ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Success can be measured in many ways in the racing world, and not always via wins and championships. Sometimes success comes from seeing hard work and dedication pay off – on and off the track.
For the Michael Myers Racing team, the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season has been one of ups and downs, but with the learning curve always pushing forward.
Thus was the story in last weekend’s USF2000 Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Road America. With the entire Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires back together, along with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the team hoped that its first visit to the iconic Wisconsin road course would continue to yield progress for the first-year squad. But a significant incident in qualifying sent the team scrambling to repair the injured No. 42 Sturgis Finishing/Metalloid/Myers Garage Tatuus USF-17 in time for the weekend’s pair of races – showing the team’s resilience and dedication to seeing driver Michael Myers continue to grow in the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
“That was a tough one,” said Myers, “but I really do think that we learned so much last weekend. Sometimes that happens in adversity.”
Myers had raced at Road America several times before, in the Lucas Oil School of Racing and in the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, where he finished third and fourth in two races. He also competed in the Team USA scholarship program in those same cars in 2019. But the Tatuus USF-17 is a very different beast, and Thursday’s test day was dedicated to getting up to speed.
“Thursday was a big learning experience. I felt confident with the pace we had. We started out slowly Thursday and made incremental changes to the car, as I dialed in my driving. We didn’t see as much pace as we would have liked by the end of the day, which was a bit de-motivating, just not the progress we wanted to see.”
Then, in the first qualifying session, Myers caught too much kerb going into the fast Turn 13, which sent him spinning into the wall, causing significant left side damage. With only three hours between the qualifying session for race one and the afternoon session for race two, the team had a decision to make: hustle to get the car ready for the afternoon, running the risk that the setup wouldn’t be completely accurate, or take their time, make sure everything was perfect, and be ready for race one late Saturday morning. The team wisely made the latter choice.
“We might have been able to get out Friday afternoon but we wouldn’t have been sure that the car was 100% if we’d been pushing that hard. This is our learning year and we’re progressing slowly, adding to our knowledge base so that we’ll be full tilt next year. Everyone worked so hard to get the car back together, and we didn’t want to cut any corners or go too quickly. Saturday morning, no one was second guessing any decision we made, and that really helped my confidence level going into the first race.”
Because Myers had brought out a red flag in qualifying, he lost his quick lap, and started at the back of the field. Working to remove the after effects of the crash (“I had to rewire myself a bit at the start of the race”) he took the green flag and began to make his move.
“I had a really good start, I got into the top 20 pretty quickly in all the chaos. I made some solid passes, I definitely had the car to do it, but then the yellow came out – and I had the worst restart ever. I just tried to keep my head down, but by mid-race we were off the pace. I was able to get into some good racing and make some good passes and though the car was pretty good, I wasn’t.”
Intent on finishing the weekend on a positive note, Myers headed into Sunday’s race ready to put the past two days’ issues behind him. With a very early start (Sunday’s green flag flew at 8:00 a.m. local time), the race saw much of the first two laps proceed under caution and multiple incidents throughout the 12-lap event.
“Sunday was pretty messy, but I had a good start. We were moving up but unfortunately, I caught some bad luck. I was tucked up behind another car coming out of the kink and he swerved out to miss a front wing on track and I hit it. I really had nowhere to go. It ripped the right-side bodywork and sensors off, but I limped it around to the checkered flag – I was going to finish that race no matter what. Which basically topped off the weekend.”
The team left Road America with the knowledge their hard work is beginning to pay off. Myers felt he had pace, and the team grew closer as they all worked together to get the car back on track. A bit of good luck, and they know they’re almost there.
“We had a good mindset throughout the weekend: that was the only way to move forward. For the circumstances we had, the team did really well. We have a really great team, especially given our size (Michael, his father Mike, mechanic Gary Dunford and engineer Ian Brown), though we lack information, which is key. I’m confident that we’ll come back even stronger at Mid-Ohio, that track is more our style. I have a lot of experience there, and that will help!”
Next up for Michael Myers Racing will be the triple header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course July 1 to 4, with each session live streamed at USF2000.com and the Road to Indy TV app!