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Racing News from around the World
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) rookie Justin Haley will be behind the wheel of the No. 78 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet for the 2017 ARCA Finale this Friday evening at the Kansas Speedway.
Haley and MMM have paired in two other races during the last two seasons in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards tour. Both times Haley has been able to find his way to victory lane. Haley first teamed up with MMM in 2016 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The win also marked the first win for Haley in ARCA. The duo reunited earlier this season in July at the Pocono Raceway. They found their way to victory lane together once again that afternoon. In fact, Haley’s won his three starts in the ARCA Racing Series.
“It is an honor to get the opportunity to race in the 78 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevy this weekend at Kansas Speedway,” Haley stated. “This MMM team works hard and always brings a fast car to the racetrack. I look forward to continuing the success we have had together in the past as I run for my fourth ARCA Racing Series win in four starts."
Haley has one prior start at the 1.5-mile track coming earlier this season with the NCWTS where he earned an impressive ninth place finish.
Kansas means a lot to the MMM team, they captured the 2014 ARCA championship with Mason Mitchell. The following year, the team found victory lane capturing the checkered flag with Mitchell.
“We’ve had a good season,” Owner Mason Mitchell stated. “We always want to be better and keep having success. We see areas we here we can get even better at moving into 2018. Kansas is a special place for us. We won the championship there in 2014, and won the race in 2015. It’s like a second home to being from West Des Moines."
MDM Motorsports PR
After clinching the CARS Tour Super Late Model Championship over the weekend, 20-year old Cole Rouse is set to make his second career appearance in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards series finale at Kansas Speedway.
Rouse, a late season call-up, will pilot the Venturini Motorsports’ prepared No.15 Musselman’s BIG CUP Applesauce Toyota Camry during Friday night’s 150-mile feature.
A native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Rouse made his ARCA series debut last month finishing 11th at Kentucky Speedway. Despite finishing outside the top-10 in his first event, Rouse gained valuable experience and showed plenty of speed qualifying fourth and racing up front during most of the race.
“I feel a lot more prepared going into Kansas,” says Rouse. “All things considered I felt like we had a decent showing at Kentucky but it really wasn’t the outcome we wanted. The experience I gained should put us in a much better position to contend this weekend. Making the transition from the Super (Late Model) to the ARCA car takes some time, especially on the big tracks where aero comes into play – the more I run the better I’ll get.”
“Winning the CARS Tour Championship last Saturday night with my Kyle Busch Motorsports Super Late Model team was a huge accomplishment and something I’m really proud of doing. Now it’s time to focus on everything we learned the last time out in the ARCA series – nothing would be sweeter than driving our Toyota into victory lane at Kansas,” added Rouse.
Follow Cole Rouse on social media @ColeRouse2 (Twitter), @ColeRouse (Instagram) and Cole Rouse Racing on Facebook.
Kansas City Menards Store Appearance
Cole Rouse will join fellow VMS rookie teammates Spencer Davis and Natalie Decker on and off the track at Kansas Speedway. Prior to Friday night’s main event the trio will join Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver Paul Menard for a special fan autograph meet and greet appearance on Thursday, October 19 (6:30pm-7:30pm) at the area Menards store located at 8901 N Greenhill Road, Kansas City, Missouri.
Venturini Motorsports History at Kansas Speedway
Venturini Motorsports with 44 all-time ARCA Racing Series team victories has earned one win at Kansas Speedway with driver Alex Bowman in 2011. The team has also won (4) General Tire Pole Awards at the 1.5 mile track with drivers Mikey Kile (’10), Max Gresham (’11), Dylan Kwasnewski (’13) and Daniel Suarez (’15).
Kansas ARCA 150 Kicks off Triple-Header Weekend
The Kansas 150 also serves as the show-opener for big triple-header weekend of racing to include the NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 Saturday and the Monster Energy Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 Sunday.
The Kansas 150 marks the 17th consecutive ARCA race at Kansas since the series debuted on the 1.5-mile superspeedway in 2001. Practice for the Kansas 150 is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 20, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 2:30 p.m. The 17th Kansas ARCA 150 is scheduled to get the green flag at 7:47 p.m. Friday night, with live coverage on FS2. ARCAracing.com will also feature Live Timing and Scoring and Live Chat of all on-track activities.
Tony Stewart-Curb/Agajanian Racing (TSR) driver Donny Schatz returned to victory lane Saturday and established a track record Monday night as he and the Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance-backed team continue their quest for the World of Outlaws (WoO) Craftsman Sprint Car Series 2017 championship. Schatz raced to his 19th WoO victory of the season, and 22nd overall, aboard the TSR No. 15 Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb J&J at Port Royal Speedway Saturday before finishing fourth Monday night at Ransomville (N.Y.) Speedway.
“We need to get these wins,” Schatz said following his 248th career WoO A-Feature triumph and second career win at Port. “It seems like it’s been a while. I have to thank my guys (Rick Warner, Steve Swenson and Brad Mariscotti) for giving me a really good car. The Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance car was really good. We just had to run our own race there for the first part and be good at the end. That was the case tonight. It’s good to get a win here in Central Pennsylvania. These guys are really tough and, with the season coming to an end, we’ve got to get as many of these wins as we can.”
The weekend opened with Saturday’s Nittany Showdown at Port Royal, where Schatz qualified second in Group B. He dominated the fourth heat race from the pole position to grab a spot in the Craftsman Club Dash. He started third in the six-lap dash and finished behind 2017 Port Royal track champion Brock Zearfoss and fellow Outlaw Jason Sides. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Zearfoss set the early pace while Sides and Schatz battled for second. Schatz took the position on lap three and continued working his way around the half-mile, dirt oval. He closed on the leader once they began working lapped traffic until a caution slowed the action on lap 14. Schatz restarted outside of Zearfoss and pressured the youngster over the next three laps before taking the lead midway through lap 17. The eight-time and reigning WoO champion set the pace for the next 10 laps before another caution on lap 28. On the final restart, he was followed closely by Lance Dewease, winner of the recent Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions-sanctioned Tuscarora 50 at Port. Schatz led the field back to green and Dewease took his shot with a slide job in turns one and two, but Schatz carried enough momentum to maintain the lead and he won by 0.792 seconds.
The victory was his 29th career WoO victory in the state of Pennsylvania, the most of any states, and his first at the track since the fall of 2004.
After Sunday’s Empire State Challenge at Weedsport Speedway was washed out by rain for the second time this season, Schatz and the TSR team returned to Ransomville for Monday’s Big “R” Outlaw Shootout, a race that was originally scheduled for July 23. It was the Outlaws’ first race at the half-mile, dirt oval near Niagara Falls since 1997, when Schatz was a rookie. The 20-year absence didn’t seem to slow down Schatz, who paced the 32-car field in qualifying by establishing a track record of 12.629 seconds. The previous record was 14.360 set by Mark Kinser in 1997. Schatz finished second to Tim Shaffer in the opening heat and fifth in the Craftsman Club Dash. In the 30-lap A-Feature, Schatz held sixth for the first 24 laps before overtaking Kraig Kinser on lap 25. On the final lap, David Gravel blew a right-rear tire and Schatz was able to get by him and finished fourth.
Shaffer led all 30 laps to pick up his second WoO A-Feature victory of the season ahead of Brad Sweet and Shane Stewart.
Only six races remain in the 2017 WoO season and Schatz continues to lead the championship standings. He holds a 162-point advantage over Sweet and leads all drivers in series wins with 19, in top-fives with 62 and in top-10s with 70.
The Textron Off Road/Arctic Cat/Ford Performance/Curb team return to the Heartland for a pair of races this weekend. First up is Friday’s FVP Racing Platinum Battery Showdown at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas. The weekend concludes with the Twister Showdown at the Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway.
When Pabst Racing took the stage at the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season-ending awards dinner, it was the culmination of over 20 years of dedication to nurturing the careers of young racing talent, and a lifetime devoted to motorsports. Winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Team Championship highlighted a season that team owner Augie Pabst describes as one of the most successful – and enjoyable – of his life.
“I got a call from his manager at the eleventh hour. I knew of Rinus but that was about it. I didn’t know what kind of talent level he had. We were going testing at Sebring prior to the series test at Homestead and he was able to join us, then he was testing with another team at Homestead. The test went really well and we could see how good he was, so I was very happy that it worked out.
First up was the season opener at St. Pete the following week, which would be the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17. Pabst Racing has a history of coming out of the gate fast, having swept the two races in each of the previous two seasons (two wins for Eidson in 2015 and a split between Lloyd and Luo last year). At the end of the weekend, anyone who had not been aware of the young Dutchman became aware in a hurry, as VeeKay earned two podium finishes in his series debut – and his first races on a street course.
As Ernie Francis, Jr., took the checkered flag for the New Jersey Trans Am 100 at New Jersey Motorsport Park, he not only secured his eighth win of the 2017 season—he clinched the TA class championship with two races remaining. Joining Francis in celebrations were TA4 class victor Brian Kleeman and TA3 winner Neal Walker, while Gar Robinson claimed victory in the TA2 class’ New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge earlier in the day.
And while the weekend ended in jubilation for Francis and the Breathless Pro Racing team of the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang, the early stages were nothing but hard work after the No. 98 suffered an engine failure in testing. The entire crew, and Francis himself, worked to switch to a backup engine for qualifying, just in time to secure pole for the race— a position he would hold through 101.25 miles of multi-class traffic on the NJMP “Thunderbolt” track before bringing home the TA class win and championship.
At 19-year-old Francis becomes the youngest TA class champion, overtaking series Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who won the title in 1985 at the age of 22. The championship is the fourth of Francis’ Trans Am career, with three TA4 class championships already under his belt.
“I’m at a loss for words on how to describe this right now,” said Francis. “We didn’t really think this could happen early this season. We were going to try for it, but we didn’t expect to be able to win a championship this year or really this early in the season. To accomplish this, it took a team effort from everyone. Our sponsors, our engine builders, our transmission builders— they did a great job all season long. But it definitely wasn’t easy for us, this last race was tough.”
Francis would build up a substantial lead over the first 31 laps before a full-course caution came out for the retrieval of the No. 86 of John Baucom stopped in an unsafe position; with the field collected behind Francis, the Breathless Pro Racing team was informed the No. 98 had been assessed a 30 second penalty for jumping the start. When the field restarted on the 35th lap, Francis proceeded to build a 36-second lead over the remaining 10 of the 45—crossing the finish line with the time in hand to remain in first position after the penalty.
“We had the lead pretty well locked down; then the caution came out,” said Francis. “Then over the caution we were told we had a 30-second penalty for accelerating early on the start. So we knew we had to build up a 30-second gap over the rest of the field before the finish line—so we pushed as hard as we could and ran qualifying speed laps. We opened up a 30 second gap over second place and came home with the championship.”
“This weekend was a big effort by the crew,” said Francis. “The engine went out on just the first test session about 10 laps in. We spent that day changing the engine, making sure everything was good to go. The second day we just did two data laps then went straight out to qualifying. We were amazed by the pace of the car; it is an old reliable engine—it won most of the races early in the season and went back in at Mid-Ohio for another win. It has some luck; we’re going to get it rebuilt and bring it over to Texas.”
Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, would finish second after starting fifth, for his best finishing position of the season, while Jim McAleese in the No. 03 McAleese & Associates Chevrolet Camaro, secured third for his first podium finish of the year.
Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, both held second position throughout the race but saw their days ended after separate incidents that saw both machines retire from pit lane.
Tim Rubright, in the No. 4 BlueKnobAuto.com Ford Mustang, and Mary Wright, in the No. 6 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, would finish fourth and fifth, respectively.
In the TA4 class, points leader Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, completed a drive from the back of the TA4 field to secure his seventh win of the season, moving up into first position after 10 laps and navigating the 14-turn course and traffic for the remaining 35.
“The goal this time, with the finale closing in, was just points,” said Kleeman. “Obviously we want to get as many as we can, but we really had to be careful into turn one— and then it was just picking them off one by one and being careful about it. The car was flawless; the weak link this weekend was the heat—in October it was as hot as it ever is here and we had a cool suite issue. The car was perfect, as were the Pirelli tires, they just don’t give up— so hats off to Ford, DWW Motorsports and all those guys.”
Finishing second in the TA4 class was Andrew Entwistle, in the No. 10 Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang, for his second podium finish of the season in his third appearance. Entwistle gained the position after a pass on the inside of turn 1, three wide on lap 25— for the move Entwistle was given the Coolshirt Systems Cool Move of the Race.
Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ TREMEC Chevrolet Corvette, would come home third, keeping Brian Kleeman within reach of the TA4 championship with two races remaining, while Steven Davison, in the No. 2 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage GT4, and Chris Outzen, in the No. 97 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, completed the top five.
Running solo in the TA3 was debutant Neal Walker, in the No. 71 Tullman Walker Racing Porsche 991.2, finishing 11th overall. Both Walker and Kleeman would turn track record setting laps, at 1:26.265 and 1:22.035, respectively.
New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge
In the TA2 exclusive New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge, Gar Robinson endured a race-long battle with championship rival Tony Buffomante, bringing the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro home in first place for the second consecutive Trans Am competition.
The victory bolstered Robinson’s win total to six over the course of the 11 rounds of competition so far, while extending his points lead over Tony Buffomante, the defending champ.
Robinson began the race in second position and alongside Buffomante, who set pole in the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, but would take the lead early on the second lap. Robinson and Buffomante would run nose-to-tail through the remaining 43 laps of the 101.25-mile contest, with Robinson holding off the No. 34 by .619 seconds come the checkered flag.
“It was exhausting,” said Robinson. “There aren’t a lot of places to pass here; I knew if I was going to be able to get around Tony it was going to have to be early and it was going to have to be quick—it would have to be unexpected. I had a good run onto the back straight. I think Tony made a slight mistake, and I knew I had to capitalize while he was in range. It was a tough race; the guys finally got me a car that I truly like—with the rear end out and a rocket ship. Hats off to the Robinson Racing team for putting together a great car. It was exhausting for sure, but I had a great time.”
Robinson’s points lead over Buffomante now stands at 43, with two contests remaining on the Trans Am schedule and a total of 70 points up for grabs; and despite what equates to a full race lead, Robinson is taking nothing for granted.
“We’re going to have big fields at COTA and Daytona,” said Robinson. “Anything can happen during those two races. Obviously, COTA, our home track—it’s on my list that I’d really like to win. We’ve been right there for the past two years… but we’ve got to play it smart. If there’s an opportunity, I’ll take it; but we’re points racing—racing is unpredictable, but I’d love to take home championship number two.”
Buffomante’s second place finish stands as his seventh podium of the season, keeping him within striking distance of the No. 74 as the year comes to a close. Joining the two front-runners on the podium was Shane Lewis, pilot of the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro also out of Robinson Racing, who secured third— albeit by 17.923 seconds behind the leaders.
Finishing a career-high fourth was Harry Steenbakkers, in the No. 78 BCRacecars/Ottawa West Development Chevrolet Camaro, while Keith Prociuk, in the No. 9 HP Tuners Chevrolet Camaro, tied his own career high with a fifth place finish.
For their efforts in preparing the No. 74, the Robinson Racing team was awarded the Pitboxes.com Crew of the Race; while Ross Jeffries was awarded the Traq Gear Crew Chief of the Weekend. For his pass position, Robinson was awarded the Coolshirt Systems Cool Move of the Race. Robinson would also set a new track record 1:20.508 lap en route to victory.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the track on Saturday November 4 at Circuit of The Americas for Round 11 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship.
After winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca two weeks ago, Automatic Racing’s Steven Phillips and Al Carter wanted to stand on the podium one more time this season. The co-drivers finished second in Friday’s IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Road Atlanta, ending the season with a flawless day in the No. 99 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
Phillips started the race, marking the first time he has raced at Road Atlanta in five years. The team chose to pit during an early caution, putting fuel in the car and sending Phillips back out. Later, Phillips pitted under green to hand the Aston Martin over to Carter.
Not only did the pit strategy work, but the Automatic Racing crew executed perfect pit stops. Both times, the Stoner Car Care Aston Martin was able to beat competitors out of pit lane to pick up more positions. When Carter re-entered the track, he was third, and he gained another spot to finish second.
Both drivers credit the crew for making a big difference in the outcome of the race. “I’m very proud of this team. It was a great run today, and a big key is that it was a team effort. The pit stop by the guys got me up front,” said Carter. “The top entries were all running together, and that pit stop made all the difference. This is a big deal for the team to get two podiums in a row, and I hope we can be a championship contender in 2018.”
Of course, expert driving is also a part of the equation, and Phillips and Carter have proven to be a great combination. “[Automatic driver] Rob Ecklin couldn’t make the race at Watkins Glen, so team principal David Russell asked me if I could fill in,” explained Phillips. “Al and I worked really well together there, so we went to Laguna Seca for the four-hour, and everybody knows the results of that. We’re happy to get another podium finish for the Stoner Car Care Aston Martin GT4.”
The map of Belardi Auto Racing’s 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season might just look like a Richter Scale, with spectacular highs and punishing lows punctuating the year. In the end the team and its three drivers – Shelby Blackstock, Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz – came back from numerous adversities to take four victories and 14 podium finishes, earning their first team championship.
The second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout will feature a new addition this year as eKartingNews.com – the authority on the karting industry – will select one up-and-coming karter as the recipient of a 2017 Shootout entry ticket. The Bondurant Racing School near Phoenix, Ariz., will host the event which will take place on December 9/10 and bring together the champions of 17 series from around the world as well as three at-large entries.
Holbrook will be part of the action whether the driver/owner is getting the most out of her Honda on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course, running her multicar effort, making media appearances, or signing autographs. The versatile driver has been over 270 mph in a jet dragster and dabbled on the Bonneville salt flats, but the 27-year-old Florida native’s love of sports car racing shines through in a conversation leading up to this weekend’s event.
Q: What are your expectations heading into this event?
A: It’s the season finale for the Touring Car divisions of the Pirelli World Challenge which always puts an extra bit of pressure over a lot of people’s heads. Drivers and teams are coming in for championship contingencies with not all of the championships locked up. How things play out in qualifying for Race 1 and Race 2 will tell the tale of how things will unfold. Shea Racing isn’t in championship contention although it does seem that we have locked up third with the TCA championship with our No. 94 Shea Racing/Honda HPD car driven by Tom O’Gorman. I’ll be honest; I don’t do the numbers. I believe that every time you show up to a race, you should be showing up to qualify on the pole and win the race. I don’t want to show up to get the minimum result to achieve a certain position.
I’m in a different position than the No. 94 car, because I switched classes during the season. I started out in the Touring Car division with the No. 67 BUBBA Burger Honda Accord. The TC class has evolved into a really competitive platform, and we weren’t excelling with something of a privateer effort compared to the BMWs and Audis that our strong straight from the factory. The new 2017 Honda Civic Si is a program we really wanted to capitalize on and put a sister car together for. It is good for us down the road having that chassis available in 2018. It seems that moving classes was the right decision, because we won the first race that we rolled out the new car.
This is kind of a pivotal race for World Challenge because they have the Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours. It has been in the pipeline for a long time, so I know they are really excited about having the opportunity to showcase the eight-hour race with teams from the U.S. and abroad.
Q: How do you maintain the balance of being a driver and team owner?
A: I haven’t mastered doing it all at once. I think that’s a tough nut to crack. I talk to a lot of team owners/drivers that are doing the same effort at a higher level. The reason why Shea Racing became a multicar effort is because we don’t come from a really affluent background. My dad is ex-Navy, and my mom is a military mom. One thing I was able to learn early on was that performances and results alone were not good enough to be good enough. You needed to have an education in marketing and be clear-minded.
The motor racing industry is one of the best ways for companies to do marketing and advertising. You see that heavily in Pirelli World Challenge, IMSA, NASCAR, etc. I knew that I needed to become street smart and book smart. Developing some of those skills at an early age transitioned into my dad and me co-owning a team together. We learned how to become a little more professional and elevate our status in the paddock because you are providing services to other teams and partners. There are times when we’ll have meetings with Shea Racing as a team before I hop into the car to drive and then get back out to meet with the team or meet with sponsors. Throughout the course of the weekend, I have to be able to turn it on and off. I love that portion of it. I really enjoy seeing successes other than my own. I am a sound believer in teamwork, doing things for a greater good, involving charity efforts, and doing things with fans. Having the viewpoints of a team owner and a driver is what keeps me going in this industry. I am interested in that. I love the thrill of a kill of landing sponsorships, improving programs, and landing new drivers. The love of the business side of the program has kept me motivated, though my real thrill and desire is to race.
Q: How do you view your role as a female ambassador of the sport?
A: It’s a huge honor and compliment to be one of the representatives of women in motorsports. There are women who show up who may not even have it in their mind that they can be a racing driver or an engineer, and it opens their horizons to what they can be in the world. I always try to be conscientious of playing or not playing the female card. I think my competitors look at me as another racer. There is a place for everybody in this industry. There are not a lot of female-targeted companies in this industry, which is interesting to me because 40 to 45 percent of the people who come to the races are women. One thing I love about coming to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is we have seniority in female management in that track.
Q: What do you look forward to when you come to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?
A: Always the views. It’s one of the most prestigious racing tracks to go to, and it is located in beautiful Monterey. Being that it is the season finale, it’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new chapter. To have that at such a prestigious place with an iconic turn – the Corkscrew – there is a sense of pride that drivers take in coming to a historic racetrack where drivers we grew up watching had memorable wins. The community is always really welcoming. The fans are really impactful when they come to meet you.
Q: You have done things outside of sports car racing such as driving a jet dragster and being part of a paced bicycle land speed record attempt in Bonneville. How important is adaptability in your ventures?
A: I think it’s really important to have versatility and adapt to situations. There are so many different classes of racing in the country. I have always driven Honda front-wheel drive V-6s with 300-or-lower horsepower, and three weeks ago jumped in a Lamborghini Super Trofeo which is a 600-horspower, rear-wheel-drive monster. It is a different end of the spectrum, but I had been preparing for the opportunity for a long time. I just needed to grab the bull by the horns – pun intended. It was really cool to have an opportunity to drive a jet dragster in IHRA (International Hot Rod Association). I had never driven a car of any kind down a drag strip. That opens up your horizons. I also dabbled with the paced bicycle land speed record. There was nothing more challenging than being the pace car driver for that record, because the severity of the risk for Denise Mueller was mega. If I made a mistake on the salts, I had to be able to react quickly. Adaptability is huge.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: Now that I’ve gotten a little bit into GT stuff, I would really like to excel in those ranks over the next couple years. I’d drive anything as long as there was an opportunity that makes sense for all parties involved. I have a passion for driving fast, pushing your physical and mental stamina to the limit, making a piece of machinery work the way you want it to work, and working in a team setting. I love it. My heart really falls for sports car road racing. I love sports cars at the GT level. I love racing here in America and would love the opportunity to go overseas. I would be perfectly content to run at the highest level and pinnacle of either World Challenge GT or IMSA GT. To have that opportunity or maybe even graduate to a factory team would be the ultimate goal. I have other things I am looking forward to. I am getting married in a month. That will start a new chapter. Shea Racing is continuously growing. I want to see our program grow in numbers and in quality drivers who can help this program grow with the results it needs. I want to work with quality people. I’m excited to see where it ends up. We want to run a 3-4 GTA program in the next year. Long-term, we aspire to run in the TCR class. I’m keeping my options open on what might happen next year. Ultimately, if I can keep working hard, driving race cars, and keeping the irons glowing in other business opportunities in the industry, that is what I am passionate about.
2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Prototype champion Ricky Taylor will have a new home next season.
Acura Team Penske announced this morning that Taylor will complete the team’s full-time driver lineup for its pair of new Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race cars that will debut in the 2018 WeatherTech Championship.
Taylor will be paired with Helio Castroneves, who was announced as the third member of the team’s full-time driver lineup just prior to last weekend’s Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya were introduced as the team’s first two drivers in August.
The team also announced today that IndyCar racers Simon Pagenaud – who drove in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans with Castroneves and Montoya – and Graham Rahal will complete the team’s lineup for the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
“Adding a champion sports car driver in Ricky will help our team grow and develop,” said Team Owner Roger Penske. “Ricky had a phenomenal season in 2017. He brings a great deal of sports car experience and his knowledge of the cars, the racetracks and the series overall will be a big benefit to our team.
“Having that experience, along with the winning pedigree of Helio, Juan and Dane, provides a great platform as we launch the Acura Team Penske program next season. When you add Simon and Graham for the endurance races, I feel we have a strong lineup for Daytona and Sebring.”
The 28-year-old Taylor is coming off a magnificent season in the WeatherTech Championship. Co-driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside his younger brother, Jordan, for the team owned by his father, Wayne Taylor, the team opened the year with five consecutive victories, including wins in the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
The Taylor brothers finished the year with seven top-three results in the 10-race season to win what was Ricky Taylor’s first championship. It was Jordan Taylor’s second title, having won the final GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype crown in 2013 co-driving with Max Angelelli, while Ricky raced for Spirit of Daytona Racing alongside co-driver Richard Westbrook.
“No matter which way I look at it, professional and personally, it is a father’s dream to have his son called upon by Roger Penske,” said Wayne Taylor. “So, I’m incredibly proud of Ricky and excited for him, and I think, honestly, the entire team has been supportive of this move, as well as everyone at General Motors and Cadillac. But I’ve still got Jordan, and he knows how to win championships.”
Angelelli stepped out of the cockpit as a full-time driver following the 2013 season, opening up a slot for Ricky Taylor to join the family team. In four WeatherTech Championship seasons together, the brothers have won a total of 12 races.
“I can't lie,” said Ricky Taylor. “Nobody could have taken me away from driving with my brother and everything that my dad had built there besides an opportunity like this with Team Penske coming back to sports car racing, and Acura, after their great season in GT this year with the NSX. There's so many big factors that it doesn't look like it's just a flash-in-the-pan sort of deal. It seems like it's something that is really exciting. The series is growing.
“It was a hard decision after such a good year and so much momentum was built over there, but I think this is a new challenge and an amazing opportunity. I'm excited to take it. Although I think Jordan and my dad would have said I was stupid not to. Coming over here was a decision I'm really excited about.”
Ricky Taylor solidified his reputation as one of the fastest drivers in the WeatherTech Championship in 2017. He qualified on the pole position for five races this year, and his eight career poles put him second on the all-time series list behind James French, who has 10 career poles in the WeatherTech Championship.
“There's a pretty big checklist of things that we're looking for when we're talking about our drivers,” said Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr. “But, first and foremost, was we want to get the fastest drivers we possibly could. Looking at the way Ricky started out this year with the first five wins, it was very clear that he was a very fast driver.
“Part of the other things that we had was really someone who could represent the Acura brand well. Ricky is an American, which helps, because Acura is a North American brand. Those types of things. He's well‑spoken. We think this is his time to really shine. We thought that he would be good in the mixture as far as chemistry. When it comes down to it, ultimately we've got to win races. He fits pretty much every box that we needed.”
Full-time drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series, both Pagenaud and Rahal have considerable experience in the sports car ranks. Pagenaud won the 2010 American Le Mans Series LMP championship and owns 10 ALMS victories, including the 2010 Motul Petit Le Mans. Last weekend, he co-drove the No. 6 Team Penske ORECA LM P2 car with Montoya and Castroneves to a third-place result in the 10-hour season finale at Road Atlanta.
“First of all, it was an honor to be part of the star lineup with Helio and Juan Pablo,” said Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion. “Also, the return of Team Penske to sports car racing, I think it really was an interesting start of a new era for the team. Being part of it was very special.
“My background is all about sports cars. Having the opportunity to drive again in that field was a lot of fun. Great racing. Fantastic level of competition, as well, whether it's GTD or Prototypes. We all had a blast. The team did a fantastic job bringing the podium back home on the first race. It was a great time.”
Rahal won the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona with Chip Ganassi Racing, and has made eight starts in the Rolex 24. His most recent start came this year in the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3, co-driving with Andy Lally, Katherine Legge and Mark Wilkins to an 11th-place class result in the car’s debut race.
“As it kind of runs in the blood, it was a perfect opportunity to come over here,” Rahal said. “Sports car racing is something that's important to myself, to my family, and clearly is a huge part of the history of Team Penske. So, combined with Acura Team Penske, I think it will be a great season for all the full‑time guys. It's a dream opportunity for me to jump in and be a part of the endurance races.”
With the team’s lineup now solidified, preparations are well under way for the 2018 season, which opens with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 27-28, 2018. Prior to the Rolex 24, the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona will provide one of the first opportunities to publicly see the team in action during the three-day test on Jan. 5-7 at Daytona International Speedway.
“We take one day at a time around here,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “We're going to hit the ground running next week. We'll have all four of the full‑time drivers in the car next week. It's good for them to get acclimated with each other.
“Helio and Ricky, they know each other I guess socially, you'd call it, but they've never worked together. It will be interesting there. Dane and Juan, they got a chance to race against each other the other night. I was glad to see they started things off the right way, kept things clean, because I was a little concerned about how that might turn out for day one as teammates. They passed the first test.
“Then it's our goal to be on track one or two times a month up until we get to the Roar in January. We received our second Acura car actually at the end of last week, so we have two cars in‑house now. We're starting to build those up. Hopefully there will be a point in time where we can actually take two cars to a test, but it will be a little bit before that occurs.
“Busy times, for sure, and at the same time a couple of these guys are still hopping in and out of the 2018 IndyCar. Yeah, there's a lot going on here in what they call the ‘off‑season.’”