The 75-Year-Old IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Team Owner and Driver Has No Plans to Slow Down
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s have a Ted Talk about racing, or rather let Ted Giovanis talk about his amazing IMSA racing career.
Giovanis is not your normal sports car driver.
Consider this: He got his Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing license when he was 46 years old and turned pro to compete in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at the tender age of 60. A decade after that, Ted Giovanis Motorsports (TeamTGM) took home the Michelin Pilot Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class championship in 2018.
TeamTGM has two cars entered for Saturday’s Lime Rock Park 120, the next race on the 2021 Michelin Pilot Challenge calendar.
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Lime Rock Park 120 Entry List
Giovanis made his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut in the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona just weeks after turning 75. A drivetrain issue forced him to exit the race after turning 515 laps over Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course.
Giovanis is road racing’s version of “Benjamin Button.” The older he gets, the younger he drives. The Highland, Maryland, team owner and driver doesn’t really care to talk about age, racing and such.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do,” he says. “I think a lot of us (drivers) feel like that. I don’t know why I can do what I do. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s desire. I don’t know, maybe something else. I have never dwelled on this kind of stuff.”
In addition to racing, Giovanis is a health industry advocate, author and something of a fitness guru who follows a strict diet and workout regime to maintain his skills behind the steering wheel. He gained a bit of notoriety during the Rolex 24 when NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked about him during the telecast.
“(My age) was not discussed much, that is, until the Rolex 24 this year,” Giovanis said. “After the race, I got a ton of calls from friends and they told me, ‘They were talking about you on television. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was making a big deal out of it.’ So, you have one of the most popular people in racing talking about me and everyone is listening. He was using me to poke fun at himself. He said things like, ‘Hey, this guy is still racing, that means I have some time left.’”
For the record, Earnhardt Jr., the two-time Daytona 500 winner, retired as a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver in 2017 at the age of 43, then went to the NBC announcer booth.
Once the Rolex 24 was done, Giovanis parked the No. 64 Porsche 911 GT3R he obtained from Wright Motorsports to concentrate efforts on his two-car Michelin Pilot Challenge program, featuring the Nos. 46 and No. 64 Chevrolet Camaro GT4.Rs.
His driver roster includes Hugh Plumb, Owen Trinkler and Matt Plumb (Hugh’s brother). Each has achieved success at Lime Rock Park. Trinkler and Hugh Plumb won there for TeamTGM in 2018 on their way to the championship and followed it with another victory from the pole position in 2019. Matt Plumb has three Michelin Pilot Challenge wins at Lime Rock (2011, ’12, ’14).
Coming off a season-best third-place finish July 2 at Watkins Glen International, the Plumbs are sharing the No. 46 Camaro this season and have climbed to sixth in the GS standings. Giovanis and Trinkler are 18th in GS points after the first five races in the No. 64, with a best finish of 13th in the June 26 race at Watkins Glen. But as Giovanis says, no worries.
“I am writing a book with the working title ‘Everything I Learned, I Learned from Racing,’” Giovanis says. “It’s a series of stories about racing, but the theme is things are going to happen to you in life but you can persevere. Don’t get disappointed. It’s just a headwind. It’s a book about keeping going.”
He has no timeline for racing retirement. Giovanis says his body will tell him when it’s time to leave the cockpit.
“I think my reflexes will be more telling than anything,” he said. “I still have pretty quick hands and I’m very active mentally.”
And he is in better shape physically now than when he got his SCCA license back in those middle-age years. As for making his second appearance in the Rolex 24, Giovanis was coy with his response.
“We haven’t decided exactly what we are going to do, but I’ll give a non-answer,” he said. “I got a car and I got all the spare parts. The car is ready and it’s still legal for 2022. I have no immediate plans to sell it.”
In Ted Talk that means, see you at Daytona next year.
Lime Rock Park 120 Notes
Thirty-six cars are entered this week, 22 in GS and 14 in the Touring Car (TCR) class. Following their July 2 win at Watkins Glen, Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern (No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4) have opened a 110-point GS lead over Sheena Monk and Spencer Pigot (No. 3 Motorsports In Action McLaren 570S GT4). Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler (No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR) are riding a streak of four consecutive TCR podium finishes and lead Ryan Eversley (No. 94 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic FK7 TCR, co-driven this week with Scott Smithson) by 130 points.
Practice and qualifying take place Friday on the 1.478-mile, seven-turn “classic” course (without the chicane that the WeatherTech Championship cars use). The two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race starts at 11:05 a.m. ET Saturday and airs live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA Radio. The NBCSN race telecast begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10.