The Michelin Pilot Challenge Teammates Look to Rebound at Road America
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After the last race, Sheena Monk went home and hit something.
Monk turned the frustration of the crash July 17 at Lime Rock Park into a few rounds with a heavy bag, part of her boxing-based training regimen. The crash dropped Monk and teammate Spencer Pigot from second place to fifth in the Grand Sport (GS) standings in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, so Monk used her training to turn negative to positive.
“I feel like I let a lot of people down,” Monk said. “Racing brings out different sides in me – sides that I never knew before I did this. I feel like I’m fighting against myself at times more than I am fighting other people and cars and teams. I made a mistake, and I own that. It’s time to bounce back stronger and put the team back where it belongs.”
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge: Road America 120 Entry List
Hitting a heavy bag has become Monk’s therapy and motivation. A longtime fan of mixed martial arts and other contact sports, Monk has applied their principles to her training with help from a trainer who’s a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
“I love the mentality of fighters,” she said. “It’s a lot of grit. It’s about being comfortable with the uncomfortable. That resonates a lot for me. It’s something that I’ve followed as a fan for a long time.”
After finishing 33rd in a 35-car field at Lime Rock, Monk and Pigot are preparing for a comeback Saturday in the Road America 120 at Road America. Their No. 3 Motorsports In Action McLaren 570S GT4 is 140 points behind a trio of drivers atop the GS standings – Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 and Jan Heylen in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport.
Thirty-seven cars are entered in the race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, including 24 in the GS class. Taylor Hagler and Michel Lewis, who co-drive the No. 77 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Veloster N TCR, lead the Touring Car (TCR) standings and head up 13 entries in that class.
Pigot, whose nine-year career includes 58 IndyCar Series races and five Indianapolis 500s in addition to 17 IMSA top-series starts in both GT cars and prototypes, has also established himself in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.
“I am enjoying racing in the series,” Pigot said of his rookie Michelin Pilot Challenge season. “It’s good, close racing and a lot of battles. It’s quite interesting with all the different manufacturers. Some cars are good at some tracks and others not so much. It’s always interesting each weekend. I’m having fun.”
Same goes for Monk, whose post-crash angst is now prerace optimism. Especially since she returns as the defending Road America winner when she co-drove with Corey Lewis in the No. 3 McLaren.
“I feel good going into it,” she said of the Road America race. “I feel very much like we’re still in the hunt. My goal all along this entire year has really been to fight for the championship. Obviously, it’s always good to walk away with podiums and wins. I have had a long-term vision all year. If you take a look at the points, we’re not out of it.”
Following a pair of Friday practices and Saturday morning qualifying, live coverage of the two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race begins at 5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold’s TrackPass. The NBCSN telecast airs at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18.