On Tuesday, March 25, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing announced that they have opted to sit out the next two rounds of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Long Beach and Laguna Seca, reportedly to focus on reliability and performance testing with its ORECA Nissan.
"It was a very short off-season for us, we received our car at the end of December and we were racing at the end of January," shared Team Owner Greg Pickett.. The team worked hard so we could be at Daytona and Sebring but we feel that we need to take a step back in order to continue moving forward the way we want.
Following the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND AM Series, Pickett Racing had one of its shortest off-seasons and with only five weeks between receiving their car and having to be on track at Daytona, they were unable to spend their usual amount of time preparing and learning about their new P2 ORECA Nissan.
While the team got through the 24 Hours of Daytona with no major glitches, they did encounter a couple of issues at Sebring International Raceway, one of which ended their race.
"It's never an easy decision to make when deciding to miss a race, let alone two," Pickett continued. "We had an issue at Sebring with the power steering that could have been a safety concern, fortunately it didn't get to that but we want to make sure that we don't have such problems again."
With that in mind, the team decided that it was in their best long-term interest to spend the time testing and gathering more knowledge of its new prototype while missing two races before coming back at Detroit at the end of May.
"Additionally, while we did lead some laps at Sebring, the speed differential between the DP cars and the P2s is still quite big and I want to see what the series does with that over the course of the next couple of races, as these will take place at tracks that should favor the P2 cars," added Pickett.
The team also wants to study how the balance of performance between the Daytona Prototypes and the P2 cars pans out over the next couple of races.
"We came here to be competitive and we know that we have the drivers and the car to do so, but a big part of that competitiveness comes from the balance of performance and you can't be fighting for wins if you're not on a level playing field," concluded Pickett.
The team's decision came as a shock to some of the other drivers in the paddock.
"Whoa! Muscle Milk Racing skipping Long Beach and Laguna," stated ESM driver Mike Hedlund. "Bummer!"
After attending the events in Daytona and Sebring, one can only assume that the series is off and running while trying to fine tune the rules as they go along. This can work, but only if all the participants are on the same page. So far, it seems as though not only have they not been on the same page, but might be in totally different sections of the library!
Though there is still hope that they will figure it out, the large fields that were seen at both of the series longest endurance events may be in jeopardy. This sentiment was echoed by former ESM and current Whelen Corvette team member Guy Cosmo.
"They're dropping like flies…" Cosmo added.
Fans of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing have to wait until the team returns to action at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park on May 30 - 31 for the Detroit Grand Prix.
Stay tuned to this column for more coverage of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship calendar, as well as post race reviews, interviews, and more.
Be sure to subscribe to the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner, and keep track of your favorite racers, no matter how many (or how few) wheels they may or may not race on. If you're a motorsports fan, and know of an event, team, or person you'd like to see profiled, please let me know. Also, be sure to follow me on twitter, and read my articles about local getaways,HOAs,elections, and restaurants.