Elkhart’s Lake

Helio Castroveves drives the Team Penske Acura to the win at Road America ahead of the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi. [John Wiedemann Photo]

Helio Castroveves drives the Team Penske Acura to the win at Road America ahead of the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi. [John Wiedemann Photo]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

The Road America round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship always seems to be one of the best races of the entire season. The wonderful, high speed track in Wisconsin is both a driver and a fan favorite, which combines some of the design elements of Le Mans and Nürburgring into its 4-mile configuration.

This year’s event also combined a typical feature of both of those world-famous tracks – torrential rainfall which made for a wild finish.

In the end, it was the pole winning Penske Acura of Helio Castroveves and Ricky Taylor capturing the overall victory in a race that featured a red flag, a clock reset to 30 minutes to go during the red flag period, a 7-minute sprint to the finish, and finally a finish under yellow as torrential rains returned to the Elkhart Lake circuit on the final lap, causing even more mayhem.

Castroneves: “The back straight was getting really bad. It was like driving on a river. You were just basically a passenger. My man (Ricky Taylor) and I made it happen. It was a really long stretch without a victory. Bad things happen in threes, Daytona, Daytona, Sebring. So now the monkey is off our back and that’s it. We won.”

The Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi finished second overall while Pipo Derani brought the Whelen Caddy home in third – after dramatic repairs in the pits under yellow before the final sprint to the finish.

The Mazda team was in contention all day long until getting caught out on dry tires when the skies opened up and then waiting till the green flag waved to change to wet weather tires.

In GTLM it was another Corvette 1-2 finish, this time again as a gift from the Porsche team. The #3 C8.R of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor survived the mayhem and scored the third win in a row for Corvette. With the win, the Taylor brothers won in different cars and in different classes in the same race for the first time. Ricky: “It’s definitely cool. I think it’s the first time we both won on the same weekend….The race had a bit of everything with strategy and obviously the weather was a bit different. I think people who were tuning into NBC are used to a NASCAR race where they probably wouldn’t have been running in the rain. So that was probably exciting for them to see.”

In GTD, it was a hard-fought victory for Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo in their Lexus RC F GT3 besting the Acura NSX GT3 of Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry in the final laps, when Farnbacher ran off course after passing Bell for the lead. Townsend: “Our car has a giant splitter that is not particularly good when there is standing water everywhere. The worst part was actually after the checkered flag – I actually crashed the car in the final corner at about 20 miles per hour into a concrete wall. I literally drove up pit lane with a severely wounded car. Then I came to a stop and when they told me to move my position and go to the podium, I turned the steering wheel and the steering rack actually broke. It’s unbelievable, if that had happened a lap earlier we would have lost the race under caution at 20 miles per hour. That’s how bad the conditions were.”

In LMP2, the DragonSpeed ORECA of Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley made up for the driving stint shortfall in the last race at Sebring to score a well-deserved victory in the terrible conditions. As Henrik said after the race: “This was a team victory for us today. Rules are rules and we made a mistake (at Sebring). One of the few that DragonSpeed ever made. It is what it is. Today we were lucky, but a win is a win, so I’m happy.”

The large, socially distanced crowd was highly entertained by the IMSA circus on their annual trip to the Wisconsin countryside. This race leaves one wishing for more. With the built-in similarities to Le Mans and the Nürburgring, wouldn’t it make sense that one day we could have a 24 Hour IMSA race at Road America?

Wouldn’t that be great?

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