With a significantly new lineup featuring two new drivers, the three driver Performance Racing L.A. (PRLA) squad showed great promise during this past weekend’s Toyota GR Cup event in Nashville, part of the IndyCar Big Machine Music City Grand Prix event.
The GR Cup Series is in its first season. Aidan Yoder, at 20 years old, is essentially the team’s veteran driver, and has been joined by two newcomers:
• Jaxon Bell, son of NBC IndyCar analyst and semi-retired racer Townsend Bell
• Spencer Schmidt, son of veteran IndyCar team co-owner, Sam Schmidt, who is a partner with the Arrow McLaren SP organization.
The new lineup was unable to show anything in Saturday’s Race 1 of the two-race weekend, as the event was cancelled due to lightning and heavy rain in the downtown Nashville area.
Toyota GR Cup officials said they would reschedule the missed race at some point between now and the end of the season.
Because qualifying was also rained out, GR Cup officials decided to build the starting grid off the results from Friday’s second practice session.
That proved very beneficial to Precision Racing LA’s drivers as Bell set the pace for the three-driver team, finishing the practice session as the third-quickest driver with a time of 1:43.810.
When Sunday rolled around for the scheduled Race 2 of the weekend, the new PRLA lineup worked very well together and finished with a strong showing that ultimately was the organization’s best combined outing of the season to date.
Yoder, essentially the reigning veteran of the first-year team (the entire GR Cup is in its first overall season), earned a podium finish in Race 2 with a third-place showing, finishing roughly 1.5 seconds behind race winner and series leader Tyler Gonzalez. “I’m elated to get my first podium in the Toyota GR Cup especially as it was on the streets of Nashville. We’ve worked so hard this season everyone at Precision Racing LA truly deserves this” said Yoder.
And one of Yoder’s two new teammates, Bell, built upon a strong third-place effort in Friday’s second practice to finish in fourth-place in Sunday’s race, 0.887 behind Yoder.
As for the third member of the PRLA’s Toyota GR Cup team, Schmidt was involved in a late-race, multi-car incident and wound up being scored a disappointing 27th in the 28-car field. Schmidt shared “All good it was a light hit but jacked up the left front, headed down to Road America for the next one”
In the kickoff to the weekend, Friday’s pair of Toyota GR Cup practices, Yoder had an impressive first practice, scoring fourth-quickest of the 28-car field, with a best single-lap time of 1:49.712, just under 1.5 seconds from the quickest driver in the field.
Bell was 10th quickest with a best lap of 1:50.413. And Schmidt was 22nd-quickest at 1:54.634.
As for Friday’s second practice, Bell, piloting the No. 2 Toyota GR86, was the star of the round both overall and also for PRLA, setting the pace for himself and his teammates,
Meanwhile, Yoder, in the No. 73 GR86, was two spots behind, fifth-quickest at 1:44.038.
Schmidt was 24th-quickest in the No. 37 Toyota GR86 with a time of 1:46.691, but his team worked through much of the evening to try and squeeze more speed out of the car during the upcoming pair of races on Saturday and Sunday.
Despite the missed race due to weather, the Nashville weekend marked the seventh single event of the season thus far. That means there are three more events – with two races as part of each event – still to come to wrap up the season and come up with a season champion.
Those races are August 18-20 at Road America in Central Wisconsin, followed by Sebring International sports car course in Central Florida on Sept. 22-24, and the season finale weekend, October 6-8, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Yoder is in contention for the Toyota GR Cup championship he has an outside shot at the inaugural season title if he can potentially earn a win or two in the remaining seven races over the remaining three weekend events.
No decision has been made on when the canceled race at Nashville will be held, but given how tight the championship battle has been, it’s likely that extra race may be held at either Sebring International or during the finale weekend in Indianapolis.