top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Sheena Monk equals personal best in IMSA with P4 at Long Beach

"It looked like for a minute we were really close to getting on the podium" – Sheena Monk and her Gradient Racing teammate Stevan McAleer charged from dead last to fourth at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which equalled Sheena's career best in IMSA and gained her the top Bronze Cup award.


Sheena Monk, Gradient Racing, IMSA, 2024 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Photo credits: Acura Motorsport

Sheena Monk and teammate Stevan McAleer claimed a remarkable fourth place finish at the iconic Long Beach Grand Prix after a stellar charge from the back of the field, which saw the new Gradient Racing driver pairing recovering from an engine change to finishing on the doorsteps of the podium in the third round of the IMSA Sports Car Championship.


Monk had previously shared the #66 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 with long-time mentor Katherine Legge, in an all female crew that also included Tatiana Calderon for the Michelin Endurance Cup racers. A program change for Legge – who recently announced her return to the Indianapolis 500 in a Dale Coyne Racing entry – resulted in the return of Stevan McAleer, who had previously joined the team at the Rolex 24H of Daytona.


After a highly positive debut season for Monk in the GTD class of North America's premier sports car championship, where she and Legge were often in contention for an elusive podium, expectations were high for a sophomore campaign in the highly competitive GTD field. Unfortunately, retirements at the first two rounds of the 2024 season at Daytona and Sebring interrupted a streak of point scoring finishes; a big accident at the 12H of Sebring – where Legge was pushed by a GTP prototype into the wall – resulted in a new chassis ahead of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which hosted the first sprint race of the season.


Monk took over driving duties for the first practice session, setting a 1:19.689 that put the #66 Acura P14 in the GTD field. Sheena made more progress in the second session, before Stevan McAleer put in a 1:18.259 lap which moved the Gradient Racing squad to the top of the timing sheets.

While Monk should have tackled qualifying on Friday afternoon, an engine change forced the team to sit out the session – and therefore the JG Wentworth-sponsored Acura would have to recover from the very back of the field in Saturday's race.


Taking the start for her second Grand Prix of Long Beach, bronze-rated Sheena Monk had a great getaway at lights out and cleared two cars already into the first tricky corner, while the two Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Thompson and Montecalvo led the pack after a dominant qualifying for the Japanese brand. Montecalvo, though, had changed lane before the green flag and would receive a drive through penalty.


Albert Costa (Conquest Racing Ferrari) had meanwhile got ahead of Montecalvo for second, with Danny Formal (WTR with Andretti Lamborghini) up to third. By lap 3, Sheena Monk had found a way past Elias Sabo, Kerong Li and Orey Fidani – and was improving her pace to catch Jarett Andretti in the #43 Andretti Motorsports Porsche.


Sheena Monk, Gradient Racing, IMSA, 2024 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Photo credits: Jake Galstad / Acura Motorsport

Sheena was very cautious as the GTP traffic approached, but decisive enough to close in on the car ahead. She would move up to P11 on lap 8, when Brendan Iribe's Inception McLaren hit the wall and was collected by the Wright Motorsports Porsche of Adam Adelson. The safety car was deployed and, after a short caution, Monk was ready to resume her chase with 1 hour and 17 minutes to go.


Monk continued to follow closely the Porsche, while at the same time she had the fast recovering Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Montecalvo to keep at bay, after the pole sitter could close back with the pack under caution. Sheena held her own brilliantly throughout the rest of the stint, before she took to the pitlane on lap 23, when she handed over to Stevan McAleer – having charged from 17th to from 12th.


Sadly the Andretti Porsche had held them up in traffic and Anders Fjordbach (MDK Motorsports Porsche) was back ahead after the pit stop – as McAleer rejoined in P12. He gained one more position when the Winward Racing Mercedes received a penalty for a pit stop infraction – and then had the chance to close back in with the rest of the pack when the safety car was out for the accident of Louis Deletraz's WTR Acura prototype on lap 30.


With a spectacular restart, the #66 Acura leapfrogged both the Andretti and the MDK Motorsports Porsches: McAleer now chased Hawksworth in the #12 Lexus after setting his personal best sectors. The Gradient Acura gained another spot when Hawksworth clipped the wall and damaged his left rear suspension; now up to eighth, McAleer further improved the car's best lap and, just as he was trying to close in on Kyle Marcelli, a pile up at the final hairpin gave him the chance to pick up more positions. He navigated through the traffic triggered by a contact between Loris Spinelli and Mathieau Jaminet's Porsche and grabbed fifth in GTD. McAleer further climbed to fourth when the Forte Racing Lamborghini was handed a drive through for the incident.


With 15 minutes to go, the #25 BMW hypercar of Connor de Phillippi crashed into the barriers and triggered another full course yellow. In the final minutes, McAleer had the podium within reach - but at the same time he had to defend from Corey Lewis' Proton Mustang.


After 1 hour and 50 minutes of extremely close racing, the #66 JG Wentworth Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 of Sheena Monk and Stevan McAleer completed a stellar recovery from the back of the grid to cross the finish line in fourth place – banking important points for the championship. As the top Bronze Cup team, Monk and McAleer also took top honor in the Bob Akin Award.


Sheena Monk, Gradient Racing, IMSA, 2024 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Photo credits: Barry Cantrell

"I'm just really happy for JG Wentworth and also for Acura at their home Grand Prix", Sheena commented. "It's a testament to this entire program and the drivers to go from dead last, being patient and choosing the spots. We were able to go from 17th to fourth."

Fourth place ties Sheena's personal best result in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, equalling her 2023 Daytona 24 Hours result.


"It looked like for a minute we were really close to getting on the podium – which we would have loved for Acura at the Long Beach Grand Prix", she continued. "I'm looking forward to hopefully getting our JG Wentworth Acura in victory lane one of these days soon."


0 comments

Comments


bottom of page