Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Nate Stacy Returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Where Continental Tire Challenge Success Began

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was one year ago at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca that Nate Stacy burst onto the scene in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

Making his series debut with KohR Motorsports, the 18-year-old finished third on the podium alongside Scott Maxwell and Jack Roush, Jr. in a four-hour enduro that also doubled as his first time in the Ford Mustang GT4 racecar.

“I almost expected the team to do well because I know how good the team is,” said Stacy. “I knew how good Scott Maxwell and Jack were, so it wasn’t a crazy surprise we got on the podium. It was just like man, we accomplished what we wanted to do. We had a goal to reach and that was to win or to get on the podium. We ended up meeting that.”

Even with the outstanding first impression, Stacy has come a long way since his debut.

Now paired with Kyle Marcelli in the No. 60 Mustang, the duo has won a class-high three races entering the ninth and penultimate round of the 2018 Grand Sport (GS) class championship. Their success has helped skyrocket Ford into the lead of the manufacturer’s championship by 13 points over Mercedes-AMG. Stacy and Marcelli also currently sit second in the driver’s championship, 17 points behind Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb.

“I would say it’s a little bit surreal because this field is nothing short of impressive,” said Stacy. “There are crazy good drivers in every single car. I get to the Continental Tire Challenge and every team in the top five to the top 10 is just ridiculous. We’re talking A-List drivers, silver-ranked drivers. There’s a lot of really good drivers here and it’s just like, okay this is a challenge.”

Taking on the challenge has been a little easier for the Oklahoma native, as he’s leaned on Marcelli – a full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship co-driver in the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class – and team owner Dean Martin.

“I was pretty happy with where I was, but Kyle was on a whole other level,” said Stacy. “It was insane how fast he was. I had never been to Watkins Glen, Daytona, and a couple other tracks on the roster this year and it was fun to go try new tracks with him because he knew so much about them. The guy is a vault of knowledge. He’s the smartest, fastest, most humble guy I know. Having him as a teammate is really cool.”

“And having KohR behind me, it’s a super good team. Really good pit stops and awesome strategy calls because Dean is just a freak of nature on the box. It’s honestly just a really good team, a really good set of drivers and I think we can do a lot of good things. If I win in my rookie season, that would be pretty fantastic.”

Stacy hopes that history can repeat itself this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and is eager to return to a track that particularly suits his driving style.

“Everything is always changing at that track with the dust,” said Stacy. “It’s kind of a good feature of the track honestly. Everything can change in a quarter of a second. Whenever you come into a corner, you don’t know if there’s going to be dirt there, you don’t know if there’s going to be dust there, if you’re going to stick, if you’re going to slide.

“You’ve just got to improvise a lot and that’s how I specialize in driving, when it’s sheer chaos at the start of the race and everyone doesn’t know what they’re doing. That’s kind of when I thrive a little bit. I like to go into a situation and instinctually attack it.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).