Saturday evening at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, Paul Miller Racing, with drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, with endurance addition Corey Lewis finished the Motul Petit Le Mans in third place, clinching the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Team, Driver, and Manufacturer championship titles.
“This has been such a great season,” said Team Owner Paul Miller. “We couldn’t ask for anything more. This is what we’ve all been working for. It would have been nice to not have a stroke or heart attack tonight, but we wanted to make it as exciting as possible. I think we succeeded in that part.”
Heading into the season finale event, the team needed to finish on the podium to win the championship over the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura. If the team failed to place in the top three, but the No. 86 did, the No. 48 Lamborghini had to stay within two to five positions, based on where in the field each competitor placed.
Race day brought perfect conditions for the 10 hour endurance race, with not a cloud in the sky as the pre-race ceremonies got underway. Once the grid walk had been cleared and the anthems sung, the track came to life as the engines fired up for the 21st Motul Petit Le Mans. Bryan Sellers started from fifth position, between the No. 93 and No. 86 Acuras. In the opening turns, he passed both to take third place, but in lap two, Alvaro Parente and the No. 86 took the position. Sellers stayed close, focusing on the ten hours of racing that lay ahead. At about 40 minutes running, Sellers pitted early to give the No. 48 a full service stop. Madison Snow took over the No. 48, rejoining in 14th. The No. 86 Acura followed suit ten minutes and six laps later, rejoining in 12th with Trent Hindman behind the wheel. The rest of the field cycled through, and Snow moved up to the top of the charts, with Paul Miller Racing leading their first laps of the race. Snow quickly extended his lead to four seconds, and pitted under caution for fresh tires and a full tank of fuel.
He rejoined in seventh, fighting Cooper MacNeil and his Ferrari for sixth place. The No. 29 Audi of Daniel Morad and the No. 93 Acura of Justin Marks joined the fight. Snow got by MacNeil and quickly closed in and passed Marks to take fifth. He pitted under another caution in fourth, and after a stellar stop by the Paul Miller Racing crew, the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 exited pit lane in first. Trouble for the No. 86 pushed the other championship contender back to ninth. The field went back to green and the No. 29 Audi immediately put pressure on Snow for position. While conserving his tires, Snow kept his car up front until pitting for a third caution. Quick stops by three other cars resulted in the No. 48 leaving pit lane in third place.
Corey Lewis took over to turn his first laps of the race. He quickly worked his way up from fifth to third, passing the pair of Lexus entries to chase the No. 29 Audi. Just a few minutes later, Lewis commanded the Lamborghini back into second position behind the No. 33 Mercedes. Pit stops began to cycle through, and Lewis assumed the class lead, with a 10 second gap over the 63 of Gunnar Jeanette, with the No. 86 in fourth.
With three hours of racing complete, Sellers resumed his driving duties, with the No. 86 diving into pit lane shortly after, following the Lamborghini’s strategy. Sellers joined the field with a six position lead over the Acura, quickly taking third from the No. 93 of Lawson Achenbach. For the next round of stints, the Lamborghini drivers focused on racing consistent and clean, as more competitors suffered left rear tire problems. Under yet another caution, the GTD field came into pit lane, and with the No. 48 on an alternate fuel strategy, Paul Miller Racing was able to fill their fuel tank in less time, with Snow going back to the class lead.
The field went back to green at the halfway point and Snow got heavy pressure from the No. 33 Mercedes, with the No. 86 of Alvaro Parente close behind in third. A battle ensued, but Snow held off the Acura and both cars pitted. It was a race out of pit lane, and Lewis took over from Snow as Trent Hindman took over the No. 86 from Parente. As the cars exited pit lane, the pit box instructed Lewis to let the Acura have the position, knowing a smooth run would allow them to pass the Acura quickly on track. Lewis enjoyed a consistent, trouble free-stint, wrapping up his drive time with a three-way battle for the lead. The No. 86 tried to pass the race leading No. 33, but failed. Lewis took advantage, and passed the No. 86 for position, then himself drove to the GTD class lead.
Madison Snow took over for his final race stint, running 2.8 seconds within Patrick Long and the No. 58 Porsche and Katherine Legge and the No. 86 Acura. Snow quickly passed Legge, and with one and a half hours left, the No. 48 again led the GTD class. A lengthy stop for the No. 86 moved the team back to sixth, as Bryan Sellers strapped into the No. 48 to finish the race, running second. Sellers took the lead, and Parente and the No. 86 quickly climbed up to third position.
Tension grew as the track went dark, and the field approached the final hour of racing. Sellers pitted from the lead, rejoining in third, with the No. 86 leading the field. Sellers stayed close, eager to keep every valuable championship point available. The No. 86 fell to second with 24 minutes remaining, and there they stayed until the checker flag. After leading 113 laps, the No. 48 TOTAL Lubricants/UIS finished in third place, successfully claiming the team, driver, and manufacturer championships. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 team closed out the 2018 season with two wins, eight podiums, and ten top five finishes in 11 races, winning over the Meyer Shank Acura by four points.
“I’m so grateful to Martin Snow, Chris Ward and Giorgio Sanna at Lamborghini, and TOTAL, Mitch Simmons and Lars Giersing,” concluded Miller. “We just had a really wonderful run.”
Bryan Sellers | 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion
I don’t know what to say. It has been a long day, and a long season. I’m happy to be here. What an emotional roller coaster. Now that it’s here, you can talk about your moments and what you felt before. I was emotionally spent before the race even started. You’re at your home race, you have all your friends and family here. I had my kids on the grid. It just brings up so many emotions, and you want to do such a good job for everyone involved, and especially Paul. You want to do a good job for them, for all they’ve put into it over the years. You don’t want to let anyone down. I’m so glad to say today we didn’t. I’m so thankful for Paul and everyone at Paul Miller Racing. You don’t get to live dreams like this without someone like him. Madison and I had a great season. This car was incredible, and so strong. I’m very proud of all our guys and all our effort.
Madison Snow | 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion
That was a great race. Going for the championship was super difficult knowing we had to finish well based on where the No. 86 finished. Ten hours is a long time! Most of the other races are two hours and forty minutes! In a ten hour race, you can’t hold your breath for that long! You have to make sure you don’t have any issues. In a ten hour race, it’s so easy to have a mechanical issue, a car hit you, you hit somebody, a yellow at the wrong time; there are so many things that can happen both in your control and out of your control. That kind of stuff can ruin the day for you early. The last 15 minutes were definitely the most nerve wracking. The 86 was there the whole time, and that’s what made it so special, to have that competition. We had to do this, and we succeeded. If we would have gone into the race knowing all we had to do was start the race to win, it wouldn’t have been as special. It’s the competition in GTD that makes IMSA so special.
I’m so happy for the whole Paul Miller Racing organization. Madison and Bryan have worked their tails off all year long on the driving side. Today we just proved why we should be champions. We never gave up. Petit Le Mans weekend started off as a struggle for us. We couldn’t find the balance on the car, and worked with the engineering side. We came together and the race came to us. Unreal feeling. I’m beyond humbled to be a part of the Paul Miller organization, and I’m blessed for the opportunity. I’m honored to have such a big role in helping these guys win the championship. Hats off to these guys, and I can’t wait to celebrate with everybody.
Source. Paul Miller Racing