Gradient in crash fightback at the Roar

Images courtesy of Gradient/Halston Pitman

Gradient in crash fightback at the Roar

IMSA

Gradient in crash fightback at the Roar

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Whether it’s the Roar Before The 24 or the race-week sessions prior to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, there’s always at least one team that’s thrust into a major crash recovery. The Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 outfit from Texas wasn’t looking to become to become that team, but it’s precisely where the program finds itself with the No. 66 GT Daytona entry after rookie driver Kyffin Simpson had a hard meeting with the infield barriers during Saturday morning’s practice session.

Fortunately, the 17-year-old was unhurt in the crash, and according to co-driver and team principal Marc Miller, the Acura is definitely repairable. The question Gradient’s crew is looking to answer is how long the No. 66 NSX GT3 will sit idly in the garage as the rest of their WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rivals continue lapping and preparing for next weekend’s big race.

“First off, we have two drivers that have not competed at this event before with Till Bechtolsheimer and Kyffin Simpson, and certainly there was nothing that he did that was really wrong,” Miller (pictured at left, above, with Simpson) told RACER. “It was just a situation where there were damp track conditions and cooled-off tires when he got to the Kink, the rear kicked out and there was a slide backwards and contact with the outer barrier with the right-rear corner a couple times. Unfortunately, when it hits at the angle it did and it gets into the wheel and tire, it creates a lot more damage to fix with all the other stuff that gets pushed around on the car.

“It’s a lot of work for the crew, but when we got the car back to the garage, they didn’t waste any time in the disassembly process. They’ve got the wheels, off, gearbox out, engine’s coming out, and they’re sparing no effort to make sure that when they get this car back together we have nothing to worry about we can carry on, business as usual.”

With a need to inspect the Acura’s rear subframe for any kinks or twists, the extra effort to ensure the chassis is straight and the time needed to re-install the undamaged parts and fit the replacement pieces will happen at whatever natural pace is required from the No. 66’s mechanics.

“That’s the upside to our approach,” Miller said. “We’re not trying to scramble to make night practice right now, as much as we all like to get some time on track tonight, the big picture is we need a car that’s gonna race for 24 hours, plus all the hours beforehand. And no matter where we start, we have to have a nice clean race, so this is the time to get the car into that shape, regardless of the time it takes.

“This is definitely a setback, but with a setback, it gives you an opportunity to spring forward and have everyone’s eye on that prize. Starting, tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll get both Kiffin and Till some quality time in the car at pace and in traffic. Then we’ll start all over for next week and get some practice under our belt and hopefully have a decent starting position for the race.

“It really doesn’t matter where you start for this race; what matters is being able to get through the first 16 to 20 hours unscathed and hopefully on the lead lap without too much fanfare to race to the end. So now, we’re getting everything all sorted and back to where we’re all comfortable again.”

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