DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Team Penske is the motorsports equivalent of the New York Yankees, New England Patriots or Manchester United.
They don’t win every year, but fans of these teams and those within each organization expect to compete for and win championships. So, what Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron did in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was meet the high expectations placed on them as season-long co-drivers of the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05.
“I think it becomes a little bit expected when you’re at Team Penske that you’re going to win all the races and win the championships,” Cameron confirmed. “But at the same token, nothing really makes (team owner) Roger (Penske) happier than getting those championships, getting those race wins and winning those marquee races.”
In that sense, 2019 was a banner year. Cameron and Montoya scored the first WeatherTech Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) championship in just the team’s second year fielding the Acura-supported program.
Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden won the 2019 IndyCar championship and Simon Pagenaud (who also co-drives the No. 6 Acura DPi in endurance races) won the 2019 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske. And Down Under, Scott McLaughlin picked up his second consecutive Australian Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske.
However, whereas the team already had multiple IndyCar, Australian Supercar and NASCAR Cup Series championships – in addition to several Borg-Warner (Indy 500) and Harley J. Earl (Daytona 500) trophies – Montoya and Cameron delivered the team’s first Bishop-France Trophy emblematic of its WeatherTech Championship in 2019.
Montoya knows what it’s like to bring home a crown jewel to Team Penske, which he did at the 2015 Indianapolis 500. He’s also got plenty of experience with other legendary teams like Williams and McLaren in F1 and Chip Ganassi Racing in everything from IndyCars to NASCAR to sports cars.
And the common thread between them?
“People,” he said. “It’s all about the people. People in the right places and how much they really want to do and get the job done. This is like every company. It’s having the people in the right places.”
Montoya and Cameron found themselves in the right places a lot in 2019. They won three races – Mid-Ohio, Detroit and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – and really built their championship with a run of seven consecutive podium finishes from Round 3 at Long Beach through the penultimate round win at WeatherTech Raceway.
“A big factor in our success this year was just how consistent we were across all the different types of tracks, be it four-mile road courses or just over mile-and-a-half street courses,” Cameron said. “We were strong on both of them and had pole positions on the biggest tracks and the smallest tracks.
“I think that level of consistency and that amount of performance that we had allowed us to do that. When you get guys comfortable – like Juan and I were very, very comfortable in the car and very happy in the car – then you’re able to kind of drive for that next level and get even more out of everything. So, everything kind of came together in that regard.”
With the 2019 season in the rearview mirror, Cameron, Montoya and the rest of Acura Team Penske are already hard at work preparing for the 2020 season. And it starts with another one of those crown jewels the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26.
Montoya already has three Rolex 24 wins, but another one would move him into rarified air, as only five drivers have four or more overall victories in the annual twice-around-the-clock classic. However, he’s more interested in getting Cameron his first Rolex 24 win and Team Penske its first since way back in 1969.
“I don’t think about it,” says Montoya of his legacy. “You tell me we can go and run – I don’t know – some kind of car somewhere and I’d go, ‘Oh yeah! Let’s do that!’ You know what I mean? I love racing and whatever I’m doing, I want to win. Whether it’s Daytona, it’s Indy, whatever I’ve done, I’m just competitive. I love what I do. I love driving the car.
“I mean, it’d be awesome to win. You know, Dane hasn’t won it, so it’d be great to get Dane’s first and to give Acura a win here as well. It’d be pretty amazing.”