Over the last two years, one driver pairing has emerged from a crowded Bryan Herta Autosport stable and an even more crowded IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series TCR field to stand above the rest. While many drivers and teams talk of the importance of consistency, Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis in the No. 1 Hyundai Elantra N TCR have found it.
Entering the final race of the 2022 season at Road Atlanta, the duo holds a 100-point lead in the championship. In the first eight rounds of the year, however, they were winless in pursuit of a second consecutive MPC title. Hagler was not bothered by that fact, nor was Lewis.
The duo’s plan was to break down the season into three-race mini championships, lower their expectations for the year, and keep them low if success came their way.
“One big thing that Michael and I have worked on is not having higher expectations,” Hagler said. “Just kind of forgetting that last season even happened and starting this year completely new.
“The way that he has taught me to do it is to break down the season into quarters. Every three races is its own mini-championship and we average how we did from those three races.
“Every race weekend is kind of something new and every year is completely new, so it never goes to our heads. We never have higher expectations of what we can realistically meet. That way we’re never super-disappointed if something bad happens.”
The duo’s worst on-track finish of the season was a sixth place at Watkins Glen that got turned into a last-place finish of 16th after Lewis failed to meet his minimum drive time by 58 seconds. Apart from that, the No. 1 Hyundai has not finished outside of the top five in the entire season.
Even with four, second-place finishes before their first win of the season, Hagler was not unsatisfied with going winless for much of the year.
“We learned a lot from last year about how championships aren’t always won by winning the races, it’s about being consistent,” she said. “Consistency is a big factor in racing and it’s also pretty hard to come by.
“I wouldn’t really say that I’m unsatisfied by not winning races. I am pretty satisfied with how consistent we’re able to be. To me, it means we work well as a team, and we work well as co-drivers.”
There is a great deal of attention given to Hagler’s 2021 championship win. It was the second time a female had won an IMSA championship, and the first in Michelin Pilot Challenge. But when asked what it would mean to earn another, Hagler’s answer focused not on herself, but on her teammate.
“Being able to do as well as we have with the number one means a lot to both of us, and it would give Michael three championships in TCR,” she said. “That would be a new one for the history books and it would make both of us the first back-to-back champions in TCR, so there’ll be a lot of history broken with that one.”