Three second places in four race meetings - IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR champion Taylor Hagler kept momentum and continued her streak of strong runs in the BHA Hyundai Elantra, further extending her championship lead.
Taylor Hagler has increasingly been under the global spotlight for her impressive rise in sports car racing - culminating with her 2021 title in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR category, as well as a stunning rookie season in GT3 racing in GT World Challenge America. In 2022, Hagler returned to the TCR class of the Michelin Pilot Challenge - and immediately returned to her competitive form, scoring two second places in the two opening round and then adding another top five at Laguna Seca - which brought the young Texan, together with her teammate Michael Lewis, once again at the top of the championship standings. At the fourth round of the 2022 season, Hagler headed to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a 30-point lead over the #5 KMW Motorsports Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR of Roy Block and Tim Lewis. At the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio circuit, though, Hagler had always felt at ease and was confident to continue her positive streak: in 2020, she finished second in race 1 and earned her first ever IMSA pole position in race 2. She would race again to the podium one year later, in her championship winning campaign with Bryan Herta Autosport. “I’m excited to be going back to Mid-Ohio, especially with how we performed there last year,” said Hagler before the event. “The Elantra has been running great this year, and I want to continue with what Michael [Lewis] and I have set out to accomplish this season." "We aren’t sure what the weather will bring, but we’ve had a good record there with our Hyundais and hopefully we can continue that this weekend" - she added. In addition to her title fight, Hagler is also attracting attention on track for important causes: the #1 Hyundai Elantra sported on its livery a special mention to Project K9 Hero, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of retired Military Working Dogs and Police K-9 Heroes. On Friday, overall pole position went to the #56 Murillo Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 driven by Koch/Foss, while the top spot in TCR was seized by Pombo/Monteiro in the #37 LA Honda World Racing Civic FK7 TCR. Taylor Hagler was sixth in class with a solid qualifying, setting a 1:29.334 lap that put them on the third row and in a good position for the race. Hagler took the start in the #1 BHA Hyundai and found herself involved in early trouble that soon brought out the first Full Course Yellow with just 4 minutes of racing, but could continue. Pole-sitting former F1 driver Tiago Monteiro was out in a first lap incident that took him out of contention, paving the way for a Hyundai domination. Reigning champion Taylor Hagler kept it clean at the restart and navigated through the field to break again into the top-five. At the mid-race mark, she took the way of the pitlane and handed the #1 Elantra to Michael Lewis from third place on a green flag stop. In the overall battle for the lead, the poleman Kenton Koch had to pit one lap earlier than scheduled for a loose wheel - which put the pressure on his teammate Eric Foss, who knew that he had to save fuel in order to finish the race. His lead was helped by the contact between the #72 Mercedes of Szymczak and the #60 Ford Mustang of Stacy who battled for second place, and allowed Foss to extend his gap at the top. But, in the closing stages, he had to hold off the charge of Trent Hindman, who managed to close in on the leading Mercedes in the #7 Volt Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Despite a tight battle with several side-by-side moments, Hindman could not get ahead of Foss, who claimed victory in the two-hour race. In TCR, the Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundais continued their dominant performance, as they locked out the top four at one point. Their lead was only interrupted by the #99 Victor Gonzalez Racing Honda Civic - which went longer in the strategy and inherited first place during the pit stop sequence, but was down to eighth after its stop. Michael Lewis continued Hagler's progress and was able to move into second place, while further delay for some of the BHA Hyundais saw the #61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 SEQ advancing into third in the final minutes. Chase/Gottsacker took victory in the #98 Elantra TCR, followed by the sister car of Hagler/Lewis - who conquered their third podium of the season and were just 6 tenths down the road. In doing so, they extended their championship lead to 130 points over the drivers of the #19 van der Steur Hyundai. “We had a solid race today,” said Hagler. “There was a lot of traffic in both classes and you just had to pick your moment." "The Elantra was awesome around here", she commented. "We didn’t know if the storms were going to come in the race, but they missed us and it was an all dry race so we could just concentrate on sticking to our original strategy." "I think Michael [Lewis] could have had a push for the win if he had a few more laps, but it is great to be back on the podium and keep this consistent run of good finishes going so I’m really happy.” Taylor Hagler's next IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge round will be on June 23-26, at the Tioga Downs Casino Resort 120 at the iconic Watkins Glen racetrack.