The Paul Miller Racing team with drivers Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers clinched the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD class title in the penultimate round at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past weekend. The team also clinched the IMSA Sprint Cup championship for the second straight year, which awards points only for the shorter races on the schedule.
Driving the #1 M4 GT3, Sellers and Snow only needed to start the race at Indy to win the Sprint Cup championship, and they needed to finish well to clinch the overall GTD class championship. They did better than that, with Snow putting the #1 car on the pole with a time that was not only faster than the other GTD cars, but faster than the GTD Pro class cars as well. Snow stayed at the front for most of his stint before handing over to Sellers, who fell back to fourth at one point but then worked his way back into the lead. He ultimately lost the lead to the #57 Mercedes and second place to the #78 Lamborghini, but he stayed in third and finished ahead of the #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin, which was the team’s closest rival for the championship.
The third-place finish was enough to clinch with the Petit Le Mans finale at Road Atlanta still to come in October. “It’s nice to wrap up the championship here at Indy,” said Snow after the race. “Petit Le Mans is a very, very long race, and it’s a lot of stress off our shoulders, knowing that at Petit, we can just enjoy racing. But that’s due to all the hard work Paul Miller Racing put in going into this weekend knowing that if we perform the absolute best we did this weekend, we will be able to relax the next weekend. Indy has been awesome.”
Turner Motorsport had a challenging race with their pair of M4 GT3s but had a strong fifth-place finish from Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher in the #96 car after Gallagher qualified the car in third, which was a strong comeback after he was forced off the track into a spin by the #78 Lamborghini early in the race. Chandler Hull was also knocked into a spin by an Acura on the first lap, but he and Bill Auberlen went on to finish seventh and finished third in the Sprint Cup standings. BMW also leads the overall GTD class manufacturers championship ahead of Aston Martin going into the final race at Road Atlanta in mid-October.
In the GTP class, BMW M Team RLL drivers Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly had a strong third place finish behind the pair of Porsche Penske Motorsport cars that finished one-two. It was the fifth podium for the #25 M Hybrid V8 this season. “We really extracted everything we had in our package today,” said De Phillippi. “From the strategy side to car preparation side, I think we really executed. I’m really proud of everybody on the team. Nick drove a brilliant first stint that got us a great track position. The team had spot-on strategy and I just had to wheel it to the finish.”
The #24 BMW Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus had electrical issues from early in the race that forced them to make unplanned visits to pit lane. They were ultimately classified tenth in class and were ten laps down on the leaders. The GTP class championship will really come down to the wire at the Petit Le Mans finale, as Cadillac drivers Alexander Sims and Pipo Derani are only three points ahead of Acura drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor, and Porsche drivers Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy are only five points out of the lead in third after getting the win on Sunday. De Phillippi and Yelloly still have a long shot at winning the championship as well, but they would have to finish at least two or three positions ahead of all the cars that are ahead of them in the points.
The Petit Le Mans finale at Road Atlanta will be held October 11th-14th, with the race being held on the 14th. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, Paul Miller Racing]