Dane Cameron, AJ Allmendinger combine forces with new Acura team in Rolex 24
Dane Cameron and AJ Allmendinger each will approach the 59th annual Rolex 24 with a different perspective, but the goal is the same.
One driver has experience with the car; the other has experience with the team. This Saturday and Sunday, Cameron and Allmendinger hope to combine that knowledge and create a winning combination in the 59th Rolex 24 at Daytona.
If they can, it will be one of the more compelling storylines of the race.
After three years racing an Acura ARX-05, Cameron was out of a ride when Acura and Team Penske announced they were severing ties after the 2020 season.
Penske’s championship success in 2019 with the No. 6 of Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya, who combined for three victories and seven podiums, seemed a distant memory. Last year they went winless with three podiums and finished a distant sixth in the championship.
But the exit of Penske created an opportunity for Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) to move up to DPi with Acura. In 2020, MSR competed in the GTD class, but with Penske’s equipment and Honda’s support available in the premier division, it made for an easier transition.
Of course, having one of IMSA’s top drivers didn’t hurt matters either. Cameron came with the equipment.
“It felt like home,” Cameron told reporters in a Zoom news conference last Thursday from Daytona International Speedway. "(The car) felt exactly like I remembered. This chassis that we’re running right now was the No. 6 car at Sebring. It got pushed straight across to (MSR) right after the 12 Hours. It’s my same seat. It’s the same interior as it was the year before and it drove quite similar, so I felt at home right away.”
Cameron, Montoya and Simon Pagenaud finished second in class in the season finale - on the same lap as the winner Mazda Motorsports.
This year Cameron will once again partner with Montoya plus Olivier Pla and Allmendinger for the twice-around-the-clock spectacle.
Allmendinger came with the team. He has raced the Rolex 24 at Daytona for car owner Michael Shank in 15 seasons. Last year he finished eighth in the GTD class. In 2012, he won the Rolex 24 in the top division Daytona Prototypes with Shank.
“The Rolex 24 hour race is very prestigious,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to win it one time.
“I love coming to the race but I really associate this race with Mike Shank. I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else. It’s still an honor and a privilege that he allows me - and more importantly believes in me - to go out there and race his car still.”
Cameron’s role with his new team has been to provide continuity - to provide Meyer Shank engineers a touchstone. He is there not only to turn fast laps on the weekend, but to let them know what this generation of Prototypes needs.
“It’s been my job to support them and say we’re on the right track or not on the right track - that the feeling of the car is right, which it has been throughout,” Cameron said. “It’s also cool to have a different set of eyes on the car - some different ideas with the engineering group here.
"(The car has) been only at Team Penske before, with the same couple of guys working on it, so now to have some new ideas into the car is really good. They’re still getting their heads around the car at this point - and Daytona is kind of unique for what it takes for the chassis here - so more into the thick of it as we get onto more traditional road courses.
“It unloaded really strong when we tested here - felt every bit like I remembered - and they were able to sink their teeth into it and make a few changes they had in mind. That was fun for me try a couple of new things.”