Change Racing Shows Strength in Long Beach Qualifying
Lewis misses out on the top spot but the team is on-point with strategy going into the first sprint race of the season
Long Beach, Calif. (7 April 2017) – Change Racing nearly secured its second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pole position on Friday. Despite missing out by less than a blink, the team is eager to go on Saturday with the No. 16 Pertamina / Monster Energy Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 set to start the race from fourth on the grid for Saturday’s BUBBA Burger® Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
Monster Energy Athlete Corey Lewis, who will share the driving duties in the race with Jeroen Mul, took the wheel for the 15-minute qualifying session. On his final flying lap, the 25-year-old Lewis was on pace for pole position until the smallest of missteps around the hairpin put him into fourth position, albeit with the team’s quickest lap of the weekend at 1:19.379-seconds. The ultra-competitive GT Daytona field saw barely a tenth of a second distance between the first four cars.
Coming off two endurance classics to start the 2017 season, the 100-minute BUBBA Burger® Sports Car Grand Prix presents an entirely new challenge for the team in its first-ever appearance in Long Beach.
With track time at a premium, the Change Racing team focused on setup work at the shop in order to minimize time in the pit lane during practice. Lewis and Dutchman Jeroen Mul, 26, helped the team make small changes in setup through the two-hour morning practice and the 25-minute session just before the late afternoon qualifying session. Considering that neither Lewis, Mul nor the team had been to the famed Long Beach circuit before (2017 marks the 11th time IMSA has raced in Long Beach, but the first time for the GTD class) the team made quick work of the learning curve.
“I pushed hard in Turns 10 and 11 to try to get the pole position and I just pushed too hard,” said Lewis. “But I’m happy with fourth, because track position is everything here. Everyone at Change Racing has worked so hard and we’re really getting to where we need to be. They’ve done such a great job with the prep back at the shop. We rolled off the truck with basically the car we ended up qualifying, with only a few minor changes. Jeroen (Mul) and I have worked hard as well, with tons of simulator work over the past few weeks – Forza Motorsport has come in handy to learn the Long Beach track. My girlfriend wasn’t too happy about that but it’s business!
“The most important thing tomorrow is to stay clean. Passing will be difficult so we just have to put our heads on a swivel and push hard. It’s an all-out brawl. You have to go as hard as you can for as long as you can but there isn’t any time to make up ground if you make a mistake. As Robby (Benton) would say, we just have to be perfect.”
Team principal Robby Benton commended his drivers’ ability to learn the track quickly as the team shifts from endurance racing to sprint racing for Round 3 of the 2017 championship.
“For the amount of lap time that Corey has here, I’m very proud of him,” said Benton. “We caught traffic toward the end of qualifying and had to back off and start again. He was on a pole run on his last lap but lost time in Turns 10 and 11. But we qualified where we needed to for the strategy we have planned for tomorrow, so things played out the way we wanted them to. There are a lot of circumstances that lie ahead but I’m happy with fourth.
“We really only had to work on fine tuning today. The guys at the shop did a great job of prepping the car, which makes it so much easier at the track. We wanted to be able to concentrate on getting Corey (Lewis) and Jeroen (Mul) track time instead of spending time in the pit lane, and we did that. So the first half of the weekend strategy has worked out and hopefully tomorrow works out the same way. We’re going from a 10K to a 100-yard dash in terms of races, so you have to put everything you have on the table and go for it from the green flag. It should be a one-stop race, so we’ll need a little luck and perfect execution.”
The BUBBA Burger® Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach will take the green flag at 1:10 p.m. PT on Saturday with LIVE coverage beginning on the FOX network.