Familiar Faces, Familiar Places – Drivers Hagler and Lewis, and Wickens and Wilkins Podium at Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL – It was a rewarding return for Robert Wickens as he and his co-driver Mark Wilkins finished third at the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season opener at Daytona International Speedway, on Friday. It was Wickens’ first time racing since his IndyCar accident in August of 2018, and his first time ever racing using hand controls. Wickens started the race from seventh position and ran as high as second before turning the #33 Elantra N TCR over to fellow Canadian and co-driver Mark Wilkins. While leading, Wilkens had a hiccup in his final stop and was passed in the pits by BHA teammate Stephen Simpson. Simpson went on to lead 17 laps but had to serve a late race penalty. Wilkins stormed back to the top three with an inspiring drive to secure the final spot on the podium. Race fans and media across the world have expressed their joy over Wickens’ successful return to racing.
Defending series champions Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis had a stellar day, giving BHA and Hyundai their best result to date at Daytona. Hagler started 11th and raced to fourth before turning the cockpit over to Lewis for another dominant performance, finishing second.  Hagler and Lewis have become a formidable driver pairing since they teamed up one year ago. Highlighted by consistency, the duo has finished on the podium in eight of 11 races since becoming co-drivers.
BHA newcomers Tyler Maxson and AJ Muss locked out the front row in qualifying, with Maxson winning the pole position. The race was a different story, although competitive, cars 2, 77 and 98 experienced challenges in the race that resulted in multiple laps lost.
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge returns to action March 16 – 17th at Sebring International Raceway, for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120.
Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis
#1 Elantra N TCR
Started: 11th – Finished: 2nd
Taylor Hagler: “I had a really good day, I think it was one of my best drives of my career so far. I started 11th and drove to the top three. I had a lot to fight for and I feel like I proved myself out there with a strong performance. It was awesome racing Robert (Wickens). Congratulations to him and Mark, I am so happy to see them on the podium. My teammate did what he does, I can’t say enough about Michael Lewis.”
Michael Lewis: “Taylor raced hard up there with Robert Wickens such an established driver. To see her go toe to toe with him was cool to see. I had a blast out there racing hard with Mark Wilkins and Stephen Simpson. It was a good day and I’m happy to be a part of Hyundai’s best finish ever at Daytona.”
Robert Wickens and Mark Wilkins
#33 Elantra N TCR
Started: 7th – Finished: 3rd
Robert Wickens: “The podium feels good. Internally I had a lot of goals for today, and we met those. I always want to win, but I am pleased to be on the podium in my first race. The big picture for me was to get my full drive time in and gain knowledge. We made up ground every opportunity we could and kept the car clean. I was not as aggressive as I normally am, and I know there’s a lot of opportunity that we can still improve on and become stronger. I am really looking forward to the future.”
Mark Wilkins: “It was an inspiring drive by Robert, and I was committed to keep that going. We had an issue, or I might have had an issue in that last stop which caused us to stall in the pitlane from the lead. We had set ourselves up and we were looking strong for a finish out front, which we lost in that stop. I was very motivated to get that back and in the end, we might have left something on the table, but I am very happy Robbie and I finished on the podium nonetheless.”
Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson
#54 Universal Coating Elantra N TCR
Started: 15th – Finished: 6th
Michael Johnson: “The race was really good. I felt really good in the car. I can’t thank the team enough for all of the work they’ve done on the hand controls. I’m loving the Elantra N TCR car, and I am pumped for the season.”
Stephen Simpson: “All in all we walked away with good points, but after the leading so many laps in the race and leading it with 18 minutes to go to then have to serve a drive-thru penalty was very disappointing. Ultimately, I take responsibility for it. I missed the red light at pit out, it was a marginal call, but still my fault. I apologize to the team; I think we absolutely had a podium and maybe a race win. The Elantra N TCR was super quick, it felt great, and that bodes well for the season. I am very proud of Michael’s drive and Sebring can’t come soon enough.”
Tyler Maxson and Mason Filippi
#77 Elantra N TCR
Started: 1st and Finished: 9th
Tyler Maxson “I’m really proud of qualifying on pole, it was a great call by my engineer and despite the changing conditions I was able to get the job done. It was an exciting way to start the season, I wish the race had panned out the same way. We know we’ve got the speed to win this season and Sebring can’t come soon enough!”
Mason Filippi “It was an incredible effort by the BHA team this weekend putting our car together and Tyler starting us on pole! We had great pace and a very balanced Elantra N TCR, but not the luck we wanted in the race. Redemption at Sebring!”
Harry Gottsacker and Parker Chase
#98 Elantra N TCR
Started: 6th and Finished: 12th
Harry Gottsacker: “The BHA crew put in a massive effort to get our #98 prepared for the race in Daytona. It was not easy, and we didn’t have many dry laps to sort the car out, but we had a great handling race car. Unfortunately, the race did not go to plan, and we didn’t get to show what we could do, due to a mechanical gremlin. We always seem to get bit here at Daytona, but that is why we want to win here so bad.”
Parker Chase: “We had a mechanical issue that put us in the garage for so much of the race. At that point our goal was to make sure we could each get our drive time for points, which we did. It was an unlucky day, but Harry and I fired up for the season. This TCR championship is going to be one to watch.”
AJ MUSS: “Unfortunately the gremlins got us today there right as we went green. It was awesome qualifying on the front row. Our car is really strong, we showed it was strong in qualifying and we’re going to fight for wins this year.”
Ryan Norman: “We had a great test through the Roar and a strong run leading up to the race. I was so proud of AJ (Muss) qualifying on the front row. We were out of the race with a mechanical issue just after the first lap, so didn’t even break a sweat today. It was a bummer to lose on out on the points with so much attrition out there. It’s behind us now and I am focused on Sebring.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *