Race Weekend Central

VOLT Racing Scores Laguna Seca Win With Gutsy Pit Strategy

VOLT Racing’s Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman used an aggressive pit strategy to get themselves into the lead Saturday (April 30).  From there, they made their fuel hold out to claim their first win of the year in the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120.

“It’s sweet relief.  It’s been a long time coming for the VOLT Racing team,” Hindman told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum in victory lane.  “We’ve had a lot of really good races and come close [to winning] plenty of times over the last two years.  It’s a relief to finally be where we’ve belonged for quite a long time.”

Kenton Koch, driving for Murillo Racing in place of Jeff Mosing, who suffered a rib injury, started from the pole.  Once he got through the first couple of corners, Koch was able to put some time between himself and Rennsport One’s Alexandre Premat.  Further back, Kenny Murillo was able to get past Hugh Plumb for third in an extension of the strong form Murillo Racing showed in both practice and qualifying.

The first full course caution came out 19 minutes into the race when Riley Motorsports’ Anton Dias Perera spun at turn 6 and hit the barriers in his Supra.  Dias Perera was ok, but done for the day.

The caution resulted in a split pit strategy in the Grand Sport class.  Koch, Premat, KohR Motorsport’s Luca Mars and others chose to make their first stops here, 27 minutes into the race.  Others, such as Murillo, Hugh Plumb, PF Racing’s James Pesek and Brynjolfsson, chose to stay out.  There were a number of reasons why that decision was made, ranging from the minimum drive-time not being met to the stop simply coming too early to fit into strategy.

Shortly after the restart, PF Racing’s Sheena Monk was spun out of fifth in the Corkscrew by Absolute Racing’s Anderson Tanoto.  Monk was able to resume, but not before waiting for the entire field to pass by.  Tanoto was assessed a drive-through penalty for the contact.

Once the 40-minute minimum drive-time was met, some of the teams that chose not to stop during the first caution made their stops as part of a two-stop strategy.  Murillo continued to stay out.

51 minutes into the race, Tanoto spun into the gravel at turn 11 after getting hit twice by the Belgard & Techniseal TCR Audi driven by Eric Rockwell.  The first hit got Tanoto off-line and half spun around.  The second hit was directly to the left front corner of Tanoto’s Porsche, which broke some suspension parts and put him in the trap.

This led to a series of stops before the yellow.  Brynjolfsson, who was running second at the time, pitted here to swap over to Hindman.  Unfortunately for TeamTGM, Matt Plumb was hit by the No. 2 TCR Hyundai of AJ Muss when Muss was entering his pit.  This broke a radiator on the No. 46 Porsche, ending the Plumb brothers’ day.

Once the pits opened under yellow, Murillo made his one and only stop right before the halfway point.  However, since so many teams had pitted before the caution came out, Murillo’s teammate Christian Szymczak ended up having to restart in 11th.

Hindman came out of the pit sequence with the overall lead, followed by NOLAsport’s Jason Hart and Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen.  However, Hindman was trying to go the final 68 minutes of the race without a stop.  He would need cautions to make it to the finish.

Once the green came out, Hindman was able to open up a decent advantage.  Meanwhile, Auberlen was able to dispatch of Hart for second.

12 minutes after the restart, the debut weekend for Monk and Kyle Marcelli for PF Racing came to a rough end when contact with McCann Racing’s Andrew Davis saw Marcelli spin and go into the concrete wall.  Marcelli walked away from the crash, but was done for the day.

After their stop, Hindman was likely a couple of laps short of making it to the finish on fuel.  The Marcelli crash put him in good position to make it.

Once the green came back, the man on the move was Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer.  Restarting 11th, McAleer quickly made his way into the top five.

A fourth full course caution flew with 19 minutes remaming when Owen Trinkler stalled his Porsche on the run between turns 4 and 5.  This brought the field back together for a 13-minute sprint to the finish.

During the final run, Auberlen cut his left front tire and was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop with 10 minutes to go.  He and teammate Dillon Machavern would end up finishing 27th overall, 20th in Grand Sport.

Hindman and Brynjolfsson’s margin of victory was 2.513 seconds over Premat and Stevan McAleer.  Riley Motorsports’ Alfredo Najri and Thiago Camilo were third in their Toyota, followed by Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley and Vin Barletta.  Hart and Matt Travis ended up fifth.

Murillo and Szymczak were only able to make it back to sixth after their second stop.  Teammates Koch and Eric Foss were seventh, then Pesek and McCumbee.  BGB Motorsports’ Thomas Collingwood and Spencer Pumpelly were ninth in their Porsche, while Davis and Michael McCann Jr. rounded out the top 10.  Capstone Motorsports’ Gary Ferrara and Kris Wilson finished 11th in their Mercedes, taking the Bronze Cup honors.

In TCR, Bryan Herta Autosport’s Harry Gottsacker started on the pole, but very quickly lost the advantage to the Audi of JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller.  Once Miller took the lead, he was able to put a couple of the slower Grand Sport cars, such as the No. 64 Porsche of TeamTGM’s Ted Giovanis, between himself and the rest of the class.  This allowed Miller to run off into the distance while the others had to fight around him.  Once they did, Miller already had a two-second lead over Gottsacker and over 10 seconds over Muss in third.

When Dias Perera crashed, Miller and Road Shagger Racing’s Gavin Ernstone decided to pit immediately to beat the yellow.  That put them in front of others that stopped.  VGRT’s Victor Gonzalez Jr. chose not to pit at all and ended up in the class lead.

Gonzalez stretched out a small advantage, then lost it just as quickly.  However, an unforced error saw Gonzalez go off-course in the Corkscrew.  That allowed Rory van der Steur to take the lead.  Later on, Gonzales spun in turn 3 after contact with Robert Wickens.  This contact was not penalized.

When Tanoto went into the trap, Ernstone pitted the No. 61 Audi and gave way to Jon Morley.  When the rest of the class pitted under yellow, he ended up in the class lead with JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Mikey Taylor right on his rear end.

Taylor fought hard to stay with Morley until the Audi lost all drive with 21 minutes to go.  Taylor was forced to pull off, ending their day.

The last caution put KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. within striking distance.  Meanwhile, what was a decent day for the No. 33 Hyundai went bad when VGRT’s Karl Wittmer got in the back of Mark Wilkins, resulting in a tire rub that necessitated an extra pit stop.

Tim Lewis Jr. was able to get past Bryan Herta Autosport’s Parker Chase with 10 minutes to go to take second, then set his sights on Morley.  However, a third party played a role.  With a few laps to go, Morley ran up on the lapped Hyundai of Ryan Norman.  Contact was made in the Andretti Hairpin that resulted in Norman spinning out.  IMSA officials determined that Morley was responsible for the incident and gave him a drive-through penalty.

Morley served his penalty with just over four minutes to go, which gave the lead to Lewis.  From there, Lewis held on to take his and teammate Roy Block‘s second win of the year.

Tim Lewis Jr. and Block ended up 3.297 seconds ahead of a brisk battle for second.  Belgard & Techniseal Racing’s Denis Dupont got in the back of Van der Steur Racing’s Tyler Gonzalez going into turn 11 on the final lap, then got to the outside on exit.  Dupont was then able to win the drag race to the line for second.  It is by far the best-ever TCR finish for the Audi team.

Tyler Gonzalez and van der Steur had to settle for third in their Hyundai Veloster N TCR.  TCR pole sitters Gottsacker and Parker Chase were fourth, while Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler were fifth.  Morley and Ernstone had to settle for ninth after their penalty.

IMSA MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE WEATHERTECH RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA 120 UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

Saturday’s race can be seen in a tape-delayed and highlighted version on USA May 6 at 1 p.m. ET.  IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will now take a week off before traveling to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Mid-Ohio 120.  That will be on May 14 at 4 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on Peacock.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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