The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team is the latest to announce its withdrawal from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, joining Level 5 Motorsports and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing as teams to pull out after early season races.
Pickett’s team struck a late deal to compete with the ORECA 03 Nissan P2 chassis. A fifth place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona followed, but mechanical gremlins struck at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
After Sebring, the team opted to temporarily sit out the Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca rounds, citing a need for further car and tire development and looking for series officials to make further Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments.
News initially broke of the team’s decision late Wednesday night and was confirmed Thursday morning.
Yes, the news is true. We have withdrawn from TUSC, there will be no further comments on the matter. We hope to be back racing at some point
It’s also telling in how many prototype teams from the American Le Mans Series now remain just three races into the new TUDOR Championship: just Extreme Speed Motorsports, of which Patron is a TUDOR Championship sponsor; and DeltaWing Racing Cars, although the radical DeltaWing coupe prototype is not built to a set of either LMP1 or LMP2 regulations, and instead focused on a lightweight, fuel efficient platform.
OAK Racing and SpeedSource (1 OAK Morgan Nissan, 2 SpeedSource Mazda SKYACTIV-D) make up the balance of the P2-spec cars within the Prototype class.
Pickett’s next move is TBD but it’s understood most of its crew will have to find new work; the potential exists the team could resurface later this year with a different car in a different series.
But since 2010, here’s the list of ALMS P teams that have since departed: Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, Dyson Racing, Highcroft Racing, Drayson Racing, Intersport Racing, Autocon Motorsports, Level 5 Motorsports, Conquest Racing, Rebellion Racing, Black Swan Racing and Project Libra. The last three teams on that list were ALMS part-timers.
Dyson will now race a Bentley Continental GT3 in Pirelli World Challenge, the same series where Black Swan races its Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3; Drayson will be active in the new FIA Formula E Championship and Rebellion still has a two-car presence in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The rest of the teams are no longer active in any championship.
More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.
Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.
“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.
“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”
This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.
“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.
“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”
This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.
“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”
At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.
“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”
Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.
“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”
Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.
“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.
“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”