Learning Weekend for Michael Myers Racing at NJMP
 September 3, 2021| 
  • Team News
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MILLVILLE, NJ – The learning experience that is the 2021 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship season continued last weekend for Michael Myers Racing, as the team wrestled with car setup and the elements in the triple header at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP).

The team arrived at the 12-turn, 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway at NJMP ready to try an experimental new setup on its No. 42 Metalloid/ Sturgis Finishing/Myers Garage Tatuus USF-17. Myers has good memories at NJMP, having earned his first two race car victories at the track on his way to a runner-up finish in the 2019 Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series, so hopes were high. With two test sessions on Friday ahead of a busy weekend, the team knew they’d need to hit the ground running.

But as soon as he took to the track on a hot, humid morning, Myers knew something was wrong. The setup didn’t work, and Myers spent the rest of the test day erasing that from his memory banks.

“It was not the best start to the weekend,” said Myers. “But I stayed out on track with it too long, I should have come in right away and made changes. Unfortunately, that developed a sense of distrust in the car for me. I’ve struggled to adapt quickly, being new to the car and the series.”

The team regrouped for the second test in the afternoon and worked on the setup with the help of team coach/NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver/2014 USF2000 runner-up RC Enerson.

“RC really helps so much. He’s been through it, he knows what to look for, what to change – but most importantly, how to communicate what I’m saying to my engineer better. I wish we’d had just one more session.”

Saturday and Sunday each saw three intense sessions – official practice, race one qualifying and race one on Saturday, and race two qualifying, race two and race three on Sunday. Myers worked on the mindset required to “just go out there and send it” despite the residual effects of Friday’s difficulties. Qualifying 17th for race one, Myers knew he had work to do on a track not known for its passing zones.

“That was disappointing, especially since it’s so hard to pass here. You have to force a pass and hope it doesn’t turn into a crash, so starting in the back doesn’t help.”

Despite what he terms as an “amazing start,” Myers was unable to hold the positions he gained early in race one and spent much of the race simply testing corners and trying to push through the mental block leftover from Friday, taking the checkered flag in 18th.

Heading into Sunday, the entire paddock anxiously watched the skies, as weather surrounded the racetrack. Myers, who had never raced in the rain before, started race two in 18th position determined to put Friday and Saturday behind him. With words of wisdom from Enerson and a mental database of off-road races in every kind of weather condition, Myers’ goal was to “keep the car on the racetrack and push!”

USF2000 race director Joel Miller declared a “wet” start, which meant the field had to take the green on rain tires. At the drop of the flag, Myers took off, passing several cars on the first lap. By lap nine, he was up to 13th position, one of the fastest cars on track despite his lack of experience on rain tires. Unfortunately, Myers was collected by another car and sent off track, as the other driver received a penalty for avoidable contact. Myers would finish the race 23rd, but with less than two hours to wait for the weekend finale.

Starting 17th in the third race, Myers – as well as much of the USF2000 field – got caught out by the speed in which the racetrack dried. The cars began the pace laps on a completely wet track only to find it had nearly dried by the drop of the green.  With only a split second to make the call to come into pit lane to change to slicks on lap one, the team chose the cautious route and stayed on track. Unfortunately, Myers found himself adding “tire management” to his learning curve, as the Cooper rain tires degraded so badly as to necessitate a trip to pit lane mid-race, which sent Myers to the back of the field and a 21st-place finish.

Despite the hard numbers on the scoring sheet, the team came away from NJMP with the knowledge that the pace is there – it just requires all the necessary factors coming together at the right time.

“I really feel as though we could have gotten a top 10 in that second race,” said Myers. “We were passing guys like crazy on the rain tires. And in race three, we had high expectations given our pace in the wet on Saturday, but it wasn’t to be. I’ve never managed rain tires, so by lap six, it was like a skating rink out there. If I’d known I’d be playing the long game on those tires, I’d have pulled back some early.

“We definitely learned from everything that happened last weekend. It’s hard, knowing we were so close to our goal of a top-10 finish, but that’s part of why we’re here this year. I had a blast in the wet, so that’s something I won’t be nervous about in the future. So now it’s on to Mid-Ohio, and I’m excited about it. We earned our top finish of the season there back in July, a 12th-place finish. All we have to do is qualify well and stay out of trouble! It’s always been my favorite track; it would be great to finish the season with a solid result.”

Next up for Michael Myers Racing will be the double header season finale at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course October 1-3, with each session live streamed at USF2000.com and the Road to Indy TV app!

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