Extreme Speed Motorsports was victorious in the penultimate race of its longtime partnership with Tequila Patron thanks to a little luck and a daring drive by Pipo Derani at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
- Results: 2018 America’s Tire 250
With two hours complete and 40 minutes on the clock, Tequila Patron ESM’s fellow DPi competitor Mazda Team Joest owned the overall lead after Harry Tincknell moved the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P into control of the race.
Just five minutes later, disappointment struck Mazda at what used to be its namesake racetrack as contact with AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ new ORECA 07 resulted in a spin for Tincknell. Derani swiped the lead in the No. 22 Nissan Onroak DPi and didn’t surrender it for the final 26 of 103 total laps.
By a margin of 10.9 seconds over Colin Braun in CORE autosport’s ORECA, Derani secured ESM’s first victory since March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, held nearly a full six months ago.
Derani was faced with an uphill battle to move forward through the field after he spun while attempting a Turn 1 pass following one of the race’s four full-course cautions.
A strategic move by CORE saw Braun’s co-driver Jon Bennett slow and stop their LMP2 machine on track before entering pit lane and handing the car off to Braun having perfectly met his 30-minute drive time.
Braun exited the pits just as the field was taking the green flag on a restart. Aided by the dropping out of Team Penske’s No. 7 Acura ARX-05 with suspension damage, Braun reached the front of the flagship Prototype field, turning a 1:16.914 to set the race’s fastest lap in the process.
Formerly a frontrunner, the No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R placed fifth, allowing Braun and Bennett to significantly reduce the points lead held by Action Express Racing drivers Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr. Entering October’s Motul Petit Le Mans finale, the No. 31 Cadillac DPi holds an advantage of just four points over the CORE entry.
Though the No. 6 Acura DPi fell to 10th in class and 15th overall, Juan Pablo Montoya ensured Penske reached the podium as he speed under the checkered flag 2.5 seconds after second-placed Braun.
Tincknell recovered from his spin to finish fourth as the top Mazda driver. Beyond Nasr in the No. 31 Cadillac, the top 10 was completed by JDC-Miller Motorsports drivers Stephen Simpson and Simon Trummer, AFS/PR1 Mathiasen’s Gustavo Yacaman, Tristan Nunez in the No. 77 Mazda DPi after a disastrous pit stop and Ricky Taylor in the No. 6 Acura.
The pole-sitting Cadillac of Wayne Taylor Racing stopped on track following a gearbox failure, leading to a 12th-place result. Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque of Action Express’ No. 5 car, meanwhile, never took the green flag due to a severe crash at the initial start that also took out multiple GT Le Mans cars. The No. 5 car earned no points as a result.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return to action Oct. 10–13 at Road Atlanta for the 10-hour finale race.