From Drivers to Owners, All Corners of IMSA Buzzing Over Return to Mid-Ohio

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By: Christian Ryan

For the first time since 2013, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will showcase the pinnacle of its namesake.

The iconic racing venue hosts the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio this weekend, and the motorsports world is buzzing about the return of professional sports car racing to the course. From the grandstands and camping grounds up into the team paddocks, excitement is mounting from all corners of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Series.

“It’s going to be a huge deal for us,” said Michael Shank, Ohio native and owner of Meyer Shank Racing. “I was doing whatever I could do as an owner of a team in IMSA to get the spark re-lit here. I am super, super happy to say that we’ll be here.”

The anticipation is spreading from these owner offices and into the cockpit, as the track brings back a lot of memories for North America’s finest sports car drivers. Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya began his American racing career at the course in 1993, scoring a CART win at the course in 1999. This year’s Rolex 24 overall winner Joao Barbosa stands as the weekend’s defending champion, having won the course’s GRAND-AM event in 2013.

For 3GT driver and 2011 Mid-Ohio race winner Kyle Marcelli, the time was right for a return for racing fans.

“The circuit has ‘Sports Car’ right in the name, so it’s a place that’s used to hosting sports car events,” Marcelli says. “You see everything from Lexus, to Porsche, to Ferrari, to Mercedes, and we’re going head to head. So for those sports car enthusiasts, it’s really exciting.”

For other drivers, the prospect of tackling a new challenge at a track that has been missing from the series schedule is another level of excitement altogether. Ricky Taylor is utilizing the experience of his teammate, two-time Mid-Ohio winner Helio Castroneves, in preparation of tackling the historic circuit.

“Having that experience really helps to get on pace,” Taylor says of his teammate, noting the anticipation of a shorter, action-packed sprint race. “For us, this is one that we’re all really excited about. Just the way that the track is should really suit our Acura prototype… We’re really looking forward to settling in to the sprint race part of our season.”

The excitement of returning to the track for the teams is almost secondary to that of providing sports car racing action for Mid-Ohio fans once again.

“The last time sports car racing was at Mid-Ohio, when it was the American Le Mans Series, the car counts were sort of dwindling,” Marcelli notes of the track’s last sports car event. “It’s going to be a completely different environment this year for the fans. Every category is maxed out for car count, so all of the best manufacturers are there. It’s really good racing this year.”

With the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio comes a showcase of the growth of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship. Boasting an entry list brimming with top racing minds and machines, fans will be met with the sports car action that they crave in a whole new experience.

“People want to see some diversity, and they’re going to get that,” Shank says. “It’s great racing, it’s close racing, hard racing, they bang against each other sometimes. It’s very competitive. IMSA do a good job keeping competition close, so that at the end of the race there’s maybe six cars going for the win in all of the classes.”

“This year’s car count is wonderful,” Marcelli adds. “From the Prototype category right down to GT Daytona, every class is stacked with top teams, drivers, and manufacturers. It’s going to be a good show.”

In a series with such iconic events, it is high time that the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course reclaims its rightful place as a marquee event in North American sports car racing. For the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship, the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio is sure to become a crown jewel.

“For us, this is one that we’re all really excited about,” Taylor says. “Just the way that the track is should really suit our Acura prototype… Of any of the races, this is one I’ve really been looking forward to.”

The green flag flies for the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sunday, May 6 at 1:05pm ET. For more event times, see the full event schedule

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