I can’t believe we’re already in August and more than halfway through the IMSA season.
Our last three races have continued our up-and-down roller coaster that has been the story of 2021, starting with the two races in Watkins Glen.
The six-hour was a great event for us. It’s one of those events that holds a special place for most people, and I think it’s because the track is so great. It’s one of those places that you just enjoy being there and driving there and you’re happy that it’s a long race.
Lucky for us at the six-hour, endurance races tend to be where our program at Paul Miller Racing excels. This time around, we had a car that was pretty reasonable — it wasn’t the absolute fastest car, but it was fast enough to fight.
And the race unfolded pretty well for us, we had to make some strategy calls to move ourselves towards the front and I think with about two hours left, we were running third on-track without strategy rotations at play.
It really was looking good! There was a decent gap and we were confident in our ability to hold that podium position…but then the yellow came.
When that yellow came out, it looked like it was going to be so unfortunate for us. There were four cars that came in right before the yellow because they were on a slightly different strategy and so they jumped us while we were in pit lane.
We had to very quickly call and audible to try and get as much track position as possible and the guys on the box did a great job with that. They got us ahead of both the 16 and the 14, so we were fifth on the restart.
I was in the car when we went green and was able to move up three spots on the first lap after the restart, and one more spot on the second lap. But, there was no way we were going to catch the Turner car.
We knew that even if we got there, we wouldn’t have anything to get by them, so the end of the race became about maintaining that second position and building our cushion back to third.
It was a really good day all around for our team, everyone made really great decisions all day long and we got the result to show for it.
After that, we stayed in Watkins Glen for the WeatherTech 240, and, man, our races there could not have been more different.
It was really like the Tale of Two Cities. We were at the same place, with the same car—but very different conditions and incredibly different outcomes.
Yes, Madison started on the pole, but really that was a function of tire choice and Madison really having a good lap and executing perfectly. But, when it went green in the colder conditions, we knew that we would struggle for pace, and we did. We dropped down the order quick, and then ultimately it ended with a pretty obscure failure.
The only really good thing from that weekend is that the points didn’t count towards the overall championship, but you always hate to end a race behind the wall.
And then after a weekend off we went back to the Northeast for Lime Rock Park — that was a very unique weekend, to say the least. We decided to take a gamble with strategy and keep Madison in the car for longer, it’s always a gamble because you don’t know what the other cars are doing with fuel strategy, but we were pretty certain we would be able to fight for a podium.
But, once it went yellow, and then red, initially, we thought we were in trouble. There were three scenarios, and only one looked really good for us outcome-wise—going back to green, but having the rainfall.
Ultimately, the race was called off because of lightning strikes in the area, and thankfully IMSA removed the drive time requirement, allowing us to keep our podium despite the fact that I never got in the car — which was a bummer.
You don’t come up there for a weekend just to see your teammate drive around during the race!
But, in all seriousness, Madison did a fantastic job. Where he continues to get better as a driver is his understanding of the scenario of the race and what he needs to do at given times—when it makes sense to save fuel, when to attack, when to hold position. He executed that so well during the race.
Now we go from the shortest track we compete at to the longest. I love going to Road America, I think every driver says that though!
But more than that, I just want to keep racing. We didn’t get a chance to fine tune a lot of things in Lime Rock that hopefully we get to try out this weekend.
I want to build on the success we’ve had this year and hopefully grow in this second half of the 2021 season.