Bold strategy call results in eighth place finish for Ashton Harrison at Road America
"We made a great strategy call, unfortunately we didn’t catch a yellow at the end" - Ashton Harrison and Mario Farnbacher ran in second position for the majority of the final hour of the Road America race thanks to a bold strategy, before a splash of fuel eventually resulted in an encouraging eighth place finish at their IMSA return.
Ashton Harrison enjoyed a successful return to the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship with an eighth place finish at Road America. Ashton made significant progress across the weekend and teammate Mario Farnbacher ran as high as second for the majority of the final hour, before a splash of fuel was required in the closing stages.
The Racers Edge Motorsport team was anticipating a full course yellow period in the final hour for this strategy to pay off, nonetheless Harrison was proud of the team’s performance.
Reflecting on the race, Ashton commented “A P8 result at Road America. A lot to say about the race, but super proud of the entire Racers Edge Motorsports WTR Andretti team for rebuilding this new chassis. Getting all the hours in to get this Acura up and going and for it to be at the front of the field is something to be very proud of”.
Arriving into the weekend for her first IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship Sprint Cup appearance since Long Beach, Ashton was aiming to start the weekend on a high note at Road America. Harrison and Farnbacher set the seventh fastest time in GTD across both practice sessions, with Ashton completing 32 valuable laps aboard a brand new Acura NSX GT3, gaining over second of lap time from the first to second session.
Qualifying gave Ashton a further chance to gain confidence with the car and immediately showed significant improvements from practice, beating her previous best time on her first flying lap. Setting the fourth fastest first sector time of any driver in GTD, Harrison’s fastest lap saw the #93 Racers Edge Motorsport Acura NX3 line up 11th in class. With Ashton finding another three seconds worth of lap time improvements in qualifying, confidence was high heading into the race.
Lining up 11th in GTD, Ashton made a great start and entered the top-10 following the first lap of green flag racing. Following a brief full course yellow period, the racing resumed on lap 7 with Harrison holding her own on the restart and applying pressure to the Winward Racing Mercedes of Russell Ward for ninth.
Setting her fastest time on lap 12, just four tenths shy of her best qualifying effort, Ashton was holding comfortably inside the top-10 as her stint progressed. Prior to the first round of pit stops, the Racers Edge Motorsport driver passed Ward and ran in eighth as she handed the car over to Mario Farnbacher on lap 18 following an excellent stint upon her return to the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship.
Farnbacher ran ninth as the pit cycle concluded and began setting some of the fastest lap times among the GTD drivers as he closed in on a top-5 position. With the #93 Acura NSX running in traffic for the majority of Mario’s first stint, the team made a bold strategic decision to bring Farnbacher into the pits with around 70 minutes of the race remaining. The Racers Edge Motorsport team were the first to make their second stop and although it meant a period of full course yellow was needed to ensure Farnbacher could make it to the end of the race without requiring an additional stop for fuel, it allowed Mario to run in clean air and undercut the drivers whom he was battling against.
This strategy proved successful with a number of fast laps on new tyres allowing Farnbacher to move into second position following the conclusion of GTD pit stops on lap 46. With a gap of 11 seconds to the class-leading Paul Miller Racing BMW of Madison Snow, it would be a challenge for Mario to close the gap, but a period of full course yellow would significantly work in their favour. Despite a number of cars off-course in the final hour, no full course yellow period materialised and although the lead gap had been cut to under five seconds, the #93 Acura NSX had to visit pit road to take on a splash of fuel.
This dropped Mario to tenth in GTD, but with a number of competitors also close on fuel this allowed Farnbacher to gain two positions in the final laps to finish eighth, rounding off a promising return to the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship for Ashton and Mario.
Ashton reflected positively on the strategy call and commented, “Mario did an amazing job in his stint. We made a great strategy call, unfortunately we didn’t catch a yellow at the end, but we still finished eighth after starting 11th and running as high as second for most of the race. That was very encouraging and we’re looking forward to the next opportunity to showcase our Harrison Contracting Acura NSX and represent Chiaki’s Journey.”
Ashton should be extremely pleased with the speed she showed at Road America, making substantial progress from the opening practice session to both qualifying and the race. Setting consistent lap times during her stint, she played her part in allowing the team to make a bold strategy call which was unlucky not to pay off.
Running second for the majority of the final stint was a fantastic achievement for the Racers Edge Motorsport crew who will be targeting another strong run when their #93 Acura NSX hits the track for the next IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship event.