Jenson Button Was Almost Chosen to Drive for Penske-Acura in 2018
IMSA champion Ricky Taylor will now compete with Helio Castroneves instead next season.
Recent news broke that Ricky Taylor, this season's IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar prototype series champion, will be joining Team Penske next season. The announcement that he would be leaving his father's crew, Wayne Taylor Racing, was major in the sense that he will be competing with some of the sport's top competitors in Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Dane Cameron. However, things were almost much different as former Formula 1 champion Jenson Button was also in discussions to join the Penske outfit before "other circumstances" kept him from entering next season with the Acura prototype team.
Button is familiar with Honda/Acura as he has spent a total of eight years working in collaboration with the company during his career. This, Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr admits, made it a close call on who to hire for the team's newfound IMSA efforts, Motorsport.com reports.
“We were looking at a lot of different dynamics when we were putting this together," he admitted, according to Motorsport.com. "Of course, someone with Jenson Button's talent and also his pedigree with Honda is definitely someone that we had considered."
However, St. Cyr concluded that there were additional aspects that factored into the team's decision to hire Taylor instead.
“...There were other circumstances that precluded him from being part of this program...We are extremely happy, and we think we got the right six to really compete for a championship right now. One of the things that we talked about is we wanted to pair experienced drivers in other series with people that are experienced in IMSA.”
The list of six drivers St. Cyr mentioned in his statements includes Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Dane Cameron, Graham Rahal, Helio Castroneves, and of course, Ricky Taylor. This just might be the most powerful lineup in the prototype field given the group's experience and winning pedigree, one that should be majorly successful if the Acura prototype car lives up to the hype.
Button could potentially race in Japan's Super-GT full-time under the Acura banner. It's believed that he has been offered a spot to run a NSX race car during the season whose calendar would have allowed for IMSA appearances at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.