Wright Motorsports driver Ryan Hardwick says he will be leaning on his experience racing for championships in other disciplines as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona points battle comes down to the final two races.
Hardwick, a champion in jet ski and off road motorcycle racing before making the switch to sports car racing, and co-driver Patrick Long have put together a season of consistency with seven top-five finishes in nine starts, albeit without a breakthrough win.
That consistency has them just four points behind championship leader Aaron Telitz.
Asked if he expected to be in the title hunt, the 2018 Lamborghini World Final Am class champion said he joined forces with Wright and Long for this exact scenario.
“If you’re going to win, especially at this level of professional racing, you have to expect that you can win,” said Hardwick. “For a lot of people in this industry, they are probably pretty surprised to see my name here.
“I have a high level of respect for this level of racing, but I also have won multiple national and world championships at the top level of professional racing in other disciplines.
“I won a world championship in sports car racing at the amateur level in Super Trofeo. Most of my life, I’ve been involved in a lot of championship races, so that part to me is not new.
“Would I have said going into the year switching cars to the Porsche that we’d be in the title fight? I don’t want to say that I expected, but I chose this team that I’m on.
“I chose Wright Motorsports and I chose Patrick Long because I believe that combination of people and team were a championship caliber team.
“I think this is a team sport. I don’t think it comes down to one or two drivers.
“Patrick and I are just cogs in a wheel. I think our team is one of the best put together teams in the paddock. It’s always been my goal.
“I came to race at this level to win a championship at some point in time in my career, so yes I expected it. I expected to be in this position at some point in time.
“I’m glad it’s 2020 and we’re here, and I hope that I’m in this position next year and the season after that.
“I don’t want to come across as too full of myself. Believe me, I get it. I’m the rookie and I’m still learning, but I’m really confident in the team of people we’ve put together.”
For his part, Long says the team is still targeting its first win of the season and will not fall victim to an overabundance of caution while trying to secure the title.
“We’re just trying to fight for these races and not just sit back and points race,” he said. “That’s just as dangerous as being a little overzealous.
“The AIM [Vasser Sullivan Lexus] guys seem to be unbeatable or out of touch, and that’s tricky as well. If they hit their marks the next two races that will be tough to beat over a single lap or a single stint.
“I think Ryan has done an amazing job of staying clean, and I’ve tried to do the same thing.
“Wright has had us dialed in right as we come off the truck and these shorter race weekends have helped us show our edge with the team and how well prepared they are.
“Remember, they weren’t even a full time competitor last year. The last time we were full time was in ’18. It’s anybody’s championship.
“We aren’t taking this for granted. It’s one little split second that can change the title race, but we also want to get a victory under our belt in the last two.
“It’s very different circumstances between a short [WeatherTech Raceway] Laguna Seca race with tight confines and multiple class racing versus the big one, that being the Twelve Hours of Sebring, which I think is the toughest race of the year.”