Podium Finish for Taylor Hagler at Watkins Glenadmin
Despite starting the race from the back of the pack, Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis fought to gain 12 total positions to close her week at Watkins Glen International with a third-place finish in the Sahlen’s 120 on Friday.
Alongside Lewis in the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) Hyundai Veloster N TCR, Hagler claimed her fourth consecutive podium finish of the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.
Hagler took to the track for the 15-minute qualifying session on Thursday, but a fuel pump issue on her first lap forced the No. 77 Hyundai to pit lane. A miscommunication between IMSA officials and the BHA team caused a forfeit of Hagler’s lap time. As she was not permitted to return to the course, Hagler was classified in 15th for Friday’s race.
The start to the 120-minute race began under a full-course caution as a TCR competitor spun during the formation lap. With the race clock counting down, the field took the first green flag on lap five.
After starting 35th overall, Hagler raced forward in the No. 77 Hyundai and ran in the top ten in just three laps once green flag running commenced. Hagler continued to push the Hyundai, getting faster and faster with each lap and ran her fastest lap of 1:59.195-seconds on lap 15.
Focused on the track ahead, Hagler worked through the TCR field and ran as high as sixth before concluding her opening stint. She brought the No. 77 BHA Hyundai to pit lane on lap 25 from eighth for four new Michelin tires, fuel and a driver change. Teammate Lewis took control of the No. 77 and returned to the course in 12th.
Lewis utilized on-track strategy to move up the running order and raced into the top five on lap 40. The final yellow flag came out on lap 51 which aided the BHA team by packing up the field for the restart. Lewis fought for the final four laps to finish fifth on the road. Hagler and Lewis would gain another two positions during post-race technical inspection to capture their fourth straight podium.
The podium finish moves Hagler into the provisional TCR class championship lead as IMPC moves to Lime Rock Park.
“To get our second podium in just a week feels great,” said Hagler. “We had a fuel pump issue yesterday in qualifying that didn’t allow us to qualify, so I knew I had my work cut out for me. I kept the car clean and worked through traffic while managing my fuel consumption before handing the car over to Michael (Lewis). He did a great job getting us to the end and on the podium. We know our Hyundai is quick but that first win is still out there and we will head to Lime Rock Park ready to battle for a win.”
Hagler and the BHA team return to IMSA competition in two weeks time at Lime Rock Park. The Lime Rock Park 120 will take place Saturday, July 17th with live coverage beginning at 11:00AM ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.