There are some race weekends where the best part is leaving the race track and heading home.
Such was the case for Precision Racing LA (PRLA) in this past weekend’s two-race Toyota GR Cup event at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
While all three PRLA drivers put in strong efforts at times, each of the trio were ultimately victims of mistakes from other drivers or mechanical issues that made for a rough collective weekend for the team.
Let’s recap what happened to each driver.
The team’s leading driver heading into the weekend, Yoder is eager to put things in his rearview mirror and keep looking forward.
Starting things off with Friday’s two practice sessions, Yoder had the best overall elapsed time of the three PRLA drivers in Practice 1, scoring 15th in his No. 73 Toyota GR86 with a best time of 2:08.195 in 11 laps on-track.
In Practice 2, Yoder made a huge jump upward, scoring the sixth-quickest time of the 30 drivers entered, with a best lap of 2:07.416 in 11 laps.
In Saturday’s qualifying, Yoder was the highest-qualifying driver for PRLA, coming in 13th in the 30-car field with a best lap of seven at 2:07.125.
As the race got underway, it was clear Yoder had a strong car, ultimately climbing into the top five before being forced to pit twice: the first time for seat belt issues that required a lengthy pit stop to fix, and the second time when his car suffered a flat tire.
End result: Yoder finished a disappointing 23rd out of the 30-car field.
Things then went from bad to worse for Yoder on Sunday. After qualifying a respectable seventh on the starting grid with an effort of 2:06.366, Yoder was involved in a three-car wreck, none of it being his fault.
First, he was rear-ended by another car, with the impact pushing Yoder into the car in front of him, bounced off and hard into a retaining wall, ending his day prematurely with a disappointing finish of 29th in the 30-car field.
Here’s what Yoder had to say about the incident, as well as the overall weekend:
“I’m okay. It was my first time in the medical center this weekend. I had never been there before, ever in my career, getting checked out for a potential concussion. But thankfully I’m not concussed. Glad I’m okay. I have to be on rest for a couple days before I get back into the workouts.
“Thankfully, I can rest my body and rest my mind and know I’m okay. The car can be repaired, as well. I’m very thankful we can get it back together. I haven’t had a hit like that in a very long time in my career, haven’t hit the wall like that in a very long time. I’m thankful that it’s been so long, but it still sucks that it happened, especially on a weekend that was already as difficult as this.
“It’s a bummer to end it that way, but like I said, I’m glad that I’m okay, glad that we can fix the car, we’ll put this behind us and we’ll move on to Nashville. Thanks to everyone who reached out and we’ll see you soon.”
One of six female drivers in the Toyota GR Cup Series, Lauren also was beset by issues not of her making at VIR.
In Friday’s Practice 1, Lauren was 26th-quickest with a best time of 2:10.762 in just five laps in her No. 09 Toyota GR86. The team went to work to find additional speed and the results showed dramatic improvement in Practice 2, when Lauren jumped up to the 11th-quickest position with a top time of 2:08.656 in 12 laps.
In Saturday morning’s qualifying prior to Race 1, Lauren qualified mid-pack at 16th with a best time of 2:07.452.
When the race began, Lauren was having one of her better performances thus far this season, looking at a possible top-15 finish, until she was involved in a last-lap wreck caused by another driver.
To her credit, Lauren was able to recover and ultimately finished 20th, the highest-finishing Precision Racing LA driver in Race 1.
In Sunday’s qualifying session prior to Race 2 of the weekend, Lauren started 14th (2:07.125).
Lauren then got through the race relatively unscathed, ending up as the highest-finishing PRLA driver in the event (19th).
With Harry Cheung having left the team, Schmidt, the son of IndyCar team co-owner Sam Schmidt, was chosen to fill in for the weekend in the No. 37 Toyota GR86.
In Friday’s two practices, the younger Schmidt excelled, considering he had never driven a GR Cup car before.
In Practice 1, he was 17th-quickest with a best time of 2:08.195 in 11 laps. Later in the afternoon in Practice 2, Schmidt improved to 15th-quickest with a best elapsed time of 2:08.699 in 12 laps.
Saturday morning, Schmidt qualified 23rd with an effort of 2:07.784.
When the green flag dropped to start Race 1 a few hours later, Schmidt looked comfortable behind the wheel before being involved in an incident that ultimately left him with a 26th place outing.
“(I) made a mistake going for a pass and broke a little piece on the front of the car,” Schmidt said. “(I) kept driving it as long as I could but the whole car was shaking like a blender after a couple laps.”
After his PRLA team made repairs Saturday evening, Schmidt was ready for Race 2 on Sunday.
After qualifying 17th (2:07.364) in the morning, Schmidt was involved in a wreck when he was hit by another car, ending up with a disappointing 25th-place finish.
“Pretty tough Race 2,” Schmidt said. “I was running pretty good, had a good start, had a good restart a couple laps in. But I got punted, a guy checked up in front of me, I slowed down, the guy behind me decided he didn’t want to slow down and shoved me off the track.
“Catching up after that, I was putting down some good times and then I blew a tire. So, super tough weekend, frustrating, but not at the fault of the team or me. So there’s some relief in that. A big thanks to Precision Racing LA for having me out for the race. I hope I can do more of these this year. It’s on to the next.”
The next pair of Toyota GR Cup races – Rounds 7 and 8 (the midpoint of the 14-race season) – won’t take place until nearly two months from now as part of the Music City Grand Prix IndyCar weekend in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, August 6-8.