As the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to VIRginia International Raceway on August 17-19, we’re celebrating driver Corey Lewis, who scored a breakthrough victory at the Virginia road course for Change Racing in last year’s IMSA event.
One of the most versatile drivers in the paddock, Lewis has competed in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series, is a World Champion in Lamborghini Super Trofeo, and currently competes in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series, as well as the Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda series with co-driver Matt Dicken, whom he also coaches.
Earlier this year, Lewis stepped up to race the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the GTD category in Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. The trio went on to claim victory in the historic race – Lewis’ first win in the legendary event.
We chatted with Corey Lewis to find out just exactly how he does it.
How do you do it? You're such a versatile driver - a World Champion in Super Trofeo, and racing in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, Prototype Challenge, and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. How do you adapt to the different forms of racing and the different cars?
Honestly there is no real secret. I think looking back at my early career when I was younger transitioning from karting to open wheel and touring cars, I never came from money, and my family gave me everything they could just to get to “race day”. Normally, I could never test, basically one or two practice sessions to get used to the car. So I knew going into the weekend I had to be a quick study, and try to understand what the car needed to go fast. I was always learning every lap. To top it off, I knew if I crashed I would be done racing for a while because we couldn’t pay for the damages. Those early experiences made me very disciplined and I tried to keep an open mind of what each car that I’ve driven needed to be quick. I still use this mentality today. The Lamborghini Super Trofeo, LMP3 and GTD car are all so drastically different to drive. My goal is within 2-4 laps in each car, I need to be nearly up to speed. I always say, drive with your butt, download the laps in your mind and debrief with your engineer to make the car more suitable to go even faster.
How does your experience as a driver translate into coaching? Did you have any good coaches in your career that you try to implement now that you're coaching? How is your role as a coach different from when you're actually the one driving?
Going from the driver seat to then becoming a coach, in my mind is actually quite easy. I feel like I’m very good with describing what the car is doing at Entry, Apex and Exit. I’m basically verbalizing everything I’m doing in the race car to my driver that I’m coaching. I keep it simple and break it down so they understand what I mean.
Throughout my career I’ve had a few coaches that have helped me get to this point. My first ever driver coach was Grant Maiman. Grant was head to head with Scott Speed in the Red Bull Driver shootout for the Formula 1 seat in 2009. I met Grant at a Skip Barber regional open wheel series event. He and I got along extremely well. He taught me so much in such a small time frame. Everything from rolling starts, setting up passes on the car ahead and race craft. Again, I still use the tools he gave me today. Since then, I’ve worked with great coaches such as Peter Krause, Chuck West and Jonatan Jorje. Each of these coaches have helped advance my driving to a new level.
My role as a coach isn’t much different from when I’m driving. If anything it’s that little bit of added pressure to practice everything that I preach. Making sure I hit all the marks that I’ve mentioned to my drivers that I coach. It’s sometimes good to experiment with different possible techniques to see if it is faster when you look back at the data.
You've worked with several different co-drivers in your career. Do you have to change the way you approach a race or the way you drive? Different drivers like different setups, and a different feel of the car - so how do you manage to keep the car happy when there are so many opinions of how it drives best?
Over my career, especially in sports cars you have teammates that you share the car with. You need to have an open mind and have the mindset that you need to have a car that everyone can drive. You throw away your ego because you need a solid setup that everyone can be fast with. At the end of the day, having an “I” mentality is not going to win the race if your co-driver is struggling with how the car is handling. The best teammates and co-drivers I’ve had the pleasure to work with, had the mindset of “team”. I really feel that this mentality paid off 100% for Sebring with Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers and myself.
What’s been your best racing moment?
This one is rather difficult to answer because there have been many! I’d say winning the Lamborghini Super Trofeo US and World Championship in the same season. This really helped me transition into the IMSA Weather Tech paddock and allowing me to be where I am today. Winning the 12 Hours of Sebring is also at the top the list. It’s one of those historic races as a kid you dream of just being on the starting grid. But, to win a race like that – it’s hard to put into words, it’s a dream come true. I hope and plan that this is the first of many wins and long racing career ahead of me!