One champion is replacing another this week in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Gabby Chaves, who teamed with Ryan Norman in 2020 to win the TCR class title, is replacing Norman for this week’s Sahlen’s 120 at The Glen while Norman makes his NTT IndyCar Series debut at Mid-Ohio.
Chaves will pair with Parker Chase for Friday’s race at Watkins Glen International in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Elantra N TCR.
“It’s great to be back with BHA and Hyundai for two hours around Watkins Glen,” Chaves said. “This is one of my favorite tracks, and I’m looking forward to getting a taste of the new Elantra N TCR and do my part in driving the development forward and get the team and Hyundai a step closer to another championship.”
A season ago, Chaves and Norman co-drove a Hyundai Veloster N TCR, winning three races and finishing second on two occasions to take the class championship.
The Elantra was introduced to competition this year, with BHA running two Elantra models along with operating or supporting six Velosters in the class.
After a slow start, Norman and Chase found their groove in the No. 98 Elantra the past two races. They won at Mid-Ohio in May and finished second in Sunday’s four-hour Tioga Downs Casino Resort 240 at The Glen.
Chaves steps into the No. 98 for his season debut in Pilot Challenge.
His only other IMSA activity to date in 2021 was co-driving a LMP3 car for Forty7 Motorsports in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with Norman among the co-drivers. A former Indy Lights champion who drove all or part of four seasons in the IndyCar Series, Chaves is amped for his chance and the one for Norman this week.
“I’m happy to see Ryan get an opportunity he’s always wanted,” Chaves said, “and I’m honored to be able to step in and hopefully pick up right where I left of in 2020 after winning the championship with Bryan (Herta) and the team.”
36 Cars Entered for Halfway Point of Season
Thirty-six cars are entered this week, 21 in GS and 15 in TCR. Friday’s race will mark the halfway point of the 2021 season.
Kuno Wittmer leads the GS standings and will team again with Orey Fidani in the No. 13 AWA McLaren 570S GT4.
Wittmer is just 50 points up on the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 duo of Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern, who finished second in GS on Sunday. Sheena Monk and Spencer Pigot, co-drivers of the No. 3 Motorsports In Action McLaren, finished third on Sunday and are 60 points behind Wittmer.
The TCR points battle is just as tight. Ryan Eversley, who paired with team owner Todd Lamb to win the class Sunday in the No. 94 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic FK7 TCR, is back in the car but will have Scott Smithson as his co-driver.
Smithson was initially named to drive with Eversley last week but travel issues prevented him from participating.
Eversley leads the TCR standings by a mere 10 points over Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler, who made a sensational recovery to finish third on Sunday after the No. 77 BHA Veloster went off track and was stuck in a gravel trap early in the race. Lewis and Hagler have three podium finishes this season but have yet to reach the top step.
Pilot Challenge has a one-hour practice scheduled for Thursday afternoon ahead of twilight qualifying at 7:55 p.m. ET. The two-hour race starts at 2:35 p.m. Friday and streams live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.