Hindman, Cassels return to site of surprise first CTSC win at Sebring

Hindman and Cassels won here last year. Photo courtesy of IMSA

SEBRING, Fla. – The new-look GS class in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge that premiered last year took a step forward into the future at Sebring International Raceway.

The new Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport premiered with several different teams and rather than CJ Wilson Racing or Muehlner Motorsports America, it was Bodymotion Racing that scored the car’s first win in the series with Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels driving the No. 12 Porsche.

A year later, Bodymotion enters having won the season opener in January at Daytona, continuing the team’s form after winning three-in-a-row last year, a run that began following Hindman’s standout drive here 12 months ago when he beat the highly rated Jeroen Bleekemolen in the same car.

As impressive as Hindman’s adaptation to his second sports car team, the 2014 GS class champion having shifted from the Fall-Line Motorsports BMW team to Bodymotion at the start of last season, seeing his Canadian co-driver Cassels come to form has been just as cool to witness.

Cassels, out of Coldsteam, British Columbia, didn’t enter the series with much racing experience at all, only a bit of stock car racing in his home country. Watching Cassels’ growth has been rewarding to Hindman, who wouldn’t have been in winning position had his co-driver not turned over the car to him in contention and in one piece.

“We laughed at the track walk, can you believe it’s been 12 months to the day since we started racing in the Conti series?” Cassels told NBC Sports. “For me, it was almost the start of my racing, period, other than some stock car stuff! Trent’s great at setting the car up so it’s easier for me to drive.”

Hindman said of his co-driver, “I think it’s something where I’ve been lucky to work with someone like Cameron, who is so driven. But he’s doing this himself though. I can teach him different techniques. I can’t teach the motivation to want to improve, drive, and get more consistent as a driver. That’s something that makes my life a lot more enjoyable.”

Hindman and Cassels won last year at Sebring. Photo courtesy of IMSA

The win at Sebring spring-boarded Bodymotion into the three-race win streak, having also edged the Wilson team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and Watkins Glen. So for a period of four months, Bodymotion was top of class in GS despite missing the first race at Daytona.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Cassels explained. “Coming in we had very low expectations, and Sebring was a very busy weekend; I had all my family – wife and four children all here. Balancing that and race car stuff, we knew as we got closer to race day we had something for them.

“A lot of the paddock underestimated us. That made it all the more interesting. As the race developed, we had more of a shot at it. My job was easy, just keep the car on the lead lap and have the weapon to fight with at the end. It was a speed ship for him to drive.”

For Bodymotion as well as the rest of the Continental Tire Challenge field, the challenge this week is adapting to the series’ first two-hour race. The series ran two-hour, 30-minute races last year and a four-hour mini-endurance race at Daytona, but drops to two hours this weekend. That changes the game from a strategic standpoint.

“I prefer the longer format to be honest. But for me as a driver, I like the fact we split the time,” Cassels said.

Hindman added, “It changes our strategy a lot. It goes from a solid, two-stop race to potentially one stop. It might be two for us with our fuel consumption/capacity. At end of the day, there’s less time to make up for errors.”

The field is different now, a largely single-car class now up to 17 cars with a mix from Porsche, Ford, McLaren and Aston Martin all going for the victory.

How well the likable pairing gets on today will determine whether their Daytona win was a one-off, or if they have the sustained potential to contend for this year’s GS championship. And, a win today would give them their first repeat as a pairing.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

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.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“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].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

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.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

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.”