Victory Catapults Lewis and Filippi to the Front of the Championship Standings
On what is normally the season finale, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge returned to Road Atlanta for the Fox Factory 120, a two-hour “sprint” race Friday. With just three races to go, the intensity was evident in the battle for the coveted drivers’ championship. The Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai’s arrived leading the top three positions, and separated by just 11 points, with the #33 in first, #21 second and #98 in third.
Driving the #98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR, Mason Filippi was the top qualifying Hyundai. Starting second, he led the pack from the front row, with his teammates Mark Wilkins in the #21 and Ryan Norman in the #33 on row two and Spencer Brockman in #29 just behind on row three in sixth position. The green flag fell and so did the mayhem – it was a chaotic start that immediately saw the pole sitting Honda hit with a drive through penalty for starting on the wrong tires. The car that started fifth shot to first, the #98, was forced to fifth position due to slower GS traffic, Mark Wilkins moved to second, Spencer Brockman rocketed to third. Norman, remaining fourth, let the dust settle through the first lap chaos, but not for long; by the third lap Norman raced to second and took the race lead on lap six.
Having met the 40-minute drive time requirement, all four BHA Hyundai’s took advantage of the second caution period, 45 minutes into the 2-hour race, when they made their pitstops with driver changes. It was a hectic pit lane, but the experienced BHA crews executed flawlessly, unleashing Gabby Chaves (#33) in fourth, Harry Gottsacker (#21) in fifth, Michael Lewis (#98) in seventh and Parker Chase (#29) in tenth.
Half-way through the second half, Gabby Chaves’ race and championship lead took a turn for the worse as slower GS traffic, specifically the #65 AMG Mercedes GT4 made contact in turn one as Chaves tried to get around the slower car. The contact resulted in a broken left front controller, requiring an axel replacement and a lengthy pitstop. The #33 crew worked tirelessly to get the car back on track to salvage a points-paying position. They did, and Chaves returned to the race with nine laps to go. “The guys did an unbelievable job in very challenging conditions,” said Chaves. “The brakes were hot and the repair was difficult, but they didn’t give up and when I returned to the track, the car was really good. Unfortunately, there was just not enough time left in the race to make up positions.” Chaves and Norman finished 11th.
The #98 and the #21 Hyundai’s made their final stops just as the #73 Honda Civic made heavy contact into the tire barrier causing the third extended caution of the race. The timing benefitted Lewis in the #98 and Gottsacker in the #21 as they ascended to the race lead when the rest of the field completed their pitstops, under caution. The #29 Hyundai, with Parker Chase behind the wheel, stopped with the rest of the field under yellow, he took four tires and fuel, but ultimately it was under another caution that was Chase’s opportunity to race to the front.
Ready to battle to the end with fuel and tires, Michael Lewis found himself contesting another Hyundai up front. This time an orange Veloster N TCR, that of 16-year-old Tyler Maxson driving for the BHA/Hyundai Customer Support Team, Copeland Motorsports. Making his IMSA debut with co-driver Tyler Gonzalez, also just 16, Maxson raced like a veteran, battling Lewis for the lead. Creating a thrilling finish to a wild race, Maxson took the race lead from Lewis with five laps to go. The defending series champion, Michael Lewis stayed on the tail of the #27 Veloster of Maxson, challenging through the elevation changes and challenging turns of Road Atlanta, Lewis made the pass for the win with one lap to go, scoring the second victory for the #98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR of Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi this season. The victory catapulted Lewis and Filippi to the front of the championship standings with eight points over Gabby Chaves and Ryan Norman. Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker brought home a solid points-paying result, finishing fourth, now ranked 3rd.Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman finished 6th.
Referring to the yellow-flag caution period, there is an industry adage: “yellows breed yellows” in racing and that was the case in this event, with four on track incidents causing cautions, 28 of the 62 laps were yellow.
Bryan Herta Autosport turns their focus to the west coast for the penultimate round of the 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, October 30th – November 1st.
#98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Mason Filippi and Michael Lewis
Qualified: 2nd (Filippi) Finished: 1st Championship: 1st (230 pts)
- Second victory of the season, the #98 led 18 laps.
- This victory pushed the #98 from third to first in the championship.
Mason Filippi: “It started off with a lot of aggressive driving out there, it was crazy. It was intense, but even crazier for Michael in the second stint. The Bryan Herta Autosport crew did a great job in the pits, the strategy and the stops were perfect, and Michael drove a really smart race and we’re so happy to get our second win this season. I’m really looking forward the next stop, both Michael and I are from California, so this is our home race and to make it even more special it is the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Challenge. It’s going to be an awesome weekend.”
Michael Lewis: “Mason handed me a clean car and I was able to use it to get the win. We dedicate this win to Reece Imhoff who we lost last year, he was a special part of our team, it was his birthday last week, so we really wanted to go out there and win one for him this weekend. I charged to the front the best I could, the #98 Veloster N TCR was very well tuned by our engineer John Ward and the BHA crew, it allowed me to race hard. It was chaotic the last few laps, but it was good, hard racing and I hope the fans enjoyed it. Copeland Motorsports and Tyler Maxson in the #27 Veloster was giving me a good fight, but in the end, we were able to bring it home for the win.”
#21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker
Qualified: 3rd Finished: 4th Championship: 3rd (219 pts)
- Ran as high as second.
Mark Wilkins: “It was a crazy start. The front row really didn’t go, I thought we were in a pretty good position to come out on top, but then everyone checked up into turn one and then everyone went around on the outside. It was a wild day today, probably the craziest race we’ve had in a while. Just a lot of crazy driving to be honest. The car was really strong, I brought it in in second and Harry ran strong, needed a little more luck today, but we’re leaving with decent points.”
Harry Gottsacker: “It was a bummer with all of the long cautions out there today. I just really want to thank everyone at BHA and everyone at Hyundai. Our Veloster N TCR was very good all weekend. I am a little disappointed I wasn’t able to put it all together at the end of that race to get on the podium, but we’ll get them at Laguna.”
#29 Vertical Bridge Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Parker Chase and Spencer Brockman
Qualified: 7th (Brockman) Finished: 6th Championship: 6th (192 pts)
- Brockman passed to 3rd on the opening lap
Spencer Brockman: “I had a really good start and was able to pass for a few positions on the first and second lap, I think I passed up to third, so things were looking good. Unfortunately, there so many long yellows, so a lot of my stint was running under caution which is kind of frustrating and hard to get in a groove. I passed the car on to Parker in fourth, the car was a little bit loose. It wasn’t the day we were hoping for, but I am looking forward to racing at Laguna for the first time ever. It will be special to make my debut there in the Veloster N TCR in the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship.”
Parker Chase: “We got a little unlucky with the yellows today. Right as we were about to make our last stop, the yellow came out. A few other cars pitted just before the yellow and moved to the front. We took four tires and then only got a few laps, followed by a 20-minute yellow. We ended up with 8 minutes of green racing coming from the back of the pack. It was nice having four tires because it allowed us to push hard, but we just didn’t have time to take advantage of them, sixth was the best we could do at that point.”
#33 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Drivers: Ryan Norman and Gabby Chaves
Qualified: 4th (Norman) Finished: 11th Championship: 2nd (222 pts)
- Ryan Norman led 16 laps.
- Chaves made contact with slower GS traffic resulting in extensive left front damage. The #33 crew replaced the axel and xxx and Chaves was able to return to the track to finish the two-hour race.
Ryan Norman: “Tough day for us. The #33 Hyundai Veloster N TCR was a rocket ship. Winning the Hyundai race at Laguna would be really special and that is what we will focus on.”
Gabby Chaves: “I am incredibly disappointed. Our lead flip flopped, we entered this race ahead by 8 points and leave behind by 8 points. Tough day, but I am grateful to the #33 crew. They didn’t give up, it was tough. I can’t wait for Laguna Seca.”