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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Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).