The 2016 season has marked a new challenge for Change Racing, which has expanded into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, while maintaining its fleet of entries in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America Series.
For the Robby Benton-led operation, one of the keys to its increased program has been a single-team approach, despite sometimes fielding nearly a half dozen Lamborghinis on any given weekend.
Change is one of only two teams taking part in both the WeatherTech Championship and Super Trofeo this year.
“Everything is one big, integrated effort,” Benton told Sportscar365. “It was one team fielding five cars [at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca], three in Super Trofeo and two in GT Daytona.
“It’s quite a bit of a different approach than [what] some of the other teams that have interests in multiple classes do. For us, it’s what works.”
Benton, a former NASCAR team owner and driver, has carried over the stock car philosophy to the sports car racing world with success.
The Concord, N.C.-based team claimed the inaugural Super Trofeo North America series title in 2013 and has amassed countless wins in the three years since. In fact, Change is the only team to have competed in each season of the single-make series to date.
Change kicked off the 2016 Super Trofeo season in style last month at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with Corey Lewis claiming overall victory in Race 1 and Luis Rodriguez taking top honors in the Am class.
For Benton, Monterey was not only a validation of some off-season driver lineup changes, but also a glimpse into the level of competition the championship has to offer this year.
“I was happy with the way Laguna went,” he said. “We were confident going in because we know the car; this is our fourth season, so we’ve been in every season of Super Trofeo.
“I think we knew better what to expect. The big unknown for us was going to be who the new players were going to be.
“We knew what to expect going into Laguna Seca with the cars, we didn’t know how we’d stack up against the other teams with there being so many unknowns.
“The biggest thing I brought back with me is who the players are… Who we’re racing against. Now you know who to watch, who to gauge yourself against.”
Unlike its five cars in Monterey, the team has arrived at Watkins Glen with two Super Trofeo entries and a single Huracán GT3 for this weekend.
The focused effort for Rodriguez and father-and-son Jim and Josh Norman in Super Trofeo and Lewis and Spencer Pumpelly in the single GT Daytona entry, could pay dividends, after a difficult start to its WeatherTech Championship campaign.
While the team is coming off a season-best sixth place class finish in Detroit, Benton believes they had the pace to win on multiple occasions.
“In my opinion, the hardest thing to find is the speed and that’s the one thing we’ve had every race,” he said.
“Everyone can Monday morning quarterback what goes on and look back and coulda, woulda, shoulda, but I truly believe we gave up a podium at every race we’ve been to so far.
“I think we were good enough to win at Sebring. We’ve had a few miscues, a few errors, a few I’ve been a part of and predicated myself. We’re learning. We’re getting better. It’s never OK for mistakes to happen but so far we haven’t made the same one twice.
“It’s a new group of guys; this is new to us. The only sports car racing experience that we have has been Super Trofeo, which in a lot of ways has been a good warmup procedure for us, but at the same time, this is a big step.
“This series is a lot more competitive than it has in the last few years. There’s a lot of good teams and equipment.
“We’ll continue the learning process and hopefully put together where we minimize our mistakes and show the true strength of the team.”
Benton said the biggest challenge so far has been acclimating to the endurance nature of the sport, something they didn’t encounter in the 50-minute Super Trofeo races.
“We’re still learning what we don’t know,” he said. “It’s literally a foreign language from where we come from. The majority of my team are all NASCAR and oval track guys. It’s just a culture change.
“Even though we’ve had all the experience of Super Trofeo, basically all that has done for us is awaken us to the paddock culture.
“It’s completely different to race procedures, pit stops and driver changes and all the other things that get added to it.”
“We all learn as a group. We come back every race with better procedures and more organization. This is a really organized, very prepared group of guys and there’s just different things we don’t account for. We’ll get there.
“We’ve come leaps and bounds since we walked through the gate at Daytona. If we can make as much progress in the next four races, as we have, we’ll be OK.”