Mueller, Hand Earn First 2019 Win at Laguna Seca

The drivers of the No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT captured their first win of 2019 in the year's penultimate race.

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A start from second on the grid was converted to victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca by Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, capturing the team’s third GT Le Mans win of the year and the first of 2019 for the No. 66 Ford GT.

The pole-sitting No. 24 BMW M8 GTE led the opening 12 laps of the two-hour, 40-minute race but a momentary loss of power on the 13th lap gave Mueller the opportunity to swipe the lead, moving the No. 66 Ford to the front of the eight-car class.

Once out front, the American supercar only gave up the class lead during pit stops and briefly to the pair of Corvette C7.Rs which were on an alternate strategy that failed to come to fruition due to the race’s caution-free running.

Without any full-course yellows to bunch up the field, Mueller’s co-driver Joey Hand took the car to the checkered flag with a 20-second advantage over the John Edwards-piloted BMW which remained strong despite its early loss of the lead when pole winner Jesse Krohn was in the cockpit.

Behind Edwards in second, the Corvette duo placed third and fourth after both cars passed Connor De Phillippi during their last stint, dropping the No. 25 BMW to fifth. Richard Westbrook brought the No. 67 Ford to the checkered flag in the sixth position ahead of both Porsche 911 RSRs.

Despite the Porsches not being competitive throughout the race, the Porsches remain atop the GTLM standings heading into the final race of the season with the No. 912 machine of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber holding a 12-point advantage over the No. 911 car of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. Not visiting victory lane this year hasn’t put the No. 3 Corvette out of the title hunt with its co-drivers needing to make up 15 points at the Motul Petit Le Mans finale to take another GTLM title.

Paul Miller Racing Wins From GTD Pole

It was an easy road to the GT Daytona victory for Paul Miller Racing and its No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Corey Lewis and Bryan Sellers. The car started from the class pole and never relinquished the lead after 110 laps of racing, finishing with a 31-second lead.

The true battle was behind the winning Lamborghini with a number of cars vying for podium finishes. The points-leading No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 started second but quickly proved uncompetitive in the race. A poor strategy call that kept the car on track longer than its competitors during the first stint dropped it to the back of the 12-car class — a disadvantage compounded later with a drive-through penalty. Still, a late-race charge by Mario Farnbacher salvaged an eighth-place finish.

With the Acura out of the way, the fight for the two remaining podium positions involved Scuderia Corsa’s Ferrari 488 GT3, Magnus Racing’s Lamborghini and Pfaff Motorsports’ Porsche 911 GT3 R. After 160 minutes, Toni Vilander beat Andy Lally to the line, denying a top-two sweep for Lamborghini while also ensuring that two storied Italian manufacturers were represented in the top three.

Scott Hargrove brought the Pfaff Porsche to the line in fourth, off the podium but with enough points to clinch the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup for his co-driver Zacharie Robichon.

Despite their poor showing, Farnbacher and co-driver Trent Hindman lost only five points from their championship lead and will enter the season’s final race with a 32-point lead over Robichon. Turner Motorsport drivers Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley share third with 37 points standing between them and the Meyer Shank drivers.

The two GT classes will join the rest of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the series’ season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The 10-hour endurance race will take place Oct. 12 and air on the NBC Sports family of networks.

Ben Hinc
Ben Hinchttp://www.benhinc.com
Ben's executive editor title is purposefully broad to encompass the bottomless list of roles he fills for The Apex, which includes webmaster, graphic designer, quality consultant and writer. Ben's technical background and progressive media distribution approach set The Apex apart technologically and philosophically.

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