By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If you want an early indication on the odds of Paul Miller Racing enjoying a successful IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship season, look no further than the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Last year, Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Corey Lewis and Andrea Caldarelli drove PMR’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 into victory lane in the Rolex 24. Ultimately, Sellers, Snow and Lewis captured the GT Daytona (GTD) crown in the 2020 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup that awards points at each of the four long-distance events.
In 2018, Sellers, Snow and Caldarelli (along with Bryce Miller) finished third driving the No. 48 in the season-opening Rolex 24. Sellers, Snow and Lewis followed that by winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. It propelled Sellers and Snow to the overall GTD drivers’ championship, along with the team and manufacturer class titles.
On the other hand, a 15th-place finish in the 2019 Rolex 24 presaged an uneven campaign that produced a 10th-place finish in the season-long GTD standings, albeit with a victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
So the fact that PMR’s No. 1 Lamborghini finished third in GTD this year at the Rolex 24 figures to be a good omen for the team’s chances this season.
“Daytona has been a good place for us the last couple of years, for sure,” says Sellers. “One of the things about the Rolex 24 Hours is that because it’s such a difficult event, it’s hard when you have a bad race to dig yourself out of that hole for the rest of the season. That’s the reality: You get a lot of cars there that don’t compete for the full-season points and they can take points away that you might otherwise get if you have a tough race. You can finish on the podium in that race and your next closest competitor for the season championship can be sixth or seventh, so that’s a big points swing.
“A solid finish at Daytona is super important to start the campaign off in the right way, and we’ve been fortunate to have a couple of years that are strong like that. Now as to what it actually means for the rest of the season, it’s nothing, because Daytona is so extremely different from anywhere else we go.”
Be the races 2 hours and 40 minutes or six, 10, 12 or 24 hours long, one relative constant at PMR has been the driver lineup. It’s featured Sellers and Snow for the entire season, added Lewis in the endurance events and Caldarelli for the 24 hours at Daytona for most of the past few seasons. It’s no coincidence that the lineup has enjoyed considerable success.
“It’s been the three of us for quite some time with the addition of Andrea at Daytona,” says Snow. “Some of the GTLM cars have that same stability, but a lot of the GTD cars don’t have that stability that we have, so that makes it easier for us working on the car for those endurance races, to get along well and feed off each other.”
That the drivers have similar styles and, generally speaking, prefer similar car setups is no small bonus.
“We all like the same car, we get along really well on and off the track, so it makes the driving a little bit easier for everyone,” says Lewis. “In turn, that helps the engineers and the crew dial in a setup that works for us. I think that’s a big part of the success we’ve had in the past: We’re easy on each other, so we all like the same stuff.”
Perhaps more important than the nuts and bolts of the setup is the fact that drivers and crew enjoy a mutual degree of trust – a dimension to the team’s “stability” that comes to the fore in the face of the inevitable moments of adversity.
“I can’t sit here and say it’s always rainbows and flowers,” Sellers says. “When we’ve been together this long, we’re not scared to call each other out if it’s necessary. And by the same token, you’re not scared to be there for another person if they need it.
“And I know if I’m having a rough day for any reason, I’ve got plenty of people who I’m able to turn to and get some answers on how to deal with it. That’s a good thing we have here. None of us have a good day every single day, but I can speak for myself and Corey and Madison, that we can turn to each other and ask for help when we need it and nobody frowns on you for doing so. But that goes back to the team atmosphere and the continuity of things.”
Another element of continuity is the current iteration of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3, entering its third season of GTD competition. While PMR, like its competitors, is constantly improving on details, there are few secrets left to be discovered.
“It has been the same car (since 2019),” Sellers says. “The positives in that are you have a lot of information to fall back on and there’s not a lot hidden anymore. You have pretty good directions on where to go. But there are always changes, for example, when Michelin came in 2019, that was a big change from Continental. Not only was it a change from Continental to Michelin, but we had two tire compounds; one that, let’s say, suited us very well and one that didn’t suit us as well.
“Now we are on the harder compound for the duration of the season, so you can spend time trying to maximize that. While I don’t think there’s any big-ticket items left for us, there’s some room for evolution.”
The next step in that evolution takes place at Sebring International Raceway. Needless to say, PMR is hoping to repeat the success of 2018 that saw the team parlay a podium finish at the Rolex 24 into a victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“I’m looking forward to Sebring,” Lewis says. “Obviously, we’ve had success here in the past. But after starting off the season strong at Daytona, ultimately we want to keep that momentum going.
“The three of us are constantly working on each other, on the team, constantly growing, so we’re looking for more of the same at the (Sebring) Twelve Hour. For my role as the third driver, it’s do the best that I can and realize Bryan and Madison have a full championship up ahead.
“So the way I look at it is that, obviously you want the Michelin Endurance Cup championship that we won last season, but ultimately you’re trying to gain points for those boys for the whole campaign. So that’s a double-edge sword in terms of my role, and I want to make sure we check all those boxes.”
Lewis, Sellers, Snow & Co. will begin checking those boxes on Thursday, March 18 when practice gets underway at Sebring. Qualifying streams live on IMSA.com beginning at 11:10 a.m. ET Friday, March 19. Live race coverage begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 20 on NBCSN, moves to the NBC Sports App at noon, before returning to NBCSN at 7 p.m. for the concluding hours. The entire telecast also streams on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
IMSA Radio will also have full weekend coverage on IMSA.com and SiriusXM Radio.