INDIANAPOLIS — There’s going to be a lot of NTT INDYCAR Series drivers walking about the St. Pete paddock in late February with some sore wrists and not because of muscling around their beasts of Dallara’s in preseason testing. See, 5 of the 12 drivers that were entered in this past weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will have collected some nice, new jewelry for their wrists with shiny new Rolex watches being awarded to them via class wins.
In the DPi category, Meyer Shank Racing overcame an early race tire problem to prevail in the end of the 24 hour endurance race when Helio Castroneves crossed the finish line first in the No. 60 Acura to give MSR a second win in the annual Daytona classic.
It was Castroneves’ second straight overall win in the race as his trophy case is getting more and more crowded. Over the last 12 months, he has two victories in the biggest sports car race in North America to go along with a fourth Indianapolis 500 triumph last Memorial Day weekend.
Castroneves, was handed the car from Tom Blomqvist in the closing hours and had to endure a late race caution to win. See, the pit strategy was brilliant from the MSR group all race. Despite being a lap down after the tire puncture, they ran their stints longer than the other competitors by doing a masterful job of saving fuel. By doing so, it not only got them back on the lead lap, but also back in contention.
Then factor in both Chip Ganassi Racing cars having mechanical problems, an alternator issue on the No. 01 Cadillac and a fuel pump on the No. 02 Cadillac to cut the seven cars down to four left in contention for the final push in the morning hours on Sunday. The other car down was the No. 48 Cadillac that had an issue overnight too.
It was two Acura’s vs. two Cadillac’s for the win.
In the final couple of hours though, it was down to MSR vs. Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Acura. A caution came out with 50 minutes left. MSR took fuel only. The Cadillacs (Action Express, JDC-Miller) came back down pit road to top off right before going back green.
It would be the Acura’s now 1-2 again and Cadillac’s a bit further behind but 100% good on fuel.
Could WTR go four straight? Could MSR pick up a second win instead? Would the Cadillac’s catch them?
Fuel never was a factor and the Acura’s used their pace to pull away. It came down to two former teammates in Castroneves vs. Ricky Taylor. Both were at Team Penske prior to these current destinations.
Castroneves, was able to hold Taylor off in the end and said that while he taught Taylor a lot in their tenures at Penske, he didn’t teach him it all. That secrecy paid off for a second Rolex in as many years for the popular Brazilian who now wants to go to France and try to win LeMans.
He’d have a willing teammate to go with him in Simon Pagenaud who earns his first Rolex on Sunday. The Frenchman was a part of the team too and in his first race at MSR, is victorious.
Blomqvist, missed out on a win a few years ago due to visa issues but now gets his win with MSR. The fourth driver in Oliver Jarvis gets his first victory after being a cast away from Mazda’s closed team.
Two drivers pushed out by Penske (Castroneves) and Mazda’s (Jarvis) closed programs, a pushed out of an INDYCAR ride (Pagenaud) and a driver who missed his best Rolex opportunity prior to visa problems win the top overall victory in sports car racing’s biggest prized event.
MSR is almost a lock for the 70th running of the Rolex 24 Hour race as they’ve now won the 50th annual and 60th annual races down in the Sunshine State.
In the LMP2 category, the winning team, DragonSpeed (a former INDYCAR team) saw three of their four drivers being full-time regulars in the NTT INDYCAR Series for 2022. They delivered a comeback win themselves.
They also fell down a lap early but in their case, it was three laps down. They never gave up though and used wave arounds to find the lead lap again. Ironically enough, while the cautions helped get them to strategize their ways to the lead lap, the final yellow nearly negated it all. I
They were leading before the last caution, but the No. 8 Tower Motorsports ORECA took on fuel only and the lead as a result. Colton Herta was driving the No. 81 ORECA had fuel and tires. He knew he had to use the tires to his advantage and did so with a decisive move in the bus stop to get the top spot back.
Herta, would never look back and propelled he, Pato O’Ward, Devlin DeFrancesco and Eric Lux to a class win in LMP2.
Castroneves, Pagenaud, Herta, O’Ward and DeFrancesco all start off their 2022 racing seasons with a huge win. That’s big for momentum as we head into the season opening INDYCAR race in less than a month’s time.