January 26, 2024
By John Oreovicz & Mark Robinson IMSA Wire Service
Mikey Taylor won two races for JDC-Miller MotorSports on Friday. The first was to and from Orlando International Airport in the morning to pick up a critical part to be installed in the team’s No. 17 Unitronic Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Miller and co-driver Chris Taylor then proceeded to charge to the front and capture the four-hour Touring Car (TCR) class season opener.
After turning six laps in opening Michelin Pilot Challenge practice on Wednesday, the team was unable to start the car on Thursday. The No. 17 sat out Thursday’s practice and qualifying while the JDC-Miller crew scrambled to replace multiple parts on the Audi without success to get it restarted. What they didn’t have on hand to swap out was the engine control unit (ECU), but the nearest one they could find was in Mexico.
Arrangements were made for someone to fly with the part to Orlando early Friday morning and Taylor met them and the ECU at the airport and raced back to Daytona.
“We were not doing the speed limit to get back here,” Taylor said, “and we just made it just in time. Miraculously, the car started because we had no idea that the parts we had would actually fix the issue. It was a pure Hail Mary and we were super lucky today.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he added, “and I don’t want to be part of it again because it’s too stressful.”
Starting at the back of the TCR grid, Miller knew quickly he had a fast car and moved up to fourth in class less than a half-hour into the race. Taylor pushed the No. 17 into the lead for the first time just past the halfway point and wound up leading all but four of the final 53 laps around the 3.56-mile road course.
Not to say it was easy. Taylor fended off challenges from Denis Dupont in the No. 76 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, Tom O’Gorman in the No. 15 Rockwell Autosport Development Audi RS3 LMS SEQ and Mark Wilkins in the No. 98 BHA Hyundai. The margin of victory was 20.408 seconds over Dupont, Preston Brown and Nick Looijmans in the No. 76 Hyundai, but only because Dupont ran out of fuel coming to the finish line.
It was Taylor’s eighth Michelin Pilot Challenge win, the sixth for Miller and their second together at Daytona – the other in 2021.
It was also particularly rewarding for reasons other than the miraculous recovery. It salved the wounds of the way the 2023 season ended, when an early exit from the season finale ended a bid for the TCR championship. Team members also learned Thursday night that Jay Cottrell, a former JDC-Miller crew member, passed away and dedicated the victory to him.
“It was nice to be able to do this and have the whole team rally around trying to win it for him,” Miller said. “It feels extra special because of that.”
The Michelin Pilot Challenge returns to action March 15 with the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway.