DXDT Racing Leaves Sonoma Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Season Opener with Podium, Trophies, and Promise

DXDT Racing Leaves Sonoma Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS Season Opener with Podium, Trophies, and Promise

DXDT Racing opened the 2024 Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS season with successes on both sides of the garage, headlined by a strong third-place finish from the No. 08 of Scott Smithson and Bryan Sellers and complimented by a bevy of awards for the No. 91 of Jeff Burton and Philip Ellis.

The weekend got off to a late start due to repairs to the Sonoma Raceway track surface, which meant that Thursday’s test session and Friday’s First Practice were canceled and qualifying was rolled into Saturday’s lone practice session. Despite the reduced track time for the No. 91 Burton Lumber Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Burton and Ellis and the No. 08 Qelo Capital Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Smithson and Sellers, both cars showed pace early on, which was confirmed when Ellis captured pole position for Race One.

Due to an offseason rule change which allows teams to elect their starting driver, the No. 91 decided to go off-strategy from the rest of the Pro-Am field and pit Ellis against every other team’s amateur driver. That strategy started to show dividends as Ellis pulled away from the field, leading 35 laps before handing off to Burton. However, an early caution limited the gap that Ellis was able to create, and as a result the No. 91 finished sixth, one spot behind the No. 08 sister car.

Sunday afternoon’s Race Two saw the team’s split strategies at play again, with Burton starting in the No. 91 and Sellers piloting the No. 08 from the drop of the green flag. Sellers made his way forward quickly, making up a position at the start and quickly chased down Neil Verhagen in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW for second in class. Smithson took control for the final half of the race and had a spirited battle with the No. 38 before falling to third, which he maintained to the checkered flag. Ellis, who took over the No. 91 after 40 minutes, made quick work of the field, capturing the race’s CrowdStrike Fastest Lap and the SUPER FUEL Hard Charger award en route to fourth place.

It was a bittersweet end to the weekend for the No. 08 team, who marked the end of their relationship with Mercedes-AMG with a podium finish as they prepare to campaign the new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R from Sebring onward.

“This weekend, I’m super proud of the whole team,” expressed Team Principal David Askew. “A lot of times it’s easy to just look at the drivers – and they did a tremendous job this weekend – but the crew did an equally great job as well. The cars were prepared immaculately and performed flawlessly. Our cars were often the fastest on track, and I think we really made a statement that our team is capable of getting the job done. My job, and ultimately our job as a team, is to make sure the cars are as fast as they can be so that it can be up to the drivers to close the deal, and I think we did that this weekend.”

From the Drivers

Bryan Sellers, No. 08

I think this was a good weekend for us. We are definitely showing an upward trend, which is what we really needed to start this season off with. I think both cars were quick, and think the team did a great job on and off pit road this weekend. We were the quickest in the pits with the No. 08 car, and that just shows that we have a reinvigorated program with a lot of hunger and people wanting to win, and I think we certainly had opportunities to win. When you look at the big picture for this season, you have to feel pretty good about where we’re at. I think we still have some gains to make, obviously, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction and I’m super happy to see the guys smiling and high fiving with the way the races went.

Finally, Mercedes-AMG has been a great partner to us for a lot of years, and I’m super thankful for that partnership. It was great to send them off with a podium, and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next for us this season.

Scott Smithson, No. 08

I felt like it was a good weekend for us at DXDT. The cars were good and you could feel the progress that we’d made from last year. I had no complaints as far as the team or car, and I think that showed with our result in Race Two. I made a couple mistakes, but this weekend showed our pace and I think we should be competing for podiums every weekend this year. We’ll have to learn the new car a bit over the next month, but I think with the plan we have in place to prep and test the car, we’ll be in a good spot when Sebring rolls around.

Jeff Burton, No. 91

My goal right from the very start has been to win. The addition of Phil has made a huge difference; the guy is fabulous and the relationship that he and I have is great. DXDT has committed that our car will be really good this year, and I think their work over the offseason has proven itself this weekend. I made some mistakes this weekend, and I really could’ve used that extra track time after being out of the car for so long. I’m not a professional driver like a lot of these young guys. I’ve got to run a business during the week, so I need to make the most of my time in the car when I get the opportunity. This weekend it was weather, pavement – you name it – that prevented us from having the practice time to get up to speed, but we spent some time in Sebring over the winter and under Phil’s tutelage, I’m confident in our ability to get the car on the podium in both of the races next month.

Philip Ellis, No. 91

Race One and Race Two were both similar and very different. Race One was all about building the biggest gap that I could, so I was doing qualifying lap after qualifying lap to try to run away from the field, which worked quite well but wasn’t quite enough in the end for a podium position at the end, but I think we did a good job despite sliding out of those places right at the end. In Race Two, we did the opposite, so trying to stay on the lead lap in the first stint and then playing catch up, which is quite a bit more challenging. The viability of that strategy really depends on who you get in front of you. We were a bit unlucky with the [No. 120 Wright Motorsports] Porsche coming out and we were stuck behind him for a couple laps, which is fair game from his point – I would’ve done the same thing in his position – but it’s just bad luck that it took longer to move forward than we anticipated. Had there been a single safety car, I think we're having a conversation about a podium finish, or even a win. It’s the same as yesterday: without a safety car at the beginning, it might have had a different outcome. With two cars running Pro-Am, we decided to roll the dice on one, so we gave it a go. We will look at doing it again later this season – not every weekend, but where it makes sense, it seems that it’s a viable option.

We showed we have good potential in the car. The car was fast, the pit stops were fast, and we’re willing to do different things on strategy. As a team, we’ve made a big step forward since Indy last year. Sebring seems to suit us a little better, so we’ll see if things align for us there next month.