 2015. NTT INDYCAR SERIES ace Simon Pagenaud again joined the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi team as the endurance driver for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta (MRRA).
After starting the season with a solid, fourth-place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona – the highest finish for the No. 6 Acura team in the biggest race of the IWSC season – the global pandemic forced the suspension of the season and stopped any momentum the team had on the heels of its strong start. Following a five-month hiatus and a reconfiguration of the schedule, the series returned to Daytona International Speedway for a sprint race, one in which the No. 6 Acura team again scored a fourth-place finish.
“Since the start of the ARX-05 program, Daytona had not been our strongest track,” said Cameron. “So, to start the season with two fourth-place finishes there gave us a lot of confidence that we could have a strong year in 2020 and contend for another championship, despite all of the challenges that COVID-19 threw at us.”
Unfortunately, the No. 6 team would finish no higher than sixth in the next four races, including a seventh-place result at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in September. However, it was there that Cameron was able to earn the first pole position of the year for the team and provide a spark over the final three races of the year. Additional pole positions followed at the next two race weekends at MRRA and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. From there, improvements in both speed and good fortune resulted in three podium finishes over the final three races, including a second-place run in the 12 Hours of Sebring to end the season that allowed the team to secure sixth in the final series standings.
The runner-up finish at Sebring was especially important as it was the deciding factor in Acura taking home the IWSC Manufacturer’s Championship for the second consecutive season. The No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi captured the 2020 IWSC championship, meaning Acura Team Penske was able to repeat even if it was not the No. 6 team that ultimately secured the title.
“We obviously wanted to do more to repeat as champions, especially since this was the last year of Acura Team Penske,” said Montoya. “It was one of those years where if we had speed, we had no luck, and if we had luck we weren’t as fast as we needed to be. It has been a great three-year run with Acura Team Penske. Congratulations to Ricky (Taylor) and Helio (Castroneves) on their tremendous season.”
The No. 6 ARX-05 DPi team concluded the Acura Team Penske IMSA program with three wins, 14 podiums and eight pole positions to go with its title-winning 2019 season, which marked the 37th national championship in Team Penske history.