DAYTONA BEACH, FLA – For Cooper MacNeil, this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America won’t necessarily be a long-awaited homecoming. He was just there less than a week ago.
Still living in the Chicago area, MacNeil hails from Hinsdale, Illinois, just two and a half hours away from the fan-favorite, 4.048-mile circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Trips to Road America, like last weekend’s Milwaukee Region SCCA race, are common.
“I was actually racing an SCCA race there this past weekend and then won on Sunday,” MacNeil said. “I’ve had a lot of races there, a lot of success. I love the place. It’s one of the best venues in the country as far as the track layout goes, the facilities they have, etc. I like Elkhart and Kohler is not too far. It’s just a pretty area and it’s a good place for a racetrack.”
Heading into the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase on Sunday, Aug. 6, which will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET, MacNeil hopes he and co-driver Gunnar Jeannette and the No. 50 Riley Motorsports – WeatherTech Racing team can repeat the success they found this year at the BUBBA burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach in April, besting the rest of the GT Daytona (GTD) field to land on the top step of the podium.
Given that both drivers have won IMSA races at Road America in the past – MacNeil in 2012 and Jeannette in 2010 – this might be the best place for the team to rekindle the fire. And in case there wasn’t enough motivation heading into the weekend, Road America is also the home race for WeatherTech, based in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
“We’ve got about 300 or 400 employees coming out to the race as well so it’s a really big home race for WeatherTech,” MacNeil said. “But as far as how I take it weekend by weekend, it’s the same as any other weekend. It’s another race that we’re trying to win and we obviously don’t go to the racetrack to finish second or anything but first, really.
“We’ve got our sights set on first place and that’s the same as any weekend… We like to have a competitive car and competitive team and try to make sure all of that is maximized so we have the best preparation, the best chance possible for the race. I don’t take it any differently just because it’s a home race. We go to win and that’s why we race.”
The team is faced with a unique task this weekend though, as MacNeil and Jeanette will be competing in a Porsche 911 GT3 R, rather than the Mercedes-AMG GT3 the team ran for the first eight races of the season. The team intends the change to be a one-off and return to the Mercedes at VIRginia International Raceway later this month, but feels they have a better chance of winning with the Porsche.
“The Porsche is lighter,” MacNeil explained. “It’s got a less restricted motor which, in turn, makes it more nimble and less aggressive on tires, so tire wear is going to be a lot less with the Porsche because of the less weight. And Road America has three long straightaways. Letting the engine breathe and not having the weight in there is going to, in turn, make the Porsche a lot faster on the straightaways… Road America is a horsepower, top-speed type of track and if you don’t have that, you’re going to suffer.”
The two-hour, 40-minute Continental Tire Road Race Showcase will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio commentary also available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.