Wright Motorsports’ full-time drivers Pat Long and Ryan Hardwick come into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship finale seven points behind Meyer Shank Racing’s Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry.
While the latter pair has driven MSR’s #86 Acura NSX to two victories and two second places this season, bad luck has also struck, being knocked into a spin at Charlotte’s Roval by Jack Hawksworth in the Lexus, and colliding with the Heart of Racing Aston Martin at Petit Le Mans. Those two incidents have allowed certain rivals to remain in touch in the points race.
One of these is Aaron Telitz of AIM Vasser Sullivan (Lexus) who has scored three wins (his usual but not permanent co-driver Jack Hawksworth is two points behind him), but Hardwick and Long are also in the hunt despite no wins. They have clinched three podium finishes, three other top-five finishes and have no result lower than ninth.
Heylen who joined Hardwick and Long as endurance race ‘third man’ for the six-hour race at Road Atlanta (which replaced the Six Hours of Watkins Glen) and Petit Le Mans has helped them to a third and a fourth place respectively. Today the ex-Champ Car driver put the #16 Porsche on pole with a remarkable time 0.7sec faster than the second-placed car, and 1.4sec faster than the best efforts of Shinya Michimi, who is teamed with Farnbacher and McMurry this weekend, and could manage only eighth on the grid.
Explained Heylen: “After Laguna (two weeks ago), Ryan was set on me qualifying the car, and we stuck to that. I wish there was more strategy behind it, but it was more about Ryan being excited about me qualifying the car, and that’s what we did.
“My tires were ready to go when we decided it was time to go, which was always going to be on our second time by after two warm-up laps. The tires came in at the perfect time, so it all worked out.
“It took a lot of hard work from the whole team to get here at the end of the year fighting for the championship. The car has felt good all weekend long. At least from the time I spent in the car, I believe it’s the best car we’ve gotten this season.
“That’s very encouraging for the race tomorrow. Obviously, pole position is the best way to get the weekend started, but all the big work is yet to do tomorrow.”
Telitz – who this weekend shares the #14 Lexus with Hawksworth and open-wheel rising star Kyle Kirkwood – will start from third, while their teammates in the #12 car – Frankie Montecalvo, Townsend Bell and Michael de Quesada – will start from sixth and can be expected to cooperate, thereby working hard to keep the #86 MSR Acura behind them.