Note: Morley was disappointed to learn his race car didn’t actually have Efficiency Mode and that he would need to save fuel all by himself.
LEXINGTON, OH – In May of 2019, Road Shagger Racing came to Mid-Ohio with what essentially amounted to two DNFs to start the season after battling mechanical gremlins. But with a new engine installed at Mid-O, they fought hard through mixed conditions and took home their first professional podium in second place, thereby salvaging their season. They went on to finish third in the Championship after collecting four more podiums, including their first professional win.
The 2020 season appeared it would bear no resemblance to the previous year, with the team starting the season by scoring a dominant victory at Daytona. However, that win was followed by a four-race podium drought, tying the teams longest in professional competition.
So once again, RSR came to Mid-Ohio looking for salvation. The key difference was that this year, they would have two races over the weekend to try and completely turn their season around.
Race one was a “normal” race. Ernstone started in 8th and spent the first portion of the race hounding the Hyundais in the middle of the pack. A great pit stop by the team elevated Ernstone to 3rd, which he was impressively able to hang onto until his next pit stop.
Morley got in the car under green and thanks to another great pit stop, he was effectively in the lead when he left pit lane. He did all he could to get his tires up to temp before James Vance could get to him on hot tires, but unfortunately he was unable to hold him off. A full course yellow soon followed and Morley suddenly found his mirrors full of Ryan Eversley’s Honda.
The three drivers had a spirited battle up front while dealing with some frustrating GS interference, before eventually settling into their final spots with Vance leading Eversley and Morley.
The podium was a relief for the team and points-wise couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Hyundais finally having a challenging day.
The double header weekend -the first in Michelin Pilot Challenge history- meant the team got to carry the momentum directly into another race the next day. But Sunday’s race proved to be anything but normal.
Ernstone qualified a career best 5th, only a half second off pole. He had a good start and held his position early. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite match the pace of the front four and he had a snarling pack of impatient Hyundais behind him. He did an admirable job holding them off, but eventually they all found their way by him, each taking a turn to hit him in the process.
The biggest hit came from #29 Spencer Brockman and it created a great highlight, while also breaking Ernstone’s rear anti-roll bar.
For the rest of his stint, Ernstone nursed the injured car to the best lap times he could while the team waited patiently for a full course yellow.
The yellow would arrive just in time to satisfy minimum drive time for Ernstone and RSR came in with the majority of the TCR field. They had another mega stop and got Morley out in 4th place.
As soon as he left pit lane, Morley was told to start saving fuel. The pit stop had taken place at a time that was just outside of their fuel window, but the team knew that an aggressive strategy and some luck might allow them to pull off a surprise win.
When the race went green, Morley briefly mixed it up in the wild dogfight that involved almost the entire TCR field before falling to the back and going into serious fuel conservation mode. He ran the best laps he could while saving as much fuel as possible.
One by one the other TCR cars in front of him came to pit lane for fuel, until only Ryan Eversley was left ahead of him. Morley and Eversley were running similar pace, leading Morley to believe that Eversley was on the same strategy.
However, Morley’s spotter Trevor McClure told him that Eversley’s car sounded sick, which helped Morley stick to his fuel saving and resist the urge to try and catch and pass Eversley.
McClure was right. On lap 62, Eversley’s Honda went up in smoke and Morley assumed the lead. From there it was all about managing the gap to a hard-charging Gabby Chavez, which Morley and McClure did to perfection, eventually finishing just 1.5 seconds ahead of the Hyundai.
Upon returning to pit lane, the #61 RSR machine was immediately pulled aside for a fuel audit, as they were the only car to make it to the end on one stop. Chief Engineer Erik Peterson knew his numbers were right and never had a doubt; but the rest of the team anxiously awaited the results of the audit. About a hour later, they exited tech as the official winners of the race!
The win helped close the gap even more in the championship standings. While the RSR duo is still 4th behind three Hyundais, they now head to the next round with an outside shot at taking the title.
The next round of the championship will be back at Road Atlanta, where RSR is hungry for some redemption after their unceremonious early exit a few weeks ago
Tune in and watch the charge to the front continue!
Road Atlanta, GA
Thursday, October 15th
10:00 AM ET – Practice #1
2:30 PM ET – Practice #2
6:15 PM ET – Qualifying
Friday, October 17th
3:25 PM ET – Race