The No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG team played its race strategy to perfection in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, enabling co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette to earn their first victories in WeatherTech Championship competition in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.
After a 13th-place class qualifying performance on Friday, the team elected to start the race on fresh tires, moving the No. 50 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the back of the field. When the second of the race’s five full-course cautions came out after 18 minutes, MacNeil brought the car into the pits for service and handed over the controls to Jeannette.
Jeannette then inched his way forward through the field as others made their stops, making his way to the head of the GTD field at the 47-minute mark in the race. He stayed there for the rest of the way, winning by 7.492 seconds over teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG entry.
“We qualified pretty far toward the back but times were tight,” MacNeil said. “We made the strategy call to change to four fresh tires and to go absolutely last. So, it’s pretty good to go from last to first.”
MacNeil had five previous victories in ALMS competition, while Jeannette won six ALMS races and one GRAND-AM race previously. It was the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship win for Mercedes-AMG, which earned its first victory in the series last month at Sebring, and was the manufacturer’s first 1-2 sweep.
“I kind of blacked out for a minute and the next thing I know the checkered flag is out and I’m crossing the finish line,” Jeannette said playfully in the post-race press conference. “A lot of things can happen if you roll the dice and take a risk and taking a chance was the only card we had to play.
“I knew my job was to go back out and go as fast as I could and not use any fuel. We might have had to take one more splash but with enough yellows we didn’t have to. With 35 cars going around we kind of lucked out and we didn’t have to risk it and it worked out our way.”
The runner-up result for Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating allowed them to extend their lead in the GTD point standings to 21 points, 98-77, over No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 co-drivers and defending GTD champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, who finished third in the race.
The next round for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Advance Auto Parts Sports Car Showdown at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Saturday, May 6.