Prestigious Podiums: Laguna Seca Ends In Chaos, Two Late Class Lead Changes

Team Penske secured their 100th sportscar win, resting aside the team's dark spell the past few weeks.
Josef Newgarden speeds through the road course portion of the track on day two of IMSA testing at
Josef Newgarden speeds through the road course portion of the track on day two of IMSA testing at / Nigel Cook/News-Journal / USA TODAY

It was a frantic finish in IMSA's closing California race, witnessing the GTD & GTP classes finishing with late race lead changes, allowing for milestone wins/podiums for a handful of teams.

The #7 Porshce Penske Porsche 963 (Nick Tandy/Mathieu Jaminet) scored Penske's 100th race win in fortunate situation following a traffic jam for #31 Whelen Cadilac Racing entry (Jack Aitken/Felipe Nasr).

Down in the GT classes, GTD Pro saw fan favorite "Rexy" grab the podium off a pass on the #9 Pfaff McLaren in the Andretti hairpin, controling a sizeable lead in the final hour.

The other late race pass came in GTD. The #557 Turner Motorsports BMW saw Patrick Gallagher get into some trouble off contact with Jordan Taylor's #40 WTR Acura, resulting in Gallagher having to take avasive action and go in the gravel.

This move allowed for the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG of Russell Ward to take the win for the team, their third on the season.

Winward's The Word

Winward Racing is seeing double here in 2024 following a similar 2023 season in the GTD class by Paul Miller Racing.

For Winward, this win marks the team's third in the season's four races so far, and while their is still a long way to go until the championship weekend in October, the GTD class is seeing shades of 2023.

Last season, the #1 Paul Miller Racing team (Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow) went on a tear, winning over half of the season's races in 2023 and cementing themselves as one of the top GTD teams on the grid.

While Paul Miller Racing decided to take their talents to GTD Pro, Winward Racing has showed signs of a 2024 season that mimic that of the BMW group, but it may still be to early to tell.

Winward has always had the pace and this stretch to open the season proves just that, really allowing for the team to blossom the season.

The GTD class isn't as strong as some of the other classes amongst the field.

When Paul Miller made the switch up a class, we knew that the landscape of the GTD class would look different but Winward has rewritten the narrative.

Overall, Ellis and Ward ran a very comendable race and stayed out of trouble all weekend.

Turner Motorsports was looking to capatalize on a monumental race win in their own right, celebrating the team's 557th start with BMW, a all-time record for the brand, but those last few minutes really shuffled things up and quite franfly was the story of the weekend.

Nevertheless, Winward Racing has been the team to beat in GTD and right now, it looks like their may be no stopping them.

Corvette Comeback?

It had been a struggling season for the yellow-liveried fleet of Cheverolet Corvettes across both GTD Pro & GTDs.

Following AWA's announcement of the team subsidizing to a one-car operation, hopes looked bleak for one of the premier manufactuerers on the grid.

GM as a whole has a great run this season, primarily in GTP racing with Cadillac but with the unknown cirmunstances with the brand, Corvette needed to step up and they did.

This weekend was a refreshing glimpse of the potential resurgence for the iconic American sportscar.

The #4 Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller team (Tommy Milner/Nicky Catsburg) had a respectable podium finish, finishing 3rd in the GTD Pro class.

The #3 entry for the team and the #13 AWA Corvette trailed back a bit amongst the field but solid qualifying for manufacturers factory program sets up for optimism heading into Detroit.

The same can't be said for their rival counterpart, Ford, who struggled to find pace this weekend at Laguna Seca. But, going to the Motor City may be the blue oval's chance to see its three car fleet make a splash for the first time this season.

Corvette though put together a solid weekend and may have submitted themselves back into the mix for a championship in the GTD Pro class.

Final Thoughts

Laguna Seca was drama-filled, a testiment to the weekend that was in racing but it does prepare for an interesting weekend incoming in Detroit.

Having IMSA back in the Motor City is going to be a treat and this step on the road back to Detroit at Laguna Seca is great way to conclude.

Teams are preparing for a busy month between Le Mans, IMSA and potentially IndyCar depending on the team's involvement in other racing series.

Laguna Seca though showed that prestige of winning at the circuit is still their and the new race surface created for an exciting style.