Title Fight Up for Grabs as No. 7 Acura DPi Wins at WeatherTech Raceway

By Jeff Olson
IMSA Wire Service
 When it mattered most, Ricky Taylor received a timely gift.
Acura Team Penske teammate Dane Cameron allowed Taylor to pass him as the leaders approached the final lap Sunday, and Taylor went on to win the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The move allowed the team’s No. 7 Acura ARX-05 and its two drivers — Taylor and Helio Castroneves — to take a narrow lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) driver and team championship battles heading into the season finale Nov. 14.
The decision was made after a restart with just under 19 minutes left in the 2-hour, 40-minute race. As Taylor chased Cameron for the lead, the team decided to allow Taylor to take over.
“Penske isn’t going to take away a win from somebody unless there’s a really big goal,” Taylor said. “I don’t know how the discussion went, but I feel bad for Dane and Juan (Pablo Montoya, Cameron’s co-driver). They did race a perfect race, and then we ended up leading one lap for the win.”
Taylor and Castroneves now lead Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe by just two points in the standings. Van der Zande and Briscoe came into Sunday’s race atop the standings with their No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi V.R, but finished sixth.
Considering how far back the No. 7 team was after the first three races of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season, leading the standings heading into the season ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts is astonishing to both drivers.
“It’s a battle,” Castroneves said. “It’s a championship battle. We’re part of an amazing organization, and everybody is looking for the same goal.”
The No. 7 car has won four of the last five races and has finished no worse than second after early season woes. The streak started with Castroneves’ run to the checkered flag in the rain Aug. 2 at Road America.
“We had the pace for most of the season, but we weren’t seeing the results,” Taylor said. “When Helio and I started putting it together on track and the team was really gelling and doing such a good job in the pits and off track, we put all the pieces together and it turned into race wins.” 
Cameron held on for second place, 0.487 seconds behind Taylor in the car Montoya started from the pole. The No. 6 duo led a race-high 104 laps in what was a 119-lap race. The No. 7 car only led the last two.
The No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R co-driven by Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani finished third. They’ll go into Sebring third in the team standings, nine points behind the No. 7 entry.
While Acura Team Penske created final-lap drama in the DPi class, Patrick Kelly had no competition on his way to clinching the driver and team championships in the LMP2 class.
Kelly, who overcame extensive injuries in a street accident a decade ago and resumed his racing career, teamed with Simon Trummer to finish 28th overall in the No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07.
The championship came with IMSA’s Jim Trueman Award, which includes an invitation to the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s one of the biggest things of my life,” Kelly said. “Since I started racing, I’ve dreamed of going to Le Mans. I remember seeing the Penske Spyders and saying, ‘God, I’d love to drive a P2 and can you imagine going to drive a car like that at Le Mans?’ Then I’ve had a lot adversity happen in my life over the last eight years. For me to be out here and have this happen, it’s just surreal.”
The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season concludes Nov. 11-14 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts at Sebring International Raceway.
Adam Sinclair