By John Oreovicz and David Phillips

IMSA Wire Service

Matt Plumb was a master miser of fuel on the way to becoming the all-time co-leader for race wins in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Plumb took over the No. 46 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT4 from Paul Holton, who qualified the car on the front row, and brilliantly managed the second half of The Esses 120 at Watkins Glen International on Saturday. Plumb was 5.549 seconds ahead of the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 shared by Robert Megennis and Dillon Machavern to claim overall and Grand Sport (GS) class honors at the end of two hours of racing on a sweltering afternoon in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

It was Plumb’s 24th win in Michelin Pilot Challenge competition, matching the total achieved by Billy Johnson, but Plumb’s first trip to victory lane since he and Holton won at Circuit of The Americas in May 2017. Plumb’s 52 career podium finishes are a series record.

“It’s been a while, but I’m incredibly lucky to be doing this and incredibly lucky to have a guy like (Team TGM principal) Ted Giovannis in my corner,” Plumb said. “Thanks to my buddy Paul – we’ve had a long history driving together. It’s great to get a win with this group. We’re just getting a bit of momentum going.”

Plumb, Holton and the No. 46 also became the fifth different GS winner in as many races this season.

“It’s incredibly hard to win in this series, and that was a perfect example of a full team win right there,” Plumb added. “Everybody on the box got all the strategy perfect, kept feeding us just the right information – what numbers we needed to do fuel-wise, the pace, the gap. Us two knuckleheads just did what we were told and didn’t mess it up.”

Holton missed the season opener at Daytona International Speedway but has since helped Plumb build a healthy lead in the GS class standings. Plumb enjoys a 240-point cushion over Daniel Morad and Bryce Ward, who finished seventh Saturday in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4.

Holton expressed surprise that Team TGM called him in for a pit stop just 30 minutes into the race, as the first half of the contest was interrupted by a pair of full-course cautions.

“When they called me in early, I kind of questioned them on the radio and said, ‘Are you sure we want to do this?’” said Holton. “But it was the move of the race. Credit to the team and the crew because they gave us a fast car and they called a fantastic strategy, and then Matt was going fast and saving some gas.”

Todd Coleman and Aaron Telitz (No. 88 Archangel Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4) claimed the final podium spot over Rory van der Steur and Valentin Hasse Clot in the No. 19 van der Steur Racing Aston Martin.

Jeff Westphal experienced heartbreak, as the No. 39 CarBahn Motorsports BMW M4 GT4 he shared with Sean McAlister ran out of fuel while running second on the last lap. The duo had worked from last place to briefly lead the race after missing the second practice session and qualifying due to electrical problems.

The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge returns to action with the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 120 in Bowmanville, Ontario, on Saturday, July 13.

Taylor, Miller, No. 17 Audi Collect Fourth Win of Season

Mikey Taylor enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the tussle for the lead of the Touring Car (TCR) class between Robert Wickens’ No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR and Jon Morley’s No. 61 Road Shagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS TCR in the closing stages of Saturday’s race. But Taylor was positively delighted by the view in the rearview mirror of the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi the following lap, having taken the lead with a clean pass into the Inner Loop at Watkins Glen after Wickens firmly rebuffed Morley’s bold overtaking effort at the same point the previous lap.

“That was a tough move,” Taylor said of Morley’s unsuccessful passing attempt. “But as competitive as TCR is these days, when you have a sniff at an overtake you’ve got to go for it. I thought they were both going to go around and retire, but the Hyundai is pretty robust. That’s TCR for you: it’s tight, close and fun racing.”

Once out front, Taylor gradually edged away from Wickens to take the TCR win by 2.054 seconds, even as the race ended in disappointment for Morley when the Road Shagger Audi ran short of fuel two corners from the finish line. Morley’s misfortune enabled Denis Dupont to grab the final spot in the No. 76 BHA Hyundai he shared with Preston Brown.

“We used what we had,” said Taylor. “We didn’t have much front end (tires) left and we didn’t have much fuel left. But (co-driver) Chris (Miller) did a great first stint to bring it to me, and the guys on the (pit) box – I can’t say enough – they did a great job on the strategy. At the end, it wasn’t about raw pace, it was about consistency and that’s what the Unitronic/JDC-Miller Audi is: It’s consistent.”

Taylor and Miller are becoming quite accustomed to seeing the TCR field in their mirrors. This was their fourth win in five Michelin Pilot Challenge races so far this year and represents a rebound from the race at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago that saw the No. 17 Audi finish third.

“They’re all difficult,” Miller said, “and this is just one step closer to our goal. I’m just super proud of the team. The guys have been doing an amazing job and, honestly, it’s due to them that we’re on this run. Mikey and I are just trying to bring the car home in one piece. They’re calling great strategy, doing great pit stops and we’re picking ‘em up and putting them down.”

The result boosted the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Motorsports Audi to a commanding 220-point lead over the No. 76 BHA Hyundai as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competitors head north to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in three weeks.