#21 Harry Gottsacker and Mason Filippi #98 Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis
Lewis and Wilkins Take Championship Points Lead After Round 4 at Watkins Glen
The Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR’s set the pace at Watkins Glen. Michael Lewis scored the first pole position for the team and Hyundai in IMSA competition on Friday. Both team cars took turns leading the race on Saturday despite varied conditions on the track. The skies turned dark just before the start of the green flag as thunderstorms hit the storied road course, delaying the four-hour race by one hour.
As the green flag finally fell just after 2pm, Michael Lewis paced the field from the pole while Harry Gottsacker passed multiple cars working his way into the top five. Gottsacker was eventually penalized for jumping the start but he quickly proved his pace was not a fluke, he served his penalties and raced back to the front of the field by the second hour. It was a one-two lead for the BHA Veloster N TCR’s.
A fuel pump issue spoiled Gottsacker’s chance for victory when the #21 car had to return to the garage for diagnosis. The BHA crew quickly repaired the car and the black Veloster N TCR returned to competition with Mason Filippi in the seat to finish the four-hour challenge. The team’s diligence was rewarded with a top-ten finish and valuable points toward the series championship.
Michael Lewis made his final pitstop leading the race and turned the #98 car to teammate Mark Wilkins for the final two hours. Wilkins continued up front, pacing the TCR class with a five second lead at times. The skies turned dark once again in the final hour and heavy rains gave the teams their final challenge in an already action-packed race, which was filled with accidents in the changing conditions. Wilkins masterfully led the field through the downpour and elected to take rain tires in his final pitstop. His second-place competitors took the gamble and remained on slicks. The unpredictable weather gave its final surprise when it changed from heavy rains to sunshine in just minutes. The rain tires became a burden for the #98 Veloster N TCR as the track dried rapidly, and Wilkins lost the lead after his dominant performance with less than five minutes remaining in the four-hour challenge. Earning back-to-back podium finishes, Lewis and Wilkins finished second, and took the championship lead heading into the half-way point of the season. Tune in to watch the race on NBC Sports on Thursday, July 11th at 6pm ET. The team travels north of the border this week to compete at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 120 on Saturday, July 6th.
#98 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Finished: 2nd Michael Lewis (started): “My Hyundai Veloster N TCR was really balanced and fun to drive. My teammate Harry Gottsacker in the #21 car did a great job in the lead, he was really controlling the pace well. We were working together out there drafting and saving fuel. I was happy to turn the car over to Mark in the lead and he drove an amazing race. The championship is the big picture and our strategies and performance kept us clean out there in a race where there were a lot of guys having problems. We leave with the championship lead, so it was a very good day.”
Mark Wilkins (finished): “Michael did a great job putting us on pole and had another great drive. I am really proud of our performance today; it was a long race and we kept it clean and controlled most of the race. At the end of the day, the tire call bit us, I was a big part of that decision…I think we needed just a few more laps of rain. It’s surprising how quickly this track can dry out in areas, I think its just so abrasive…at the same time, you’ve got areas that puddle big time. It was a good day for us, it was a good points day, the Bryan Herta Autosport N TCR was perfect and we head to my home race in Canada leading the championship.”
#21 Hyundai Veloster N TCR
Finished: 8th Mason Filippi (started): “Eighth place isn’t the finish we were looking for, especially after Harry’s awesome drive to the lead, but once again we had a quick car. The car felt great out there and I can’t wait to take the Veloster N TCR to MoSport (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) next weekend. I’ve got to give a shout out to Michelin. The conditions were changing all race long, we had a little of everything today and those tires were awesome.”
Harry Gottsacker (finished): “I’m really pleased with our performance in the beginning of the race. We were able to race hard; we were comfortably in the lead and Michael (Lewis) and I were working together out there to optimize the strategy for both of the Bryan Herta Autosport cars. The teams done a great job all weekend, I am so happy they were able to get the car back out there so we can collect points. There was a lot of attrition out there so it is important to take advantage of the points opportunity. We’ll be looking for the big “W” in Canada next week for sure.”