Helio Castroneves kept the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 ahead of the field during the final 30 minutes to lift MSR and co-drivers Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Simon Pagenaud to victory Sunday in the 60th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
The win led to Castroneves’ signature celebratory move of climbing the fence, which he made famous during four Indianapolis 500 wins.
“It sounds cliche, but it’s all about believing,” Castroneves said. “I believe in them, they believe in me. This is exactly what is happening with this group here. With Simon, with Tom and with Oliver – we all believed that we could do it.”
It was Castroneves’ second consecutive Rolex 24 victory. Last year, he won the race as part of Wayne Taylor Racing, then climbed a fence in Victory Lane. This time, Castroneves fought off the No. 10 WTR Acura and driver Ricky Taylor to win, then stopped at the start-finish line and climbed the catch fence.
“That was absolutely incredible,” Castroneves said. “I’m so happy for the entire group. Everyone did their job. At the end, I said, ‘Put me in, Coach.’ It was great.”
The victory ended Wayne Taylor Racing’s bid to win the race for a record fourth consecutive time. As the Meyer Shank Racing celebration moved from the fence to the pits, Wayne Taylor was among the first to congratulate his former driver.
The trip to the top of the podium continued the resurgence of the career of Castroneves, 46. After winning last year’s Rolex 24 with WTR, Castroneves went on to win the Indy 500 with MSR, tying A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears for most Indy 500 wins in a career.
“It’s priceless,” Castroneves said. “In my case, I’m still very passionate about it and learning every day … and improving my driving skills. That’s what makes me a better driver. That’s why I enjoy it. That’s why when I go out there I push as hard as I can.”
Taylor finished 3.028 seconds behind Castroneves for WTR teammates Filipe Albuquerque, Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi. The 1-2 Acura sweep came 18 hours after both cars fell off the lead lap and trailed the five Cadillacs in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class.
Loic Duval brought the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi-V.R in third place with teammates Tristan Vautier, Richard Westbrook and Ben Keating.
The key to winning may have been the run by Blomqvist before Castroneves’ finishing run. Blomqvist got the No. 60 car into the lead with a back-and-forth duel with Taylor, then handed it to Castroneves.
“I was speechless after the race,” Blomqvist said. “I’ve dreamt of it. Did I believe? Yes. But you never know. It’s 24 hours of relentless racing. Every time I jumped in the car at moments I felt really comfortable and moments when I was like, ‘Man, I can’t get this car to work. It was just a rollercoaster of a race.”
NASCAR ties to this year’s Rolex 24 included seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and No. 2 Team Penske Ford rookie driver Austin Cindric. Johnson and the No. 48 Ally/Action Express Cadillac DPi, also driven by Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez, finished 11th overall and fifth in the DPi class. During the overnight hours, Johnson was forced to take the car to the garage for repairs after suspension issues.
Cindric drove the No. 15 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to 23rd in the overall classification, sharing driving duties with Patrick Assenheimer and Dirk Müller.
The No. 60 Meyer-Shank Racing Acura DPi finished the 24-hour race with a total of 761 laps completed.