Felipe Nasr believes he and Pipo Derani are “back in the game” after claiming their third win in the last four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races and tightening the championship battle to just a 19-point deficit heading into November’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans.
The Action Express Racing duo dominated the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, with its No. 31 Whelen Engineering-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.r topping the time charts in every session during the weekend and leading all but five laps in Saturday’s 100-minute street race.
“It was pretty much a perfect weekend for us,” said Nasr. “It’s hard to happen nowadays, to have such a dominant performance every session.
“The aim coming here this weekend was to maximize the points. We did it every session, won pole position, which was a big help for us coming over to the race.
“It was really important to get the points for pole.
“The race itself — it’s never easy. With the traffic and how you manage that because it’s a street course. You take some risks but you don’t want to ruin the race for each other.”
The car’s only scare in the race came early on with a fierce battle between Nasr and the No. 01 Chip Gansssi Racing Cadillac of Kevin Magnussen, who briefly took the lead through traffic before slapping the Turn 1 tire barriers and damaging his DPi contender.
“There was one occasion there where one of our competitors tried to dive-bomb last minute and I just avoided any kind of crash,” Nasr explained. “Then I got him back.
“I just concentrated on driving and pulling out a gap and looking after my car and the tires.
“Fuel saving was the name of the game in the first stint.
“I couldn’t be happier for us as a group. [Pipo] also did an amazing job at the wheel.
“We’re back in the game. It’s going to be a pretty good fight going into the final race and I’m looking forward to that.”
As was the case at Road America, Derani brought the car to the finish.
In addition to closing the points gap on Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, the win came after the Brazilian duo lost out on a chance of victory in the 2019 Long Beach race when Derani lost a wheel.
“We’ve been fighting so hard to come from a difficult beginning to the season and now we’ll go into the last race with a real chance to fight for the championship,” he said.
“A big thanks to the whole team. We led every session. Felipe did a fantastic job in qualifying.
“For me, it was to bring the car home from the lead. I’m pretty happy with the result. Thanks to Lucas Oil, Whelen Engineering and everyone who supported us this weekend.”