SONOMA, Calif. — Bryan Sellers is widely recognized as one of the most hard-nosed and well-rounded sports car drivers in the modern racing era but he still shows a soft spot for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Sellers, a Dayton, Ohio native, will have his long-awaited homecoming at the course July 28-30 for Pirelli World Challenge GT competition.
“It certainly feels like home just because of the atmosphere that personally comes with it,” said Sellers about the 13-turn, 2.258-mile course. “Going there was always a favorite stop for me [back then]. Family and friends could go out, and I was excited because it’s one of the pinnacle tracks that everyone talks about. Racing in Ohio is in my blood. That’s where I learned how to drive. Racing is all I did. It was all I knew.”
Though Sellers admits he does not have an “extraordinary amount” of track-time there – his last stop was in 2013 – he is motivated by returning to his home-state to compete in front of his loved ones. The Buckeye State is where young-Sellers caught his break in racing and where he began to solidify himself as a competitive driver.
When Sellers was nine years-old, he found his first go-kart at the foot of the family Christmas tree. From there, he began competing, but it wasn’t until turning 16 that the possibility of making a career out of racing became real – and achievable. The Skip Barber Racing School, which served as both a developmental academy and racing series for entry-level professional racers, started a scholarship program to fund up-and-comers in the sport. In a sort of covert operation, scouts at various tracks nationwide assessed many drivers in karting. Sellers got a call.
“I never found out in all these years what race it was,” Sellers said. “It could have been any of them. You know, it was pretty surreal to get the phone call telling me I was one of the final ones because it’s such a big break – one I don’t think you’d expect. It’s something you’d be amazed about. It was nice knowing somebody had faith and trust in your skillset moving forward. It gave me a lot of confidence that there were people who thought this could be a possibility.”
Sellers was one of sixteen drivers accepted into a three-day training program. Based on the results, the school chose four to receive the scholarship – a paid seat in one of the series’ open-wheeled Formula Dodge cars. Sellers got the nod after the program, and continued to shine under the school’s regional series.
In Sellers’ two years on the regional tour, he made one annual stop at Mid-Ohio. He remembers growing up how kids gathered to watch the IndyCar races at the historic track. This time, however, Sellers got to experience the track first-hand in 1999, a season that saw him crowned the Midwestern Region champion and rookie of the year with 15 wins.
“You always get excited to go to one of those places – especially at that age,” said Sellers, reminiscing on the moment. “It was cool to me, sitting and waiting to do it…to be going down the front straightaway. For me, it’ll always be special because it’s personal. It’s always going to be ‘going back.’”
Sellers returned to Mid-Ohio in 2011, this time to compete in a Porsche sports car for Team Falken Tire in what was then known as the American Le Mans Series. This was yet another surreal moment for Sellers – and one he remembers vividly. In the closing laps, it began to pour and the track conditions became adverse. Sellers, sharing the seat with teammate Wolf Henzler, helped overcome the odds to capture his first sports car victory at the beloved track. The duo fought from fourth place to the lead in one lap to stand at the top of the podium. Sellers said the most emotional moment was looking down from the top-step to see all his supporters through the years – from family and friends to past mechanics and fellow competitors from karting.
“It was people who have been a part of my racing career from the time I was in karts at nine years-old,” Sellers said. “You see all these people who have had a part in it in some way or another. They had some sort of influence in me being where I am today. I saw a little bit of satisfaction in everyone’s face – some sort of pride. That’s a feeling you don’t get very often, when you can look into the eyes of everybody and see them being proud not just in what we had done, but what all the years of being a part of it allowed me to do. Those are the moments that don’t come often in your life.”
In retrospect, Sellers could not help but to have a similar feeling of pride and appreciation for not only the driver he has become but also for his parent’s guidance in getting him there. Sellers said he remembers the beginning stages – waiting for his mother and father to come home from work on Friday afternoons to finish packing up the race trailer so they could head to the next event.
“I remember my dad sometimes driving home all through the night [after the race weekend], only to head to work at 6 a.m. the next morning with two hours of sleep,” Sellers said. “You don’t really think about those things until you get a little older and realize the sacrifice they put into this. I just hope one day I’m a good enough dad to be able to do that for my kids.”
“They are still a massive support system to this day. Racing is a family deal and you can’t do it without a support group,” continued Sellers. “There’s no real words that you can say to them. I don’t think anything describes it. All that I can say to them is that I love my life. I love what I get to do, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than drive race cars. I hope they would understand that was all because of what they did. Hopefully this is a good race because it’ll make this [homecoming] all the more sweet.”
About K-PAX Racing
Since joining the Pirelli World Challenge in 2007, K-PAX Racing has celebrated a total 103 podiums, 41 wins and four driver championships, solidifying the team as a continuous championship contender. In 2014, K-PAX Racing expanded its relationship with McLaren GT, bringing two new 2015 McLaren 650S GT3 race cars into competition. The renewed effort kept K-PAX Racing at the forefront of competition, becoming a serious championship contender in the seasons to follow. In 2016, the team expanded to three full season McLaren 650S GT3 race cars, and clinched the Pirelli World Challenge Team, Driver, and Manufacturer Championships.
About McLaren GT
McLaren has been a pioneer and setting benchmarks on the tracks around the world for 50 years, and the latest range of GT racing models based on the road-going McLaren Automotive range is no different. McLaren GT was established in 2011 to develop, build and support all GT race activities. Based in Woking, Surrey at the former home of McLaren Racing, the company is responsible for the design, development and production of the 650S GT3, 570S GT4, and 650S and 570S Sprint models.