IMSA: VIR Could Be Just What Doctor Ordered for No. 3 Corvette Team

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2018) – Right now, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia are four points out of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class points lead.

With three races left on the 2018 schedule starting with this Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway, it’s officially “go time” in the championship. For Magnussen and Garcia, who co-drive the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, their chief competition for the title has been the pair of entries from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe currently lead the GTLM standings on the heels of their third victory of the season in the No. 67 Ford GT earlier this month in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America. Garcia and Magnussen are five points ahead of No. 66 Ford GT co-drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, who have won two of the last four GTLM races.

“It is so close in this championship,” Magnussen said. “Every weekend, one car has the edge, but usually not a massive edge. That makes it tough. It makes it tough on the drivers, of course, but also on the teams to perform well in the pits, to pick the right strategy and make the right calls. That’s what I love about GT racing. It’s so close, you fight every lap of the race, and then when it’s over, hopefully you’ve got something good to show off back home.”

Lately, the ones in the GTLM class showing off most of the good stuff at home has been Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. The team has won the last four races. Garcia and Magnussen, meanwhile, haven’t won yet this season in the No. 3 Corvette. In fact, they haven’t won a race since last August.

That win came at VIR. They also won at VIR in 2016. You can bet they’re pretty pumped to be going back there this weekend.

To have a chance to go for the (VIR) hat trick is a fantastic opportunity,” Magnussen said. “It’s tough right now. In the championship, competition is really, really, really hard from Porsche and from Ford and BMW. If we can go there and get another win, that’d be absolutely fantastic.”

“Yeah, it’s a racetrack we definitely like,” Garcia added. “All three, Corvette, Jan and I. Everything seems to be working really good, especially over the last few years.”

While they haven’t won yet this year, the No. 3 team continues to shine – as it did in 2017 – through consistent strong finishes. Last year, they finished every race inside the top five and had three wins. This year, they’ve finished fourth or better in seven of eight races and have finished on the podium in the last five events.

That’s why they’re only four points out of the lead. It’s also why – while a third consecutive win at VIR would be nice – neither Garcia nor Magnussen are desperate to win.

“We need to do what we’re doing at the moment and get as many points as possible,” Magnussen says. “We need to be going for wins, for sure, but getting the points, that’s the most important thing. We’ll see. In the past, we’ve been good at VIR. We’ve been fast there every year, so hopefully we can go there with a shot of getting another win.”

Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia are the defending winners at VIR. Photo courtesy of IMSA

Garcia is looking forward to another run on the flowing, 3.27-mile circuit at VIR. It’s one of a handful of circuits on the WeatherTech Championship schedule that drivers consider among their favorites. It’s also the second and final race of the season featuring only the GTLM and GT Daytona (GTD) classes.

“It’s very fun,” Garcia said. “It’s very challenging and very, very old school. I mean there are no escape roads. There is definitely just the racetrack, the white line and a lot of grass everywhere. The grass won’t save you. Every single mistake you do there, there is punishment.

“VIR is a place where you really need to be attacking all the time, but also knowing the slightest mistake can cost you a lot.”

That’s certainly how it played out last year. While Garcia and Magnussen were en route to winning the race, a late-race incident between Mueller in the No. 66 Ford and Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette dropped the No. 66 team from third to fifth in the final race standings, costing the team much needed championship points in the process.

You can bet that championship points will be top of mind this weekend. That’s why the No. 3 team is looking forward to returning to VIR this weekend.

“Definitely over the last few years, it’s been helping us; especially last year being able to win the race,” Garcia said. “It really put is in a really good spot towards winning the overall championship at the end of the season. I hope this year it’s the same and it is a good race.”

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

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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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.”