SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Winward Racing’s Daniel Morad took the lead from NOLAsport’s Elliott Skeer with under five minutes to go Saturday night (Sept. 16). He then made his fuel hold out to win the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Indianapolis Motor Speedway 240 for his and Bryce Ward‘s second win of the year.
“The last hour was one of the hardest hours of racing of my career,” Morad told Frontstretch after the race. “Battling with Elliott and having to hit an extreme fuel number while keeping cars behind was so overwhelming, I can’t even describe what was going through my head. It feels like I went through a battle for my life.”
Morad and Ward’s margin of victory was .566 seconds over Lone Star Racing’s Scott Andrews and Anton Dias Perera. Random Vandals Racing’s Kenton Koch and Paul Sparta were third in their BMW, followed by Rebel Rock Racing’s Andrew Davis, Frank DePew and Robin Liddell. Turner Motorsport’s Vin Barletta and Robby Foley finished fifth and claimed the Grand Sport points lead.
Skeer was forced to pit at the white flag for a splash of fuel. Him and Adam Adelson ended up finishing 16th.
Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare started from the pole and opened up a small advantage over Archangel Motorsports’ Billy Johnson, who was able to jump over Rennsport One’s Stevan McAleer at the start. McAleer wasted no time getting the spot back, though.
McAleer then ran down Lazare for the lead. 20 minutes in, McAleer made the pass going through the chicane to grab the advantage. It did not take long for McAleer to put three seconds on Lazare.
Further back, the opening 30 minutes of the race were marked by a series of incidents, none of which caused a full course caution. First, Ward spun on the first lap in turn 10 after contact from KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars. Mars was given a drive-through penalty for causing the spin.
Later on, Ave Motorsports’ Alfredo Najri made a dive for position on CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing’s Brady Golan entering turn 12. Hard contact was made, resulting in both cars going off into the runoff. Golan’s Porsche suffered a broken right rear suspension in the incident and was forced out of the race. Najri was given a penalty, but not before he spent over 20 laps in the pits getting repairs.
The first caution of the race flew 35 minutes in due to Preston Brown‘s TCR Audi stalling on track. The same car had stalled Friday during practice with fuel pickup issues. That resulted in a series of pit stops. By the time the caution flew, Ward had recovered from the rear of the field to 13th.
Rennsport One with Eric Filguerias now at the wheel won the race off of pit road. However, a new cast of characters was in his wake. Murillo Racing’s Kenny Murillo was in second, but Morad quickly drove himself up to second, fully recovering from Ward’s spin on the first lap.
The second yellow flew just before halfway when Eddie Gou spun off and got his Audi stuck in the gravel, resulting in pit stops. Filguerias was able to maintain the lead and ended up with a couple of lapped cars between himself and the others.
Skeer was able to slowly make his way forward in his Porsche to second. He then took advantage of a mistake by Filguerias to take the lead with 90 minutes to go.
Deily Motorsports’ Sally McNulty spinning into the gravel after contact from CarBahn Motorsports with Peregrine Racing’s Jeff Westphal brought out another yellow with 75 minutes to go. That brought the leaders into the pits again. For Morad and Skeer, this was their final scheduled stop of the day. A split strategy emerged that resulted in Fast Track Racing’s Neil Verhagen briefly taking the lead before losing it to Skeer.
A debris caution (due to the rear bumper falling off of the Ford Mustang GT4 of NV Autosport’s Drew Neubauer) brought everyone back together for a 40-minute sprint to the finish. Morad was able to get past Skeer in turn 7 after the restart to take the lead.
Skeer wasn’t about to give up. He was able to get back alongside Morad for the lead, going multiple corners side-by-side. In the end, not only did Morad keep the lead, but Lone Star Racing’s Scott Andrews ran the leaders down and passed Skeer for second.
Skeer was able to get back to the lead, but fuel mileage forced nearly everyone to save in the final laps. A collision between Bryan Herta Autosport’s Michael Lewis and KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. brought out another yellow, giving some drivers a respite.
That just meant a 10-minute sprint to the finish. Morad blew the chicane on the restart, then pulled a Ross Chastain-esque move through the runoff to keep himself in contention. In case you forgot what that looks like, here is a refresher:
Morad was able to keep himself in second by doing this. Unlike Chastain, he was not penalized for it.
Skeer was even tighter on fuel than Morad. As a result, Morad was able to take the lead with five minutes to go and hold off Andrews for the win.
In TCR, JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller started from the pole, but did not last long at the front of the field. Bryan Herta Autosport’s Michael Lewis took the lead in the opening laps and drove away. Meanwhile, Miller dropped back as far as eighth.
The second caution caused a strategy split in the class. Rockwell Autosport Development’s Denis Dupont chose to stay out during the caution since he had stopped 10 laps before. That gave him the lead and a number of additional cars between himself and the other TCR leaders. That allowed Dupont to pull out to a nine-second lead while the other top TCR teams fought it out amongst themselves.
The McNulty incident brought everyone back to pit road. Robert Wickens took the lead while Dupont needed more fuel. Afterwards, you had a duel for the lead between Wickens, Dupont and JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Mikey Taylor.
On the final restart, Wickens put a couple of seconds on Taylor, then lost it. With a little more than three laps to go, Taylor was able to snatch the lead away. From there, he was able to hold on to take his and Miller’s third win in the last five races.
Miller and Taylor’s margin of victory was 1.138 seconds over Wickens and Harry Gottsacker. BHA’s Mason Filippi and Mark Wilkins were third, then Dupont, Nick Looijmans and Eric Rockwell in their best finish of the year. Lewis and Taylor Hagler ended up fifth.
There is only one Michelin Pilot Challenge race remaining in 2023. That is the FOX Factory 120 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. That race will be streamed live on Peacock Oct. 13 at 12:25 p.m. ET. Frontstretch will be on-site in Georgia to bring you all the action.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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