Castroneves and Pagenaud top five INDYCAR winners at Rolex 24
Five NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers started their 2022 racing season celebrating on the top step of the podium, claiming overall or class victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona Sports Car Endurance Classic.
Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud were part of the winning team of four drivers overall and in the premier Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class in the 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway, sharing the #60 Acura for Meyer Shank Racing, also their team in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Young NTT INDYCAR SERIES stars and reigning rivals Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, along with 2022 series rookie Devlin De Francesco, have teamed up to help the former entrant’s #81 ORECA field the Indy 500 DragonSpeed to win the LMP2 prototype class.
SEE: Final results
This is the eighth time in the past 12 years that an active NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver has driven for the Rolex 24 winning team, including the past three years.
Castroneves, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, earned his second consecutive victory at the Rolex 24, also winning last year while driving for Wayne Taylor Racing. Winner of the 2019 Indy 500 and champion of the 2016 series, Pagenaud won the Rolex 24 for the first time. They teamed up with Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist in MSR’s winning effort this year.
Two Rolex 24 victories since last January and his record fourth Indy 500 victory last May are the milestones of a late-career renaissance for Castroneves, 46.
“When you have passion, when you love what you’re doing, you have to keep doing it,” Castroneves said. “There’s no reason for you to keep listening to noises. As long as I keep going, I have no problem.
“I’m motivated. I’m excited. I want to follow my dreams and keep going, and today another one on the to-do list.
Castroneves rode the No. 60 Acura MSR to a 3.028-second win over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura driven by former Penske IMSA teammate Ricky Taylor. NTT INDYCAR SERIES star and 2016 Indy 500 winner Rossi was part of the No.10 driver lineup this year as WTR sought its fourth straight overall win.
The two-hour race around the clock ended in a four-car battle in the final hour between the two Acuras, the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac and the No. 31 Cadillac Action Express. -The four cars have traded leads in the past hour on the 3.56-mile “roval” that includes part of the 2.5-mile Daytona Oval.
During a full caution for a broken down GT Daytona car, the two Cadillacs decided to refuel. That left Castroneves and Taylor ahead for the Acuras’ restart.
The duo drifted apart on the restart. Taylor applied fierce pressure on Castroneves with around 15 minutes remaining, but Castroneves took a slight advantage seven minutes from time as Taylor slowed after both cars drove through slower traffic.
Castroneves held on to that advantage to the finish, taking a win for MSR on the 10th anniversary of his first and previous Rolex 24 victory.
“Ricky, I taught you a lot (as teammates) in three years with Acura, but I didn’t teach you everything,” Castroneves said. “I have to keep some under my sleeve. Amazing job for everyone. I never thought I would climb the fence at Daytona, and today I made that dream come true.
Herta earned his second career victory in the Rolex 24 class, as he was also part of the GTLM class-winning BMW fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2019.
The win came after a fierce duel late in the race with the #8 Tower Motorsport ORECA driven by Louis Deletraz on his final stint.
Herta led Deletraz by just 0.8 seconds when he made a pitstop with 63 minutes left. Deletraz stopped soon after and Herta took a three-second lead until a cautionary period with 50 minutes to go.
Deletraz emerged with the lead from the pit stops under caution. After the final restart, Herta began chasing Deletraz, catching him with 10 minutes to go.
The two cars were neck and neck on the straight before entering the new Le Mans Chicane. Herta dove on the inside with a late braking maneuver, with Deletraz bouncing on the grass on the inside of the turn.
Herta then took a seven-second win over the #29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA which included NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner Rinus VeeKay in its four-driver lineup. Deletraz spoke to Herta after the race to express his displeasure at the decisive move that dropped the Tower Motorsport car to third place at the finish, but Herta was unrepentant.
“He wasn’t really happy with the move,” Herta said. “I thought it was clean. I was at his side. Two inside the bus stop (chicane) just don’t go there, and I had the inside line. It’s unfortunate “I didn’t want the race to end like this for them. But those things happen, I guess.”