Taylor Hagler recovers to secure top-10 finish at Road America
"I’ve had to do fuel saving before, but this was my first time to have to execute it as the finishing driver and to ensure we made it to the checkered" - Taylor Hagler drove through the field to recover from the early-race setback, displaying good race pace coupled with smart fuel saving at Road America.
Taylor Hagler continued her progress in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with a charging drive to finish eighth at Road America. After teammate Michael Lewis qualified the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N second, an early drive through penalty led to a challenging race for the team. With Lewis handing over the car in 11th, Hagler drove through the field to finish in eighth, displaying impressive race pace coupled with smart fuel saving in the closing stages.
Aiming to build upon her consistent campaign in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge to date, Taylor arrived at Road America seeking her second top-5 finish of the season in TCR. Starting the weekend with two practice sessions, Hagler and teammate Michael Lewis finished both sessions inside the top-10 to give good cause for optimism. Taylor completed 19 laps in total in the Hyundai Elantra N TCR showing encouraging pace which she hoped to continue for the remainder of the weekend.
Continuing the arrangement from the previous round at Lime Rock Park, Michael took charge of qualifying for the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian team. It was an excellent session for Lewis who qualified a season’s best second, missing out on pole position by less than one tenth of a second from teammate Harry Gottsacker.
With Michael participating in qualifying, this also meant he took the start of the race from second place on the TCR grid. Holding his position after the opening lap, Lewis remained second as an early full course yellow period led to a neutralisation of the race. Misfortune then struck as the #1 Hyundai Elantra N received a drive through penalty for start line infringement, leading to Lewis dropping to 13th in class.
Despite the setback, the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian car was matching the times of the leaders and by lap 10, was the fastest TCR machine on track. Overtaking fellow Hyundai Elantra N drivers Sally McNulty and Jordan Wisely, Michael was closing in on a top-10 position by lap 18 when a second full course yellow period was called following an incident for a GS class Aston Martin.
This allowed Michael Lewis to close the gap to the leaders as he pitted to hand over to Taylor Hagler as she took charge of the #1 Hyundai Elantra N for the first time. A great stop by the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian team allowed Hagler to re-join in ninth, a position she held as the race was restarted on lap 22. Taylor quickly settled into her rhythm and with gaps opening up both ahead and behind, she could focus on improving her lap times.
On the 12th lap of her stint, Taylor set her personal best lap time which was two thousandths of a second quickest than her fastest from practice, underlining her consistency as she aimed to close in on the HART Honda Civic FK7 of Chad Gilsinger for eighth.
Taylor’s lap times remained strong during the middle portion of her stint, regularly comparable with the leading group of drivers. A late full course yellow period would have allowed Hagler to close the gap and fight for a top-5 position and although one never materialised, there was still some late-race action to come. Due to the timing of the pit stop, all teams in both GS and TCR were close on fuel and Taylor’s Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian team were no exception.
Hagler did a superb job to save fuel in the closing stages and hold position, capitalising on mistakes from her rivals to pass teammate Mark Wilkins for eighth with two laps remaining. It was a positive end to the race for Taylor who drove extremely well to recover from the early-race setback to collect valuable points for the championship.
“We really had a quiet day in our #1 Elantra N TCR at Road America" - Hagler commented.
"An early race penalty meant that we were battling back all race and then the race developed into a fuel mileage race."
"I’ve had to do fuel saving before, but this was my first time to have to execute it as the finishing driver and to ensure we made it to the checkered", she explained. "I practically ran out of gas at the finish line, so thanks to our engineers for helping us make it home without any fuel issues!”
Road America was another challenging event for Taylor, but she fought back well to secure an eighth place finish for the Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian team. Her race pace was extremely consistent and with smart fuel saving skills, this enabled Hagler to gain a crucial position in the closing stages.
Taylor and Michael now sit eighth in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship with three rounds remaining, the next of which will take place at Virginia International Raceway on the weekend of August 25th/26th.