Driver Spotlight: Spencer Pumpelly
Driver:, No. 73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT America (TUDOR), No. 17 Rennsport One Porsche Cayman (CTSC)
When you look back, did you expect to have the success you did with Rennsport One in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge this year?
“I was certainly optimistic. But one thing I didn’t know much about was the team, or ST, because I was new to the series, so jumping in, I didn’t know the competition. I was optimistic we’d have some success, but I had no idea what to think.
“Obviously the Daytona win was a good way to set the tone for the season. It was one of the team’s bigger pushes all year, to get ready for that first race. We has a 1-2 going before (Adam) Isman ran out of gas. So we were a little disappointed, and it was a little muted celebration, but it proved to the team we could be competitive.”
What did you think of your co-driver, Luis Rodriguez Jr., and his improvement this year?
“He grew immensely this season. He qualified fourth at Daytona, so he set a very high bar for himself, getting on the second row in his first race.
“But when we had an early season slump, he didn’t get to showcase himself. A lot of times he missed opportunities to learn and go wheel to wheel racing. He never really let it bother him. He was always focused on the next job. He did a good job to put things in the past. He gained a lot of understanding towards end of year and he knew how to optimize our chances. It’s a tough thing to learn but he picked it up.
“Lime Rock was the light bulb moment for him. He wasn’t able to get the qualifying lap he wanted and started deep in the field, but one the race started he passed some really big names and put us in a good position. We saw him make good decisions, have the pace, and drive through the field. From that point on, I knew he’d be a competitive co-driver.”
How did you balance a full season of doing both the Continental Tire Challenge and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, since few drivers did both this year?
“This season it was certainly tough at times. It seemed like often times either the haulers were at opposite ends of the paddock, or pit our boxes were opposite ends of pit lane but I made it work. COTA and Atlanta were tough because of the separate paddocks but it was doable.
“But both teams were understanding and accommodating. Park Place knew RS1 was important, and vice versa. Both teams provided great opportunities, and made it easy to be available for both.
“It was unfortunate that sometimes this year the way the schedules worked out, fans missed out when autograph sessions for TUDOR occurred during Continental races. That was a downside.”
Looking back on it, how critical was the win at Petit Le Mans to cap off the year?
“That was great… it was a tough season that we ended on a high note. Park Place always did a great job. We often had the car to beat, and the car was awesome. But we’d always have nagging little things, outside Park Place’s control, that hurt our finishing position. We didn’t get the results we were capable of.
“Road Atlanta this year was the result we felt like we were capable of week in and week out had we avoided the bad luck. Patrick is the type of driver who always puts us in position to win and the team is great with the details. In a wet race with an uncertain time limit the team proved that the Laguna win was no fluke. It was a great note to end the year on.
“There were a couple times where with the puddling in Turn 1 and down in the Esses was dangerous but for the most part the track was drivable. Finally, just before the end I got to where I wasn’t flat on the backstraight. At that point we weren’t racing anymore. We’re just driving around waiting for some to crash. The track workers and IMSA officials did everything they could, but the amount of standing water was problematic. It was a tough decision. We crashed a lot of cars. With that much water running across track, you never knew if you would be next car in the wall.”
Considering both programs came together late for you this year, did you anticipate things going how they did?
“Throughout my professional career, I’ve never won more than six races in a season. But with the World Challenge win plus six in IMSA, I got seven this year. So it was certainly a good year.
“When you win that much it’s a little disappointing if you’re not in championship contention but there were plenty of positives. I had a good success rate with two really good teams, and two I felt at home with.
“Park Place and RS1 are two teams that are just fun to drive for, and I hope I can continue with them next year. That’s a big part of the success. I didn’t expect to have the best year win-wise, but I knew the opportunity would be there. Some races went better than others, but I’m proud of what we did.”