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What Was It Like to Win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Mike LaMarra Knows

As IMSA Prepares for Its IMS Return, LaMarra Reflects on Double Duty, a Broken Gear and His Walk to Victory Lane 10 Years ago in the Michelin Pilot Challenge


By John Oreovicz


(This is the latest in a series titled “What Was It Like?” where drivers and others throughout the IMSA paddock speak to special experiences they’ve encountered in their careers.)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mike LaMarra is an experienced Touring Car ace who has earned seven race wins in the TCR class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. LaMarra, who co-drives the No. 37 LA Honda World Racing Honda Civic FL5, ranks sixth in the 2023 TCR standings with a best finish of second in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Indianapolis joins Daytona in hosting the only four-hour endurance races this season.


One of LaMarra’s most memorable and unique victories came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2013 in the Street Tuner (ST) class. Here’s how LaMarra looks back on a busy but rewarding day of double duty, in his own words:


“Indianapolis is a historical track where they’ve been racing for more than 100 years. To go there, with all of its lore and to think about the drivers who have won there, it’s really special.


“I went there for the first time to attend the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race as a guest of the late John Andretti. That was pretty exciting – it was really fun to kind of see it first as a fan before later going there to be in the paddock. On another occasion, I went with my family to the Indianapolis 500. It was my sister, her husband, my wife and I, and we couldn’t get a hotel room, so we slept in the back of a minivan in a grocery store parking lot. Those are fun memories.


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“I remember the first year that IMSA went to Indianapolis in 2012, we had a test day, and they had just resurfaced the track. It was fresh and super slippery, like driving on ice, because there was no rubber down. It was a lot of fun to do that, and the next year was when we won the ST race at IMS.


“Terry Borcheller and I were driving a BMW 1-series, a 128i, for Burton Racing. I actually started the race in No. 23 with Terry, and I finished the race in the team’s other car. I can remember getting out of the car at the pit stop at the end of my opening stint (handing it over to Borcheller), and then waiting for the next car to pit so I could get in.


“It was a tough race because third gear broke on the second car, so I had to shift from second to fourth. Then I got hit at the end of the race and I couldn’t finish the lap, yet at the same time, I was part of the (No. 23) team that was winning the race. It was unusual but fun to go from this car that was towed back to the pit lane, then walk to victory circle. We won the championship that year, and the win at Indianapolis was critical in putting us on that path.


“To go to Indianapolis, and to race on that track and win, was really a special opportunity. The Indy 500 is obviously one of the iconic sporting events in the world and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a legendary venue. So, if you win there, you have a very, very small piece of that historical track that you can take home with you. Plus, it’s just fun to drive backwards on the speedway (the road course runs in the opposite direction of the oval)!


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“It’s unbelievable to have the opportunity to kiss the bricks as the winning team or organization, which you see in May every year with the Indy 500 and at the stock car race, and to stand on the same podium as the Indy 500 winner. That was absolutely one of my most memorable race wins. There was a very cool trophy, and it was a pretty big deal at the time. It was billed as the Kroger Super Weekend and we were racing with NASCAR, so it was a big event with lots of people there.


“Looking ahead to this year, I like the four-hour races and I’ve been fortunate to be part of the winning team. The format creates some interesting and different strategies. You’re in the car for longer periods of time, with more pit stops and such. We’ve never had a longer race at Indianapolis before, so I imagine it’s going to be a pretty cool event, especially racing into twilight.”


The Indianapolis Motor Speedway 240 streams live starting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16 on Peacock (in the U.S.) and IMSA.com.