Fun, fast JPM, Cameron earn Acura Team Penske DPi crown

October 23, 2019

Fun, fast JPM, Cameron earn Acura Team Penske DPi crown

October 23, 2019

Individually, Team Penske and Juan Pablo Montoya have accomplished a lot over the course of their careers.

Penske’s incredible breadth of race win and championship success spans more than 50 years. But it’s not unfair to say that for nearly half that time frame, Montoya’s been just as versatile in racking up the accolades.

It seemed only a matter of time, then, that the two of them would achieve even more together, while also working with one of this generation’s truly new sports car stars in Dane Cameron.

The unified trio of Montoya, Cameron and Penske then controlled the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi season and won the title in their No. 6 Acura ARX-05.


In the process, something random happened.

They all had fun.

…versus reality.

That is a three-letter phrase that like BoP, is rarely uttered in a positive context or even offered up over the course of a season.

Yet from start-to-finish, it seemed as though Montoya and Cameron’s positive momentum and performance on track translated into positive and humorous vibes off track.

Part of that may stem from “The Penske Games,” Team Penske’s social media series of fun, quirky competition videos that builds team spirit among all its IMSA, IndyCar, NASCAR and Supercar programs. Montoya willing jumped in a ball pit and rode a kid’s tricycle, for goodness sake.

Anyone who’d followed his early career as a rookie IndyCar champion, a rookie Indianapolis 500 winner and the young Formula 1 driver who quickly developed as a thorn in Michael Schumacher’s side would have doubted that JPM would have emerged.

Another part of it may come from Montoya’s enjoyment of moments not just as a driver, but as a father. He’s taken more time to foster son Sebastian’s go-karting career, and the teenager has quickly blossomed into an up-and-coming driver set for a formula car transition.

Cameron, too, has proven adept at matching Montoya’s high-level volume and intensity with stealth-like deadpan humor and a similar knockout punch driving behind the wheel. Like JPM, he’s a father and takes as much pride in that as he does what he can on track.

There rarely seemed a moment where these two were off beat all year. Both set qualifying record laps, Cameron at Sebring and Road America with Montoya at Detroit. Both drivers pushed each other in the races, too. They built a string of seven consecutive podium finishes spanning the length of the two California races, from Long Beach in April through Monterey in September. That podium run included back-to-back wins at Mid-Ohio and Detroit, and the third in Monterey.

#6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, team

Once the No. 6 car took the checkered flag at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in October, a palpable sense of relief came over the pairing. They had dominated the season. But they had to withstand one final surge from Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran in their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. They were able to win the pole, win the race and close to within five points.

#6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Simon Pagenaud, team

“It was probably a lot more stressful than we hoped,” Montoya admitted. “Actually I think we were really surprised. They keep adjusting the BOP because we were running really good.

“This is a horsepower track so it was really hard. A really hard day. All weekend we were stressed. We were in a position that we knew, it was good enough that we had a big enough advantage that we needed to finish eighth. But one mistake and you’re done.”

Cameron added, “It’s cool too because Juan was the first guy to drive this car ever. It’s really cool to just win the championship for something you’ve had so much influence in its development and its growth. This is a nice rebound from the learning year we had last year to come back and win three races and win the title, it’s fantastic.”

They had a ringer as third driver, too, in this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner and past IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud. Coincidentally, Pagenaud had also been Cameron’s third driver for Cameron’s first Prototype championship in 2016, when Cameron and Curran were Whelen’s full-season drivers in a Corvette DP car. Cameron also won an IMSA GT Daytona championship with Turner Motorsport in a BMW Z4 GT3 in 2014.

Pagenaud licked his chops at being back in an Acura prototype.

Pagenaud has had the opposite career to Cameron and Montoya. The full-season pair have migrated to sports cars. Cameron shifted after a couple years (and a Star Mazda title) on the way trying to get to IndyCar. Montoya joined IMSA after his diverse career in IndyCar, F1 and NASCAR.

But Pagenaud’s career springboard came from sports cars, and eventually led him to IndyCar. For three years, he and Montoya were Team Penske IndyCar teammates, and he watched Montoya barely miss the 2015 IndyCar title while he then went on to win the 2016 IndyCar crown.

“For me it was obviously very stressful,” the introspective Frenchman reflected. “Not more than Indy, but obviously you come in for three races, the long runs. It’s just a support role really. At the end of the day you have to adapt to whatever cars your teammates like. They’ve done the job all season long. I’ve watched every race. And I know the work they put in.

“It was very important for me I was able to bring the car back with one piece. Maybe I started a bit timid but I got back into a good rhythm mid-race and was able to provide a good job. It’s actually our second championship with Dane. For me personally, I’m a little part of it, and last time I was a little part of it

“IMSA had been for me my propeller in the career here in the US. It’s because of IMSA I am where I am.”

The fun built to a crescendo with a punchy and memorable press conference for those fortunate enough to witness it.

And Cameron and Pagenaud were able to poke fun at Montoya’s expense, in revealing the Colombian’s transformation over his career.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s fun,” Montoya said.

“When you join Team Penske and you come – I did IndyCar with them, we won the Indy 500, came so close in the championship.

“When you come to this program, they expect this. It is great we won it, but if we didn’t, we’d be disappointed.

“Honestly for me it’s great. I love the cars, I love the series. I can’t complain.”

Cameron and Pagenaud burst into laughter at that last line.

The fact Montoya was game enough to laugh at himself, as his teammates were, spoke volumes of the fun factor they all enjoyed en route to the title.

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