Ricky Taylor said their pair of early race penalties put the No. 7 Acura Team Penske crew in a position to “push harder than anybody on track” which he credits for their come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s TireRack Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Taylor and co-driver Helio Castroneves scored their second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory and long-awaited first endurance win for the Acura ARX-05 in the six-hour contest that was marred by incidents and penalties throughout the DPi field.
While having started from pole, Castroneves had two pit lane infractions during his first stop — speeding upon entry and running the red light at exit — that put the No. 7 Acura DPi nearly two laps down.
“I think what that did was put us in a situation where we just pushed the whole race,” said Taylor. “Every issue with the car, we were pushing probably harder than anybody on track.
“All of the little issues popped up. We were like, ‘OK the rear is going to be in trouble here and we need to work on this.’
“Throughout the race, we were developing a lot and chasing with all of our tools, a lot of communication.”
By the race’s third full-course caution, Taylor and Castroneves were back in the fight, which saw their attention shift to fighting for the win.
Taylor got around teammate Juan Pablo Montoya for the lead with 1 hour and 15 minutes remaining while Castroneves held off a charging No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Harry Tincknell following a late-race caution and restart.
“By the time we got our lap back, the guys in the pits, the engineers and me and Helio, everyone had adapted to chase all of those issues that had popped up due our really high pace,” Taylor explained.
“I think that was a big tool for getting us in the window and giving us a great car in the end.
“If we would have been in the pack all day we would have been managing and controlling the race and maybe those issues wouldn’t have popped up and have given us such a fast car in the end.
“It just goes to show not giving up and keep pushing. It was a complete team effort to get us back [in the fight] and into victory lane.”
Castroneves, who took full responsibility for the penalties, echoed his co-driver’s comments.
“Once we were within the pack we knew we had the pace,” he said.
“The BoP right now is very close — you can see the Mazda and Cadillac — everybody’s lap times are very, very close.
“If you always have issues in a long-distance race, you want it to happen in the beginning. It gives us the opportunity.
“It happened in the first pit stop so we had like five hours to go.”
“Everyone Was Doubting” Acura DPi Endurance Win
Taylor admitted there doubts whether Acura Team Penske would finally be able to pull off a long-distance win after a string of bad luck and issues that hit the team in the previous Michelin Endurance Cup rounds over the past two-and-a-half-years.
“An endurance race win was the last thing on the checklist for Acura/HPD and Team Penske,” Taylor said. “They got the championship [last year], we won sprint races.
“Everyone was doubting us [on getting an] endurance race win.
“We get that every time we go to a sports car race. ‘Why can’t you guys win these things?’
“We keep saying, ‘the car’s great, we just keep making little mistakes here and there and it keeps eluding us.’
“Today we executed really well so it feels great, especially to do it in the fashion we did, just fighting all day and not leaving anything on the table.
“I said to Helio on the podium, ‘It was a really fun race.’
“Hopefully this gives us good momentum for the rest of the year. We’re only halfway. The 10 car had a little bit of bad luck. I don’t know the points yet but it was a good day.”