The Penultimate Race of the Season This Week at VIRginia International Raceway Will Be Crucial in Determining Championship Aspirations
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By Mark Robinson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With two races remaining in the 2022 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season, it’s go time for drivers and teams still battling for their respective championships. And both the Grand Sport (GS) and Touring Car (TCR) class crowns are far from settled heading to the Virginia Is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix on Saturday at VIRginia International Raceway.
The GS battle is essentially a two-horse race between the No. 7 Volt Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4. No. 7 Volt co-drivers Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman hold a 220-point lead over Eric Foss in the No. 56 Murillo entry, a wide margin at first glance. But with 23 GS cars entered this week, the difference between winning and 23rd place is a hefty 270 points, keeping the door propped open for Foss and the No. 56.
However, one thing Brynjolfsson and Hindman have been able to avoid this year is a subpar performance. Their “worst” finish this year came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, and it was a respectable, seventh-place run. Though their only win this season came at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in April, they’ve added four more podium showings to build the points advantage.
Meanwhile, Foss has been on a tear in the No. 56 Mercedes with three wins in the last five races. He’s also done it with a pair of substitute drivers – Kenton Koch and Marc Miller – while his expected full-season co-driver Jeff Mosing recuperated from injuries. Mosing, who paired with Foss in the first two races this year, is expected back this weekend and will provide another lift to the charging Murillo team.
The TCR class finds five cars clustered within 200 points at the top of the standings – four of them Hyundais out of the Bryan Herta Autosport stable. Defending TCR champions Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler have followed a similar script of consistent top finishes to put themselves atop the TCR points table going into VIR. The co-drivers of the No. 1 BHA with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR have yet to win this season (they had one victory in 2021), but they have been on the podium five times in the first eight races.
It’s been enough to build a 30-point lead over Roy Block and Tim Lewis, co-drivers of the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR. The only non-Hyundai in the top five, the No. 5 Alfa Romeo has a class-leading three wins this year.
Also within striking range in TCR are: Robert Wickens and the No. 33 BHA Hyundai, 150 points from the class lead; Harry Gottsacker, Parker Chase and the No. 98 BHA Hyundai, 170 points back; and Michael Johnson, Stephen Simpson and the No. 54 Michael Johnson Racing with BHA Hyundai, 200 points out of first.
Twelve TCR cars are entered at VIR. Two practice sessions and qualifying take place Friday on the 3.27-mile road course. The two-hour race starts at 4:40 p.m. ET Saturday and airs live on Peacock and IMSA Radio.