IMSA • October 05, 2016
Eric Curran, Christine Whelen, Sonny Whelen and Dane Cameron celebrate their 2016 Championship
In the final race of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the Action Express Racing team collected another Prototype class driver's championship following Saturday's (Oct. 1) Petit Le Mans.
Co-drivers Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, along with recently crowned IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud, guided the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP to a fourth-place finish in the 10-hour endurance race at the 12-turn, 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit. The finish clinched the IMSA driver's title for Cameron and Curran - the first Prototype title for both drivers, as well as the first Prototype title for a Whelen-backed car.
It marks the third consecutive driver's championship for Action Express in the IMSA Prototype class. In addition to this year's title for Cameron and Curran, in each of the past two years (2014 and 2015) Action Express teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi earned the driver's championship driving the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP.
"Our Chevy Corvette was unbelievable, Dane is unbelievable as a co-driver and the support we get from Sonny Whelen and Whelen Engineering is just phenomenal," said Curran, following the race. "This is going to take some time to sink in. It's a great opportunity for Dane (Cameron) and I to drive this Whelen Corvette DP for Action Express. All the guys at Action Express have worked so hard. We came so close last year and we felt like it was our championship to lose this year. It wasn't a perfect season, but everything came together."
Heading into the season-finale at Road Atlanta, Cameron and Curran in the No. 31 entry had a one point lead over Barbosa and Fittipaldi in the No. 5 race car in the championship standings. A streak of four consecutive races in which both cars recorded top-three finishes put the two entries at the top of the standings with the season-finale at Road Atlanta remaining.
In the penultimate race on the schedule at the Circuit of Americas (COTA) in Texas, Cameron and Curran recorded a second-place finish and teammates Barbosa and Fittipaldi crossed the finish line third. The results at COTA moved Cameron and Curran and their Whelen Engineering No. 31 race car to the top of the standings.
Before COTA, Action Express had a three race winning streak. Cameron and Curran won at Wisconsin's Road America (Aug. 7) and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (July 10). In both races, Barbosa and Fittipaldi recorded runner-up results. The finishing positions for the two Action Express entries were reversed in the race before Canada, at New York's Watkins Glen International (July 3), where the No. 5 (Barbosa and Fittipaldi) crossed the finish line ahead of the No. 31 (Cameron and Curran).
"I'm really grateful to Sonny Whelen and everyone at Action Express Racing for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization," said Cameron, after the race. "We had a rough start this year at Daytona, and then had a couple of strong races and a bunch of podiums. It took us awhile to get our first win. We had a bit of a setback in Detroit that put us back in the points, but from there we were trying to claw our way back. It felt like we were just digging and digging to get out of the hole (in the points). We finally made it out at COTA, although it wasn't by much.
"Coming to a 10-hour race is nerve-wracking," added Cameron. "Traffic is difficult at Petit Le Mans, but we knew we had a good game plan, and our Corvette DP was solid. We knew what our strengths were and tried to just worry about ourselves. We were able to do that and come away with the title. I'm really speechless. I'm really proud to be a part of this team. It's pretty amazing."
"Winning a third straight Patrón Cup is a great achievement," said Fittipaldi. "And we still finished second in the championship standings, which is not a bad accomplishment. I want to congratulate Dane and Eric and the No. 31 team on winning the title. It's a great accomplishment for the entire Action Express Racing team."
"Having both our race cars win championships is a great accomplishment for our Action Express Racing team," said team manager Gary Nelson. "Obviously everyone sees Dane, Eric, Joao and Christian driving our race cars - and they all do a great job. We do our best to support them behind the scenes with a fantastic team of engineers, crew chiefs, mechanics and pit crew. It's a real tribute to the entire team that both cars won championships this year."
The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will begin at Daytona International Speedway with the 24 Hours of Daytona, Jan. 28 to 29, 2017.
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