Hagler, Lewis Acquire Championship Lead with Podium at Sebringadmin
Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis finished up front in their #77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR, scoring their first podium of the season, finishing third in the Alan Jay Automotive 120 at Sebring International Raceway, round 2 of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Hagler joined the BHA/Hyundai squad for her sophomore season after competing against the manufacturer as a rookie in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2020, “Bryan Herta Autosport quickly showed they are the team to beat in IMPC,” said Hagler. “The Hyundai’s are fast and consistent. I figured out pretty quickly that if you can’t beat them, join them, and I knew we would be quick. My teammate Michael Lewis is a champion through and through, I’ve already learned so much from him. We almost finished on the podium at Daytona and now here we are in our second race, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings, we’re just getting started!”
Florida’s warm winter weather provided perfect racing conditions for the two-hour race. Hagler started ninth and raced fast, consistent laps inside the top-ten for an hour before turning over the #77 Veloster to teammate Michael Lewis during the single caution period of the race. The BHA crew executed an excellent race strategy and performed a flawless pitstops sending Lewis back into the race in the 4th position. The lack of caution periods forced Lewis to save fuel while chasing down the podium position, “It was a tricky one out there today, the boys in the pits did great job. Taylor raced hard, her stint was green until the end, no breaks, that’s tough at Sebring and she turned over a perfect car for me to race to the podium.”
Stephen Simpson raced into the top-top ten with #54 Universal Coating Veloster N TCR, he and co-driver Michael Johnson finished fifth, their second consecutive top-five finish. Mason Filippi and AJ Muss were sixth in the #51 Copeland Motorsport Veloster N TCR.
The new Elantra N TCR cars ran strong all weekend. BHA debuted the brand-new Hyundai racecar at Daytona, where both cars finished inside the top-ten at the four-hour endurance challenge. Another milestone was accomplished this weekend when Ryan Norman qualified the #98 Elantra N TCR inside the top-five. Both the #98 of Norman and Parker Chase and the #33 of Harry Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins showed race winning potential, but fuel mileage proved to be the challenge at Sebring. The #33 Elantra N TCR car finished eighth and the #98 finished tenth.
Bryan Herta Autosport, the 2019 and 2020 IMPC champions are off to a strong start in 2021. Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis left Sebring with a healthy, 20-point championship lead. Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson are tied for second and the Elantra’s are both ranked inside the top-ten.
It was a busy event off-track at Sebring. BHA filmed an upcoming episode of “Viewpoint with Dennis Quaid.” The episode will air on PBS in the coming months. BHA and Hyundai thank the N Club of Florida for their passionate support of Hyundai and the racing program. Club members from as far as Miami joined the Hyundai drivers Thursday evening for a meet and greet. Avid followers of the racing program, the drivers signed dashboards and engines on more than 30 Hyundai’s, mostly Veloster’s owned by the club members.
The 2021 IMSA schedule features another six week break before returning to competition at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday, May 15th for the Mid-Ohio 120.