IMSA: Taylors among several who extend win streaks at COTA

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R continued its win streak in the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor dominated the weekend in Prototype thanks in large part to an incredible setup from the off from the Wayne Taylor Racing team.

This means they’ve now won more races in the first four races this year than they did all of last year, three, on four entirely different types of circuits and race lengths – in spite of various Balance of Performance adjustments assessed in the opening weekends.

“It was really nice today,” said Ricky Taylor. “It was one of the best race cars I’ve ever had. The team has just done an amazing preparation for this car. We’re just getting to know it more and more. Every race weekend we’re learning. This weekend, it shows how much we’ve developed through the year. We unloaded off the truck really strong, then qualified really well. It was fantastic.”

Action Express Racing returned to the podium after a nightmare Long Beach, with defending class champions Dane Cameron and Eric Curran second in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac ahead of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac.

The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg ended fourth for the third straight race with the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi completing the top five in the hands of Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown. The second Nissan, Ryan Dalziel’s and Scott Sharp’s, was poised for a podium before a late fire within the final seven minutes.

What looked like a golden opportunity for BMW Team RLL and its BMW M6 GTLM to finally break through in GT Le Mans went awry even after both cars survived a five-car pileup in class at the first turn of the first lap.

Corvette Racing seized its chance with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia moving forward early, Magnussen climbing from sixth to third at the first lap, and then taking the lead in his No. 3 Corvette C7.R. Once over to Garcia the car was never headed the rest of the day. It’s Corvette Racing’s third straight win as a team, with the No. 3 adding this win to its Sebring win, and what should have been a Long Beach win was picked up by the sister No. 4 car.

“I definitely made the right choice to pick the inside line,” said Magnussen. “Everything was happening on the outside and a few cars got in big trouble and had some heavy damage. I’m really happy I escaped all that without a scratch.”

BMW’s No. 25 and 24 cars finished second and third, short of a win but at least on the podium. The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was fourth, and the other five cars in class were all damaged or out as a result of the first turn chaos.

GT Daytona saw the Mercedes-AMG GT3 win its third straight race, in the hands of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 for the second time. This is Keating’s fourth class win in five COTA starts, and Bleekemolen’s third in five.

Scuderia Corsa banked another podium with defending champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan in their No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3, while the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored its second podium of the year with Tristan Vautier and Kenny Habul.

Performance Tech Motorsports also carried its win streak through to a third straight event, with James French and Pato O’Ward top of the three-car Prototype Challenge class in its No. 38 Oreca FLM09.

Next up for IMSA is Detroit in June, except for the GTLM class, which is off until Watkins Glen in July to allow teams competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to prep for that.

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.”