Jr Iii 03122021

Jr III Racing Keeps Things All in the Family

The Father-Son IMSA Prototype Challenge Team Proudly Fields Father-Son and Father-Daughter Driving Duos

By Holly Cain

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Little did Billy Glavin and his father, Bill Glavin Jr., realize the full “familiar” possibilities of their IMSA Prototype Challenge team. The idea of a father and son owning and managing the team was a feel-good, relatively novel pursuit.

But the two have significantly upped the idea of keeping the Jr III Racing operation “all in the family.” Last year they hired the father-son driving team of Greg and Eric Palmer and this season added the father-daughter driver duo of Ari and Natasha Balogh to their paddock.

IMSA Prototype Challenge at Sebring entry list

It’s not just a unique feature for the team, it’s a genuinely competitive situation balanced by high expectations and a perpetually feel-good component.

“It’s really unusual, but it’s also a really nice vibe in the IMSA paddock,” said Greg Palmer.

“There is a brief window when you have the time, the health and the financial wherewithal to be able to do it all, and if you don’t jump on that tiny little window that opens up just for a couple years, you’re really going to feel you’ve missed it.

“I feel like we’re really in that sweet spot right now. Obviously, we can’t do this forever, but it’s a wonderful thing while we’re doing it and you’ve just got to enjoy every single moment.”

This weekend, the North Carolina-based Jr III team will compete in the second round of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Series at the historic Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway ahead of next week’s renowned Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. The Prototype Challenge race is among eight slated this weekend to kick off Sebring SportsCar Week that concludes March 20 with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Sebring Twelve Hours finale.

And while the 3.74-mile historic Sebring track is typically an intimidating stop on the racing calendar, Jr III Racing arrives with optimism.

The Palmers, who scored five top-10 finishes in six Prototype Challenge races in 2020, earned their best showing of the year – fifth place – at Sebring last year.

“I don’t know why, I just do well at that track,” Eric Palmer said. “Just kind of build on what we learned last year.”

Eric Palmer understandably has a measured approach. He is a double major in economics and data science at Illinois’ Lake Forest College while also competing in IMSA. The chance to race with his father is also a rare opportunity to spend quality time with his dad – with the hope of picking up some podium hardware as well.

“It’s definitely a memory to look back at,” Eric Palmer said. “With me being in school near Chicago and my father living up in Wisconsin, I don’t really see him the majority of time I’m in school. So to see him in the airport, spend the weekend with him, it’s nice just the social aspect of seeing him.”

Greg Palmer points out the success of the Taylor family. The team owned by Wayne Taylor has won the Rolex 24 At Daytona four of the past five years, with sons Jordan and Ricky driving for the 2017 race-champion team, Jordan again in 2019 and Ricky this year.

The concept of family driving units isn’t new, but certainly having three different families involved on a team may be.

Natasha Balogh is of the “more the merrier” mindset. The 23-year-old University of Southern California grad is currently working on a post-baccalaureate degree before entering medical school. For her, auto racing has always been about competing with her father.

Her parents first suggested she take a driving school course to improve her road driving skills as she was turning 16 and getting her driver’s license. She immediately decided to enroll in local SCCA events, but the thrill of the competition and the obvious natural talent she displayed soon changed the intensity and direction of her driving.

Despite having a hearing condition, Enlarged Vestibular Aqueducts (EVA), that prevents her from extreme changes in pressure and activities such as scuba diving and even flying in a plane, Balogh was eager to pursue racing. Her talent, ambition and big personality made it hard to deny.

The fact she gets to spend this cherished time with her father and be surrounded by two other family groups is the cherry on top for her.

“It’s been the most exhilarating experience of my life,” Balogh said. “It’s incredible. It feels like one big family, like a tight-knit and warm, welcoming community – a group of people all like-minded and striving for excellence.

“It’s very cool to have that same camaraderie and warm familial feeling while also being able to be super intense about the work you’re doing and really challenge each other.”

The team earned finishes of 10th (the Palmers in the No. 3 Ligier PS J320) and 12th (the Baloghs in the No 33 Ligier) in the Le Mans Prototype 3-1 class in the Daytona season opener. Both teams are encouraged about upping their game this weekend at Sebring.

No matter what happens on track, it’s already a winning season for this team.

“We’ll have a lot of fun and make some ‘rocking chair memories,’ as I call them,” Greg Palmer said, adding with a laugh, “I’ll be there when I’m 85 years old, sitting in a rocker and say to my son, ‘Remember when we dove IMSA back in 2021?’

“And Eric will smile and say, ‘Yeah, Dad. You’ve told me that a hundred times.'”

Twenty cars are entered for Sebring: 16 in the P3-1 class for new-generation and updated LMP3s and four in the P3-2 class for previous-generation cars. Moritz Kranz won the Daytona opener with co-driver Laurents Hoerr, but Kranz is driving solo this weekend in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine M30-D08.

The Prototype Challenge schedule calls for two practice sessions on Friday, with qualifying Saturday morning ahead of the one-hour, 45-minute race that begins at 3:35 p.m. ET Saturday.