Taylor Hagler Opens 2021 With Fourth at Daytonaadmin
Opening the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) season, Taylor Hagler had a strong debut run with Bryan Herta Autosport as she teamed with co-driver Michael Lewis in the No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR to take a fourth place finish.Taking the green flag from 11th, Hagler navigated early traffic to hold her position in the opening laps. Just as the field of 17 TCR cars settled into race pace, the first full course caution was deployed on Lap 11 and slowed the field. Hagler brought the No. 77 Hyundai down pit lane for her first pit stop for four new tires and fuel as the field circulated behind the safety car.
Going back to green, the field clocked only two laps before the second yellow flag of the day came out. Taking the second restart, Hagler kept her eyes focused on the pack ahead as she worked her way up into sixth position. On Lap 38, Hagler returned to pit lane for a driver change as a third caution arrived after ninety minutes of hard racing.
The driver exchange sent Lewis back out into the fray with two hours, 30-minutes remaining on the race clock.
Lewis ran nose-to-tail in the top five for 30 laps while making a run into the top three when the fourth full course caution came. A strategy call from the BHA stand had Lewis duck into pit lane for a splash of fuel on Lap 72.
Lewis showed his championship credentials as he made a lightning quick move onboard the No. 77 Hyundai to avoid a collision between two competitors directly ahead of him.
Quick hands allowed Lewis to then take over the TCR class lead with just over an hour remaining. Lewis led seven laps before making one last trip to pit lane for a top off on fuel to the finish.
The final yellow flag came out with under 12-minutes remaining. Following the restart Lewis took the green flag running with the sister No. 54 BHA Hyundai Veloster N TCR. Lewis maximized the torque of the Veloster through the infield, but unfortunately was unmatched when it came to straight line speed to the Audi and Honda ahead as he came up just 0.037-seconds shy of a podium result, ending the day fourth at the finish.
The fourth place finish is the sixth top-five result for Hagler in IMPC competition and her first with the Hyundai platform and Bryan Herta Autosport.
“This weekend was nothing short of amazing,” said Hagler. “We learned so much about the Hyundai Veloster N TCR that we can use for the rest of the season. While it’s disappointing to just miss out on the podium, a fourth place result gives me confidence that Michael (Lewis) and I are going to be able to win. The Bryan Herta Autosport crew did a great job executing pit stops cleanly and quickly. I am already looking forward to getting back in the car at Sebring.”
“Today’s race was great,” said Lewis. “We salvaged the top four and we were so close to a podium. Starting the season off on a high makes me look forward to other tracks that I know suit the Hyundai well. Taylor (Hagler) did an excellent job. She gave me the car with it still having good brakes. All I could do was attack to the end – but congratulations to Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson on capturing that final spot on the podium. Now I just can’t wait to get the season going knowing that we got off on the right foot here at Daytona.”
Hagler will return to her No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR at Sebring International Raceway March 17-20 for the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 – the second stop of the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.