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Penske Tops Mid-Ohio IMSA Qualifying

Pole winner Helio Castroneves in the Penske Acura. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Pole winner Helio Castroneves in the Penske Acura. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster

The late day rains from Friday did not return on Saturday and qualifying for the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, round 4 of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, was held in dry and partly cloudy conditions.

As has been the case at every race this season, the competition in qualifying was intense and very close. In the end, it was to be an all Acura front row for the Acura sponsored event, with the Acura Team Penske #7 and #6 cars locking out the front row.

Helio Castroneves ended up besting Dane Cameron by just .147 second to take the pole for the race, which will be held on Sunday at 1:05 PM and run until 3:45 PM.

Helio was his usual exuberant self in describing his qualifying run. “Oh my god, first of all it was actually incredible. All thanks for Acura Team Penske, obviously myself, Ricky, Juan-Pablo and Dane. Dane was pushing me really hard and that gave me a bit of inspiration to try and give it everything I could…”

In another strong showing by the Joest led squad, the Mazda RT24 piloted by Oliver Jarvis secured third overall, only .05 back of the second Penske.

In GTLM, just as in Prototype, the competition was hot and heavy. John Edwards put the BMW M8 GTE on pole, with Nick Tandy in the Porsche 911 RSR only .066 back. Third was the second BMW, driven by Alexander Sims, who was only .013 behind Tandy.

In GTD, history was made with an all Lexus front row, with Jack Hacksworth in the #15 Lexus RCF GT3 besting the #14 sister car of Kyle Marcelli, with Madison Snow capturing the third starting spot in his Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

Sunday’s race certainly looks to be an interesting contest, especially with all the top cars in each class qualifying so close to one another. There also looks to be a joker in the deck as well – the weather. There is a pretty good chance for rain on Sunday afternoon, and it currently looks like it may start with less than an hour remaining in the race.

As Helio Castroneves said: “Now we have to focus on the race. It’s a tough one….”

We will know how tough soon enough. Don’t miss this one.

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Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970’s, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com