The No. 48 Action Express Racing crew will run its own race at Motul Petit Le Mans according to chief strategist Chad Knaus, whilst being aware of its sister car arriving in contention for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title.
Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Simon Pagenaud are making their fourth and final appearance of the season as part of a Michelin Endurance Cup effort in the Ally-sponsored No. 48 Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Knaus told Sportscar365 that his crew will put its “best foot forward” at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, with the trust that the Action Express-run No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac will control its own destiny in a close championship battle.
Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, who are joined by Mike Conway at Petit, sit only eight points behind the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura duo of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque with 350 points available for the race win.
“From our standpoint, all we have to do is go and win the race and let them do what they’re supposed to do,” said Knaus.
“Obviously we’re here to try help those guys in any way or shape we can. But we want to go out there and hopefully have the No. 31 car win the championship and the No. 48 car win the race.
“We’re always going to be aware of what’s going on. We have to go out there and put our best foot forward and get the best result we possibly can. That’s what we’re going to do.
“The way I understand it, if the 31 finishes ahead of the 10 they win the championship. If the 10 finishes ahead of the 31, the 31 [crew] lose. If it’s that, it’s pretty much on them.
“Tim [Keene], Iain [Watt] and all the guys at Action Express are pretty excited and pumped up about this race. They have a lot of confidence going into it.”
Kobayashi, who is making his Petit Le Mans debut and qualified the No. 48 car sixth on the seven-car DPi grid, suggested that his crew can benefit from recent Action Express momentum coming off the back of a win for Derani and Nasr at Long Beach.
“We are here to fight on the top,” the FIA World Endurance champion told Sportscar365.
“A podium will be a great result for us because it’s been strong sometimes, but at Watkins Glen we struggled a little bit. Action Express have been strong in the last couple of races, so it helps us to try to achieve a bit more than what we want.”
Asked about whether the No. 48 could act as a spoiler in the championship fight, Kobayashi said: “We will have to see where we are when we get to the checkered flag.
“Of course, in the race, if there is any way that we can help the team, the sister car, I think that’s the way to do it. That has to be the target.”
AXR’s Endurance Cup-only operation is aiming to score its first IMSA win this weekend.
It finished second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona but then missed out on the podium at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
“We’ve learned a lot since the first race at Daytona,” said Knaus.
“At Watkins Glen we didn’t have the speed that we needed. With the BoP, we were definitely at a deficit.
“We were able to work our fuel mileage pretty good to get a reasonable finish at the end of the race, but it was a challenge for us.
“We didn’t have the pace that we wanted. But coming here, we’ve got good pace.”
Action Express tested at Road Atlanta a couple of weeks ago to get the Hendrick Motorsports-supported No. 48 car acquainted with the undulating 2.54-mile circuit.
Knaus explained that the unique demands of the track layout and the dense traffic coming into play this weekend are providing a notable challenge for the Ally squad.
“We’re working on understanding what to do,” he said. “It’s a really difficult racetrack.
“From the NASCAR side, you would almost consider it a short track because there are so many cars on the racetrack and you’re passing cars every single lap. You never get a smooth lap.
“So it’s hard to really understand if you’re improving the car as you make adjustments.
“You just have to go off the drivers’ feelings and what feedback they give you, and make a decision based on that.
“We can’t go off pure lap times, because we’re always passing somebody. It’s a challenging racetrack and we’re really looking forward to it.”