Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Added Pressure at Long Beach for Acura Team Penske

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH, California– Acura picked up the title sponsorship for Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race on the streets of Long Beach but in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Acura has a large presence with Acura Team Penske and the pressure is on to win Saturday’s BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

The Southern California Toyota dealer association sponsored the classic street circuit race but with the new sponsorship, the pressure is on at Team Penske to put their Acura ARX-05 DPi machines in victory lane. So far the team has done well with Helio Castroneves qualifying the No. 7 entry on pole position and Juan Pablo Montoya qualifying the No. 6 entry in third.

However, the more remarkable idea is that some drivers feel more pressure while others don’t.

“I would say not pressure but expectation,” said Castroneves, winner of the 2001 Indy car race at Long Beach. “It’s an event that everyone wants to win no matter if Acura is sponsoring but it’s definitely an expectation that we should deliver a win.”

Castroneves’s co-driver Ricky Taylor felt otherwise when asked if he felt more pressure given the Acura signage and activation.

“Yeah, of course, any time that your car manufacturer’s sponsoring the event it adds some pressure and some pride to the effort,” said Taylor. “We visited HPD and American Honda over the week so just to see all the people and effort that goes into it adds the pressure. It does but at the same time I think it also gives you some good confidence for the week.”

Montoya’s co-driver Dane Cameron agreed with Castroneves.

“There’s always enough of an expectation to win when you’re in one of Roger Penske’s race cars to overcome,” said Cameron. “[I’m] just really really encouraged to see Acura’s continued involvement and growth in this sport and it’s cool to see them step up to the plate and become a title sponsor of such a great event here in Long Beach.”

The team visited HPD and American Honda’s factory in Torrance during the week and was able to meet with various Honda North American staff members, including Jon Ikeda, Vice President and Brand Officer at Acura.

“It’s great, we get to go every year but just to see kind of where everything happens,” said Taylor. “Obviously being east coast-based with Penske to see all the effort that goes on at HPD, it’s always interesting to see where the speed comes from on the engine side and some of the other bits.”

The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach will air live on NBCSN at 2:00 pm PT, 5:00 pm ET.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.