WATKINS GLEN, New York (July 1, 2021) – Atlanta Speedwerks driver Scott Smithson may have the toughest job in the paddock this week, co-driving the No. 94 Dinner With Racers/Lemons of Love Honda Civic TCR with Ryan Eversley in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Smithson, who is driving a select schedule this season, missed last Saturday’s four-hour race while the rest of the series got experience on the 3.7-mile circuit. Eversley, who now leads the Driver’s Championship with the 94 car leading the Team Championship, won the race while paired with team owner and driver Todd Lamb for Atlanta Speedwerks’ first IMSA victory. Meanwhile, Robert Noaker and Brian Henderson were qualifying on the Motul Pole and finishing a strong fourth in the No. 84 Sabelt/Pagid Honda Civic TCR after leading the most laps.
Instead, Smithson arrived on Wednesday afternoon to a track that he’s yet to visit previously, for a car that he’s driven in just one other race to date. Though Smithson and Eversley did earn a podium at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he wasn’t a full weekend behind the rest of the field.
Thankfully, Atlanta Speedwerks had a plan. The team arrive at Watkins Glen nearly a month ago for four consecutive race weekends, beginning with Porsche Club of America, then an SCCA Super Tour event, followed by two consecutive IMSA races. Smithson climbed into one of the Atlanta Speedwerks’ SCCA Spec Miata for the Chin Track Day on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning to get a feel for the track.
“The track is awesome,” Smithson said. “It flows really well, and it’s just a beautiful track. Driving the Spec Miata, I got some orientation but in talking to Ryan, you drive the TCR car a little bit different. All in all, I think we’ll be good.”
In all, Smithson was able to get about 60 minutes of track time. With just an hour of IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice in advance of Thursday evening’s qualifying session and Friday’s two-hour race, the Chin Track Days – longtime friends of Atlanta Speedwerks, who carry a Chin Track Days decal on the Honda TCR cars – proved an invaluable resource, even in a car other than the Honda Civic TCR race car.
The key to the race may be Smithson’s ability to race the situation as it presents itself, rather than try to match last week’s victory. That’s especially true as the race is half the distance, and rain is a strong possibility.
“To be completely honest, it’s a little bit of added pressure because I want to bring it home for Ryan and get him another win,” Smithson said. “But I have to play it smart. It’s a brand-new track. Conditions might not be optimal. So I need to bring the car home and let him get it done.”
Instead, Smithson will have to do the best he can and know he played a role in last week’s victory from afar, including watching his personal backer, Qelo Capital, joining Sabelt, Pagid Brakes, Valvoline, Dinner With Racers and Lemons of Love in victory lane on the side of the Honda Civic TCR.
“It was bittersweet, because I wanted to be a part of it but it’s awesome to see that car and the Qelo brand in victory lane,” Smithson said.
Smithson and Eversley, Noaker and Henderson, and the rest of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge field run the first official session of this two-day event at 3:35 p.m. EDT on Thursday afternoon before Smithson and Henderson qualify their respective cars in a 15-minute session at 7:55 p.m. EDT. Henderson will be looking for the fifth-consecutive Motul Pole in as many races during the 2021 season, while Smithson will be trying to keep Eversley and the team car atop the point standings during Friday’s two-hour race at 2:35 p.m. EDT. Friday’s race can be streamed live through TrackPass on the NBCSN app.