Sean Rayhall eager to begin new opportunity with 3GT

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Despite being only 22 years old (he turns 23 on March 10), Sean Rayhall has endured quite the adventure on his way to becoming a professional racing driver.

He made his racing debut in the Skip Barber Southern Series in 2009 at the age of just 14. He jumped to Legends cars in 2010 and then into the CARS Tour – formerly the USAR Pro Cup Series – in 2011.

He moved into sports cars in 2013, winning a championship in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda while also contesting the Prototype Challenge class in the American Le Man Series, the latter continuing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2014.

Rayhall then tackled open wheel racing in 2015, running a partial schedule in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with 8Star Motorsports, winning twice that year.

And most recently, in 2017, Rayhall jumped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, contesting the European Le Mans Series season in a Ligier JS P3 for United Autosports, in which he won the LMP3 class championship with co-driver John Falb.

And now, Rayhall is set for a new opportunity back in the U.S. as a new signee with 3GT Racing for the remaining rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup in the WeatherTech championship.

The new venture, which sees him replace the retired Scott Pruett in the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3, came about after January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, where Rayhall was competing with HART in the No. 69 Acura NSX GT3, following what seemed like an informal conversation with 3GT owner Paul Gentilozzi.

“It came about, sure enough, our trailer was parked next to Gentilozzi’s trailer and he came up to me after the race,” Rayhall said. “We got to chatting and he said, ‘Are you signed for the rest of the NAEC?’ I said, ‘No. I think HART wants me, but I’m not really sure what the deal is.’ He said, ‘Don’t sign anything.’ I was like, ‘All right. Why?’ He said, ‘I’ll give you a call this week.'”

Rayhall continued, “(Gentilozzi) gave me a call on Wednesday, had a small talk, and Monday we did a deal. It’s pretty funny how it was just kind of right place, right time. I don’t even know if our trailers weren’t parked together if that would have happened. It’s kind of out of sight, out of mind, but being back in the IMSA paddock has been good to me so far, obviously. I’m just really fortunate to be back here.”
What’s most interesting is that, while Rayhall has driven a wide variety of machinery in his career, GT cars were not on that list prior to this year’s Rolex 24. Rayhall even admitted that other GT opportunities went by the wayside because he hadn’t raced such a platform.

However, his versatility in other areas gives him the confidence that he can quickly wrap his arms around a GT3 car.

“I think the versatility is huge,” he said. “I’ve gotten turned down a lot from some GT opportunities just because I haven’t raced a (GT) car. It’s pretty funny, because it’s like, a car is a car, and if you give me enough time in it, I think any of us are going to figure it out.
“In a prototype, you have a lot to learn how to trust the downforce and how to use it, and how you want to do your brake release and stuff like that. A GT car, there’s like two ways to drive it, and that’s it. You figure it out. You look at data and you take small baby steps to get there.”
Rayhall is also acutely aware of the role he is playing as a replacement for Pruett, one of the most accomplished sports car racers of all time, and he acknowledges that replacing someone of Pruett’s caliber is a tall task.
“The hero, the legend, the greatest of all time in sports cars, Scott Pruett, is stepping out and it’s big shoes to fill,” Rayhall said. “I’m just here to kind of keep it clean and make sure we can fight in the last two hours.”
Rayhall’s IMSA plans add to an already packed 2018 season, which will see him return to the ELMS with John Falb and United Autosports to defend the LMP3 class title, while he also competes in the revamped IMSA Prototype Challenge series with K2R Motorsports. And, as he explained, he is always seeking out new opportunities, even in cars he has never raced.
“I got a call the other week about doing something, and I might try to add one or two (races) here and there,” he said. “On my off weekends, I’m actually talking about going and racing a sprint car by Road America up in Wisconsin.
“I’ve got a deal to possibly run like three nights a weekend on my off weekends. I’m just a racer, man. If I’m not coaching or if I’m not in a race car, I don’t want to be sitting at home on the off weekend. I just want to be at the racetrack.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
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Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2