WATKINS GLEN, New York (July 3, 2021) – Less than one week after the team’s first IMSA win, Atlanta Speedwerks followed it up with a second IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge win at Watkins Glen. Brian Henderson and Robert Noaker won for the first time in their IMSA careers on Friday in the two-hour race, backing up a win by the sister car co-driven by Ryan Eversley and Todd Lamb in the four-hour race last Saturday.
The race came down to a final full course caution and restart with eight minutes left. Noaker, driving the No. 84 Sabelt/Pagid Honda Civic TCR, held the lead as the skies threatened rain. A lapped GS-class car jammed up a pack of the top four with just three laps to go, forcing Noaker to lose the lead and then reclaim it in the same traffic just a few laps later.
“This win feels very different and a lot better than anything else I’ve ever gotten,” Noaker said. “It was really just trying to save the tires for the end of the race just in case a caution happened, and there was a caution. Then it was all out, as fast as you can possibly go. There were four cars trying to get the lead and you could go from first to third and back to first again in one lap.”
With grip going away as a light rain fell, that was even more difficult. Add in traffic, and Noaker earned the win.
“There was a slower GS car that was in the mix of all this,” Noaker said. “All of us were trying to get around him. I tried to go around the outside of him in the carousel and there was too much rain and no grip out there. That’s how the Audi got around us. Then there were two more GS cars on the next lap going into the bus stop. They were racing for position, and we were racing for position, and nobody wants to give up any ground. the Audi slipped up in the bus stop and I was able to go around the outside of him.”
Noaker had the comfort of knowing that the No. 84 car had been the quickest all race long, leading 15 laps in Henderson’s opening stint and 40 laps in total. That proved true, with Noaker breaking free of the battle in the final two laps and winning by 1.726 seconds at the checkered flag.
Henderson, who qualified second, took the lead on the 14th lap of the race and held on until his green-flag pit stop on lap 28 with 54 minutes remaining in the race. Henderson’s stint actually began under yellow after a competitor spun and dumped oil on the pace lap, necessitating the opening 18 minutes to be run under yellow.
“I was just trying to keep the car clean and give it to Robert in the best position possible so that we could go out there and have a strong finish,” Henderson said. “We had a little bit of a rocky start to the season but things seem to be getting better. Once I got out front I just tried to stay clean and run consistently quick laps to try and get a gap and hand the car over to Robert in first.”
The win was the first in IMSA competition for Noaker, who earned seven wins previously in MX-5 Cup competition, and the first professional win for Henderson, who has been on the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge podium previously.
The No. 94 Qelo Capital/Dinner With Racers/Lemons of Love Honda Civic TCR crossed the finish line in second place, but was moved to the rear of the finishing order when it didn’t meet the minimum weight standard in post-race technical inspection. The team is expected to appeal the ruling through the appropriate channels.
Atlanta Speedwerks and the Michelin Pilot Challenge field returns to action at Lime Rock Park, July 16 – 17.