Homestead: Stevenson Motorsports race report

Stevenson Pontiac Again Knocked Off Top Step In Closing Laps With 5 minutes to go, DP crash forces Robin Liddell onto grass, allowing No. 07 car to pass for win With just a few minutes to go in the final race of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex...

Stevenson Pontiac Again Knocked Off Top Step In Closing Laps

With 5 minutes to go, DP crash forces Robin Liddell onto grass, allowing No. 07 car to pass for win

With just a few minutes to go in the final race of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 -- the Miami Grand Prix at Homestead-Miami Speedway - the GT class leading Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R took to the grass to avoid being damaged by a Daytona Prototype that crashed right in front of their car. Unfortunately the No. 07 Pontiac, driven by Paul Edwards, took a different path through the greenery and came back on the track immediately in front of Stevenson driver Robin Liddell. The DP accident brought out a full course caution which meant Liddell could not attempt a pass to reclaim the lead. The race ended under caution thus sealing the fate of the hard charging Stevenson entry. The net result was a third place finish in the season championship for the Stevenson car. Had Liddell been able to recover sooner, or had Edwards path around the spinning DP been obstructed in the least, the team would have clinched second place.

Team Manager Mike Johnson: "Pretty early into the race, we realized we had lost some power and had to adjust our strategy accordingly which meant we couldn't pit at the last yellow for tires. We had to try to hang onto track position which would have worked out perfectly had the 07 car not made it through the accident. Either way, it was one of the most disappointing 2nd place finishes we've ever had, not because we lost the race, but because we dropped from 2nd to 3rd in the championship. We had to beat the 07 and 66 and we just came up short by about 6 inches on a crazy last lap. "

Liddell: "Our team did a great job at our first pit-stop and we managed to jump ahead of the competition and get into the lead. It was a very hot race throughout and all the drivers had to concentrate on preserving their tires, and themselves, for the closing stages. I had high oil temperature alarms for the whole race and we were just trying to stay out of the draft and preserve the car."

Liddell's co-driver, Andrew Davis qualified the No. 57 Pontiac in third place. "The BryanMark Financial GXP.R was very quick throughout the event," said Davis, "with both Robin and me running the quickest laps during the initial practice sessions. We seemed to lose a bit of pace for qualifying, but I was still able to start from the inside of the second row. The start was rather uneventful, and I was able to quickly build a gap to the cars behind. I was able to keep good pressure on the #70 car for the first several laps, but after about 15 minutes I noticed that the motor started to feel a little soft. I spent the rest of my stint simply trying to maintain pace until a caution period brought me into the pits for our first stop."

Liddell: "It was a disappointing finish but going into the race I felt that a podium would have been a pretty good result. As always, the guys executed great stops, we had good strategy and the car performed well."

Reflecting on the season, one filled with triumphs and travails, Johnson, Davis and Liddell find they can take comfort in knowing the team has logged a significant number of positive entries in the record books, and that next year will provide ample opportunity to increase the number of accomplishments listed under the Stevenson name.

Davis: "It was nice to get the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R back on the podium in the final race of the season; however, it was probably the most disappointing 2nd place in the team's history. Our primary goal was to finish ahead of the #07, and the incident with 5 minutes left allowed those guys to get in front. The end result was that we lost a spot in the team championship, but I am still extremely proud of what we were allowed to accomplish this season. It was certainly a season of highs and lows, but we were able to persevere and fight our way back up to the top three in points. I want to take this opportunity to thank John and Susan Stevenson, along with everyone involved with the Stevenson Motorsports organization for all of their efforts to make this program a success."

Liddell "I would like to thank John and Susan Stevenson for all their support for me this year and the entire team and I'm already eagerly looking forward to returning with them next season in the new Chevrolet Camaro which we will run in 2010."

Johnson: "I wish I had a good way to describe what went wrong this year, and the only analogy I can come up with is a NASCAR race at Talladega. Sometimes you avoid the big one and sometimes you're in it. This year, we just couldn't seem to avoid the wreck. From mechanicals, to sick drivers, to post race penalties, to Grand-Am errors, to last lap contact, it just didn't happen.

"Saying all that, I was really happy with how our team performed as we were a lot faster this year than we were last year and having two years with the same crew made a big impact. It is reassuring to say that over the last two years, we scored more wins than any other team and we scored the second most championship points, so the pieces are there. Championships are hard to win, and when it's your year, it's easy."

The Stevenson Team is already looking to put the roller coaster 2009 season behind them and concentrate on what could be a considerably more challenging year ahead. Plans are in the works to return to the Rolex GT series with a Camaro built by Pratt and Miller Engineering and to enter the KONI Challenge series in the Riley Technologies Camaro the team debuted at VIR a few weeks ago.

Johnson: "Even though it's October, it's the first day of 2010, and we are already testing for Daytona and we hope to have the new cars at Daytona. We have a driver test later this week and hope to make our 2010 announcement by the end of November. All I can say is we'll be busy."

The 2010 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 schedule begins, as always, with the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona at the end of January, 2010. As noted, Stevenson Motorsports will campaign a new Camaro body at that race, with the Pontiac marque now fading into history both on the track and off.

-credit: sm

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