Sally McNulty claims first career podiums in TC America
"I knew all I had to do was manage my tires, put down fast, consistent laps, I would be able to make the moves I needed to secure that podium position" - In a breakthrough moment for her career, Shift Up Now racer Sally McNulty secured her first ever podium finishes in TC America, scoring a second and a third place at VIRginia International Raceway.
For first-generation racer Sally McNulty, last weekend at VIRginia International Raceway represented a breakthrough moment of her career. Into her fifth season of TC America - and her first in the TC class, having joined GenRacer / Ricca Autosport, McNulty secured her first career podium on Saturday in race 1 - only to add one more top-three one day later, with a remarkable performance that prove the immense steps forward and the hard work put in by the American racer. In her 2022 season in the TCA class, McNulty scored four top-five finishes and finished eighth in the driver's standings, as she moved mid-season to the eleventh generation Honda Civic Si HPD. In a new partnership with GenRacer and Ricca Autosport, Sally got behind the wheel of the #780 Borla Exhaust Liqui Moly Hyundai Veloster N for a complete new challenge - and she's proving great speed and fast adaptation to the car. McNulty opened her 2023 racing campaign with a top five at Sonoma - then topping her best finish with a fourth place at NOLA Motorsports Park. While the series of top-five finishes continued at COTA, McNulty was aiming for her breakthrough first career podium - and VIR was the perfect setting. In a compact TC field, the top five were separated by a few tenths of a second in the practice sessions as it was clear that McNulty would be in contention for at least a top four. A 2:03.764 lap put her in fifth place on the grid in qualifying - two tenths off third place. Jeff Ricca (Genracer / Ricca Autosport) took pole position, ahead of Celso Neto; from the third row of the grid, Sally McNulty was eager to top her best result of the season. With a strong start, McNulty gained a position among the TC entries, passing Burton at lights out. Ricca led the TC pack, ahead of Neto and Williams. With 25 minutes to go, Celso Neto made a mistake and overshot his braking point, going off and losing third. Sally McNulty was ready to pick up the place and, while she had to defend from Cristian Perocarpi, she could fight for her first class podium. There was more drama in TC, as race leader Jeff Ricca pitted and retired with a technical issue. Having traded positions with the recovering Neto, Sally McNulty was up to second place - and managed to open a small safe gap to the Brazilian. In the closing stages, she perfectly managed the traffic and kept Neto at bay; she crossed the finish line in second place, securing her first career podium in TC America after a brilliant performance that feels like a deserved reward for years of hard work on her own cars as she moved up the ranks of professional racing. "So many emotions, so many to thank, and I worked so hard for this! I cried when I took the checkered flag!" - McNulty wrote. "Big thanks to all my partners and sponsors who made this happen!"
At her first season in TC, Sally McNulty had finally reached her first podium. One day later, it was time to carry momentum. From fourth on the grid in race 2, McNulty would have to battle her way up once again, against drivers of the likes of Jeff Ricca - on pole position - Cristian Perocarpi, Clayton Williams, Celso Neto, Jeremiah Burton. Sally had a good getaway and was temporarily up to third place, but had to slot back into fifth as she took a more cautious approach into turn 1. She could reclaim fourth when Perocarpi dropped down the order over the course of the second lap. Once again in contention for the top positions in the TC class, McNulty had to battle with Brazilian Celso Neto (Skip Barber Racing School Honda), getting closer to another potential top three - which she grabbed once Jeff Ricca had to pit with another technical issue. From then on, it was all about hitting her marks and running consistent laps while managing a four second gap to Burton behind. That gap soon increased, as McNulty pulled away with steady pace. After 20 laps around the very challenging VIRginia International Raceway, Sally McNulty claimed her second podium of the weekend with a third place in race 2, behind Clayton Williams - winner of both races - and Celso Neto. A brilliant performance for McNulty, who now moves up to fifth in the drivers' championship standings.
"This weekend was nothing short of a miracle", Sally told us after her remarkable results.
"I've been to VIR a few times but never had a spectacular performance there, but this weekend we changed all of that."
"Thanks to my coach/teammate Jeff Ricca - he helped me with my pace in practice 1 and 2. By the end of practice 2 I was only .60 off his time", Sally explained. "We went to qualifying the next day and I was able to be only .20 off the front runners."
"The team set up the car perfectly and it was confidence inspiring for me to push the car. I knew all I had to do was manage my tires, put down fast, consistent laps, I would be able to make the moves I needed to secure that podium position and keep my competitors behind me."
"And we did exactly that. I want to thank all my sponsors for their support and for believing in me for all these years, I finally got them not one but two trophies this weekend. I am forever grateful to them", concluded an ecstatic McNulty.
As TC America gears up for the second half of the season, Road America will host the fifth double-header on 18-20 August, where Shift Up Now athlete Sally McNulty will aim to battle again at the top end of the TC class.