GM teams to decide GT championship

Pontiac Grand-Am GT Teams to Decide Championship Banner's Edwards and Collins lead GT points, Stevenson's Liddell and Davis second Detroit, Mich., September 9, 2008 -- Pontiac Grand-Am GT teams will be involved in a three way battle for the...

Pontiac Grand-Am GT Teams to Decide Championship
Banner's Edwards and Collins lead GT points, Stevenson's
Liddell and Davis second

Detroit, Mich., September 9, 2008 -- Pontiac Grand-Am GT teams will be involved in a three way battle for the Rolex Series GT championship in the final round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series Sunrichgourmet.com 1000-kilometer race to be held at Miller Motorsport Park on September 20. Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards have their Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R in the lead with Stevenson Motorsports drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis a close second in the points.

- Collins and Edwards lead GT points by five
- Liddell and Davis second in GT points trail by five
- Pontiac leads manufacturer standings in GT
- Final race at Miller on September 20, seven hours

The long 4.486-mile, 24-turn Miller Motorsport Park circuit will be the site of the Rolex Series GT showdown. The race will take place on the countries longest road course and the champion will not be decided for some seven hours on September 20. There are three GT entries that have the possibility of winning the title, the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R and the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.

The No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards currently lead the GT series points chase with 337. Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis in their No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac have 332 points. The Mazda crew are in third with 325.

Collins and Edwards got out of the box early in the season and posted wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Laguna Seca and at Lime Rock Park.

Following the Lime Rock win the Pontiac teams were hit with a 104 lb. weight penalty as well as a front to rear balance sanction of no more than 49% weight on the rear of the car. The balance penalty was lifted following the Barber Motorsport Park race. Collins and Edwards are the defending Miller Motorsport Park GT race winners from last year. The finishes for the year for the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R:

1. Daytona 24 Hour seventh
2. Homestead first
3. Mexico City second
4. Virginia International Raceway fourth
5. Laguna Seca first
6. Lime Rock Park first
7. Watkins Glen Six Hour third
8. Mid-Ohio 11th
9. Daytona July fourth
10. Barber Motorsports Park sixth
11. Montreal seventh
12. New Jersey Motorsports Park tenth

Collins believes that he and Edwards need to lose the conservative approach and be more aggressive at the finale.

"We have had some bad luck since lime rock," Collins said. "We had to take some risks on strategy, because that is how the races played out. The team has had some good luck right up until the Watkins Glen six-hour. We have made some mistakes and judgment calls that didn't quite work out. We have had some weird things happen as well. We have been running scared since The Glen and not being aggressive as we should have. The 57 guys have been racing like they have nothing to lose, we have everything to lose. The approach we have had has kind of knocked us off our game. We have been hit and turned around on the track by DP cars and been caught out on yellows, so on the track stuff as well as strategy stuff has gotten us where we are right now. We got lucky at Jersey and still fell off the points pace. We have to finish ahead the 57 car next week."

Edwards knows that just the perseverance of maintaining the championship lead will not be enough at Miller next weekend.

"The adjustments didn't help our cause since Lime Rock," Edwards said. "We were working harder to stay at the front which puts a lot of pressure on everyone. We had a run of bad luck with a couple of errors. We had some tech issues which put us to the back of the pack after qualifying. The transponder at Mid-Ohio quit and that put us down a lap. At Barber we had some things go wrong which kept putting us to the back of the field. It was an odd deal at New Jersey, the 70 car was going off and then we went into safe mode. Everyone on the team has to do their job next week. The Banner guys are going through the car, it will be fresh and reliable. The car should be good out of the truck. Hopefully we won't have to go crazy with setup changes. We just need to focus on beating the 57. They have been strong. They have just been going for wins. We have been on the defensive since we took the championship lead after Mexico City and it hasn't been working. It is either a win or so be it. Pontiac should win the manufacturer title either way. Kelly and I just want to win the drivers championship. It would be nice to get Banner the team championship. There is a lot on the line."

Banner Racing team owner Leighton Reese is weary of the performance of the 57 car. The team is leaving nothing to chance and will rely on the excellent car preparation that has seen them finish every race this season.

"If we would have raced as well as the 57 we would have locked up the championship by now," Reese said. "They found something. We have had less than great finishes, but most important no DNFs. When we have a bad day, the 57 has had a good day. We have been at polar opposite ends of the performance scale. We have a lead, but no real cushion going into the race. We are prepping the car like we are doing the Daytona 24 hour. That means right down to the extreme maintenance, all new bearings, seals, everything, new gears in tranny. We are doing major league prep for the second longest race of the year. Now it takes on added importance because who ever finishes higher wins the championship. We are confident we can run fast lap speeds there, we just have to put a seven hour deal together. The Porsche and Mazda will be fast there. The manufacturer championship looks good for Pontiac and the championship looks good for one or the other Pontiac teams. We have had well prepared cars all year. We haven't finished ahead of the 57 in a long time, so it is our turn. Whoever wins will deserve it."

The duo of Liddell and Davis started their run toward the championship later in the season. They posted wins at Mexico City, Virginia International Raceway and most recently at Montreal. The team has also been on the podium at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Daytona, Barber Motorsports Park and last weekend at New Jersey Motorsport Park. This run of mid to late season consistency brought the red-white-and-blue team back from a tough start at Daytona, where they finished ninth and a DNF at Homestead. Contact at Laguna Seca in May had the team finishing 17th. The finishes for the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R:

1. Daytona 24 Hour ninth
2. Homestead 24th
3. Mexico City first
4. Virginia International Raceway first
5. Laguna Seca 17th
6. Lime Rock Park third
7. Watkins Glen six hour second
8. Mid-Ohio second
9. Daytona July third
10. Barber Motorsports Park fourth
11. Montreal first
12. New Jersey Motorsports Park second

Mike Johnson, Stevenson Motorsports team manager, is in his second year with the team from North Carolina. Managing the team for owner John Stevenson, Johnson has been given the tools to run for the championship.

"The single most important reason the 57 has had so much success this year is John Stevenson," Johnson said. "Johnny hires good people and lets them do the job he hired them to do without questioning their judgment or decision making. This approach gives everyone on the team the confidence to do what they know is right without worrying about making mistakes or the ensuing consequences. Johnny and I meet about once a month to discuss our current goals and he gives me the tools we need to complete the job. Last year I said I wanted a Pontiac and he bought one. I said we needed Pratt & Miller Engineering and we hired Kyle Millay. He found us two great drivers that understand the value of teamwork and, most importantly, they believe in the team as much as they do in their own abilities. Finally our crew knows that Johnny will always have their back and will take care of them in times of need. Everything we do as a team this year is for John and Susan because we all know how much they appreciate our work and they deserve the type of season we are having."

"Basically, we are rebuilding everything that turns, moves, shakes or goes up and down on the car. Our only chance at winning the championship is to continue running up front and finishing on the podium. If we have any type of mechanical failure, we will finish third and we expect to be racing for the championship during the last hour of the race. We are going to approach the race at Miller the same way we have approached every other race this season which is a very simple philosophy - protect your car, make no mistakes, stay consistent, and race at the end. We have no intentions of racing anyone but ourselves for the first six hours, and if there's someone in our way to the championship with 30 minutes to go, we'll go after them."

"Other than Homestead, we have not had a mechanical issue this year and that was due to a faulty part from the distributor," Johnson continues. "I am a firm believer that no one wins Grand-Am Championships, everyone else loses them and if we fail to win the championship this year we can only blame ourselves. We lost points at over half the races, and that had very little to do with the competition or Grand-Am's rule changes. Beyond having a very reliable car, we have two great drivers and our race strategy has been unbeatable. Our team is so strong due to the levels of trust we have in one another. We don't question one another and we don't fight with one another. Every member of this team has very specific jobs and that includes Andrew and Robin. While they are both driving as fast as they can, I expect different things from each one. Andrew has his job through the practice and the race, and Robin has his job. They both subscribe to their duties which lets them excel at those duties versus trying to do too much and worry about which one is faster. They know that there is no excuse for damage to the car. I don't allow them to say, "I got hit," "I got chopped," or "he took me out." Those are not reasons for crashes but rather excuses and excuses don't win races. They just help you slide your car into the trailer. When they have contact, they figure out how or why and make sure it doesn't happen again. As for race strategy, there is no better combination in the Grand-Am paddock then Greg Jones, Kyle Millay and myself. The three of us are always able to make quick decisions and we trust each other's instincts. Every time I approach them with an out- of - the box idea, they look at the pluses and minuses and we usually follow my crazy plan. We don't subscribe to "follow the leader" or "see what the others do." We make our own decisions and do what's best for our team. We have taken some chances when other teams have not, and we trusted our gut at Mexico, VIR, and Montreal which gave us the wins. At other races we also took some chances, such as Barber, the Glen, and Mid-Ohio, which gave us big leads only to be "beaten" by yellows, which of course happens. I told Robin when Johnny hired him that I would make sure he was in the top five at the last restart with the best tires in the field, and we have consistently put him in the top three. After that, I just tell him to go make Johnny some money!"

Robin Liddell has knows that the team's success is just that -- a total commitment and team effort.

"There are a number of factors that account for our team's success," Liddell said. "Because of the support from GM and Pratt & Miller, we generally arrive at the track with a good baseline setup, which means that we only have to fine tune the car for the race. On the odd occasion we have arrived and not been fast off the trailer, the key thing has been our engineer Kyle's (Millay) ability to interpret what we are looking for in the car and get into the ballpark as quickly as possible, unlike some engineers, he recognizes when you need to make drastic changes and when to make small ones. He has no preconceived ideas or ego when it comes to this. Also the guys at the shop led by Michael (Johnson, team manager) have continued to up their game throughout the season as their expectations have increased (and been exceeded) and this has improved the attention to detail so as a result the car has been superbly prepared. Andrew and I have pushed hard and have been aggressive on track, but also tried to avoid unnecessary risks and both the race strategy by Mike Johnson and pit stops have been spot on. We know the car will be good at Miller, so our aim will be to win, rather than just to score as many points as possible or be the leading Pontiac for example. We have nothing to lose, we do not feel the need to protect our position, we will simply push hard as we always do and only let up towards the end if we need to consolidate our position."

Andrews Davis attributes the team's success so far this year to having a small team with the right people.

"Stevenson Motorsports has been very strong since Lime Rock," Davis said. "I really attribute this success to the personnel assembled by John Stevenson and Mike Johnson. We are a relatively small team when compared to some of our GT competitors. However, it makes a big difference when all the right people are in place and everyone is focused on a common goal. I couldn't be more proud of what we have already accomplished this season. The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R is at peak performance because we have been focusing on getting results in each individual race. There is no reason to change things now, so each team member is focused on winning this final event. The length of the race will certainly play a role in our strategy. We will need to be smart, and avoid trouble to ensure that we have something left at the end."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Robin Liddell , Kelly Collins , Leighton Reese , Andrew Davis , Mike Johnson , John Stevenson
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , SpeedSource