Joey Hand led just half a lap on Saturday at VIRginia International Raceway in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix, but it was, as the old saying goes, the only lap that mattered.
Winner of 18 races in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship during his illustrious career, Hand co-drove PF Racing’s No. 40 Ford Mustang GT4 with James Pesek to take his first IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge victory, crossing the finish line. finish 0.125 seconds ahead of Billy Johnson. in the #59 KohR Motorsport Mustang.
Sheena Monk and Kyle Marcelli (#877 JG Wentworth Racing Mustang) initially finished third, but rose to second when the #59 KohR Mustang failed post-race tech inspection for failing to reach maximum fuel capacity. The #59 was moved to the back of the class in the results, which promoted the #64 TGM Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport shared by Owen Trinkler and Ted Giovanis to third place.
Hand took the lead on the 57th and final lap of the two-hour competition when the #21 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 driven by Scott Andrews ran out of fuel halfway around the 3.27-mile course and 17 turns of VIR.
The experienced sports car veteran couldn’t relax over the final few miles as he faced braking problems as Johnson built up heavy pressure.
“The brake pedal was on the floor in Turn 1 and at the end of the backstretch, so I could only make moves in the infield,” he added. “We were around 10th and I was making slow progress, but after the last restart I was able to start getting aggressive.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m quite surprised,” Hand exclaimed. “But I said before the race that I never left the house not to try to win. We just hung on. We kind of won on fuel mileage because others ran out, but I’m pretty excited.
For much of the race, it looked like IMSA’s most successful driver of all time, Bill Auberlen, would claim his 20th Michelin Pilot Challenge victory, but Auberlen and teammate Dillon Machavern (#95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4) paid the price for being one of the first pit entries for a driver change, requiring a stop for a fuel spill with 13 minutes remaining.
Auberlen appeared to benefit from a race-wide warning that flew when the No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Championship leaders Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman came to a halt on the course. They then resumed to finish 18th in class.
Eric Foss, their closest pursuer in the points race, was also forced into a late pit stop and was unable to capitalize significantly on Team Volt’s misfortune. A provisional 12th place finish for Foss and his co-driver Jeff Mosing reduced Foss’ deficit from 220 to 160 points behind Brynjolfsson and Hindman with one race remaining in the 2022 campaign.
Hagler and Lewis extend TCR lead with first win of season
Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis topped the Touring Car Classification (TCR) for most of the year in their bid to repeat as class champions. The missing element so far in 2022 was a race win, but they rectified this Saturday.
Lewis used a gale pass over Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian teammate Parker Chase to take the lead with just over half an hour to play at the VIR and took the win in the Hyundai Elantra N TCR #1 BHA. Fellow BHA Tyler Maxson finished 2.169 seconds behind in the #77 Elantra BHA he shared with Mason Filippi.
The victory – the second for Hagler and Lewis as co-drivers – extended their unofficial TCR lead to 100 points over Roy Block and Tim Lewis, who finished fourth on Saturday in the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR. Only the Sept. 30 Fox Factory 120 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta remains.
The #1 Hyundai started seventh and Lewis replaced Hagler in fourth halfway through the two-hour race. He methodically advanced from there and chased Chase for the lead and the two bumped into each other several times before Lewis took the lead into Turn 15.
“I went there once and it wasn’t my route, so I backed off,” Lewis said. “The second time I’m like, ‘I’ve got the position, I’m going to brake very late and control the corner.’ That’s basically what happened. He kind of bounced off me but I expected that. It’s just a tough race and we’re all going for the win.
Despite light damage to the rear of his car, Lewis held off teammates Chase and Maxson – even on the final restart of the final two laps – to claim his seventh Michelin Pilot Challenge triumph.
“The yellow came out and I tried to make the best restart possible with all the pickup on [the tires]”Lewis explained. “I thought I hadn’t done a good job and I looked in my mirror and I had hugely dismissed them, so I did a better job than I thought.
Hagler was happy with her first stint after a disappointing qualifying effort on Friday.
“Coming from almost the back of the field, not a very good qualifying, I moved it up to fifth and gave Michael a good car in a good position,” she said. “It set him up for the win and that’s huge. Especially in Atlanta, it extends our lead by a decent number of points and adds that little cushion.