SCC: Daytona: Stevenson Motorsports race report

Twin Stevenson Camaro GS.Rs Finish In Top Ten At Daytona; First race of 2010 a smashing success When the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Series began with the Fresh from Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, on January...

Twin Stevenson Camaro GS.Rs Finish In Top Ten At Daytona; First race of 2010 a smashing success

When the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Series began with the Fresh from Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, on January 29, 2010, both brand new Chevrolet Camaro race cars from Stevenson Motorsports scored top ten finishes. The No. 6 and 9 Stevenson Motorsports entries started 45th and 24th on the grid and after a hard fought, and well planned run they finished 5th and 8th respectively.

Jeff Bucknum and Matt Bell were paired in the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports / Sunoco-Camaro GS.R and after a technical infraction forced them to start at the very back of the GS grid, the pair managed to plow their way through the rest of the 77 car field. Along the way they were nudged by eager competitors resulting in bodywork damages, but fortunately the hits were not hard enough to knock them out of contention.

Bucknum: "We had to start at the back of the pack because our camber settings were out of spec. Matt had qualified in ninth despite problems with the gearbox. Matt did a really good job. I had seen him race before and I knew he probably would do a good job and he did a great job of staying out of trouble and putting in good solid laps. We were also fortunate in that the rest of the field was throwing the cars off the track and making all kinds of mistakes.

"The other significant factor in our favor is our Team Manager, Mike Johnson. He is probably one of the best in racing when it comes to making pit calls. His management of when we should come in helped us pick up a few spots as well. His last call was the best because once we got into our last fuel window he made the decision to come in sooner rather than later and hope for a yellow. That move allowed us to stay out when the yellow eventually came and everyone else had to pit. We made up a lot of ground with that move."

Team Manager Mike Johnson has increased his workload 300% with the growth of the Stevenson Motorsport entries from one Pontiac GXP.R in the Grand-Am Rolex Series to four new Camaros. The team is running a pair of cars in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge and in the Grand-Am Rolex Series this season. The Daytona race marked the 2010 debut of the twin Sunoco Camaros and Johnson is pleased with the team's results.

Johnson: "I am really pleased. We knew we were going to be down on top line speed. Our job here was to stay on the lead lap, run a conservative race and not get too beat up, or beat up anyone else. The drivers did a fantastic job. At the white flag we were actually at 5th and 6th. Hugh made a great pass on a BMW going into turn one putting us in 6th but the driver of the BMW put all four wheels on the grass trying to get his position back. He ran right into us and Grand-Am immediately penalized him for the move. Hugh managed to keep the car moving and he was actually coming down the front straight a bit sideways!"

Plumb: "This was the first race for the No. 9 car. I was really pleased with the consistency of the car, given all the weight that has been thrown at us. Al did everything he was supposed to do keeping the car clean, and running a great first stint. We got out of the pits a little farther back then I would have wanted but we got up to sixth in the final lap and unfortunately got hit by someone that forgot where the middle pedal was."

Johnson: "With the rules and the amount of championship contenders who didn't finish well, you need to be consistently in the top ten to stay up front. Anyone can easily end up with a 20th place finish and be out of the points. At a track we knew we were going to be horrible at, to come out with a good start is great."

Matt Bell agreed with Johnson when he said, "Considering the weight of the car and what it takes to go from a BMW or Porsche to a race car compared with a Camaro turned into a race car I would say we did really well. Going into the race I had an idea of how I might be able to make up some time and I was able to put that into practice."

Two BMW M3s took the top two spots. Johnson noted that wasn't an entirely unexpected outcome.

"I think BMW has shown they are so much faster then we are. It was obvious to everyone. The Mustangs were quicker too but they all had trouble. I don't think we got beat by any Mustangs which surprised me. I think our drivers were very happy with the performance of the cars in the infield and the first half of the straightaway, but we hit the 'Camaro wall' were we just couldn't match the top speed of the BMWs. I don't think Grand-Am will let any car walk out on their first time and stomp on the competition without making some adjustments. I also know that they recognize that we have been testing and that we give it our best effort every time out. We may not have the outright speed for a while but I do expect their will be an adjustment for the BMWs.

"When Grand-Am ran the first tests on our motor they did it without the airbox. They will dyne it again with the box this time and I would think the small hole (restrictor) of the stock airbox will show we lose some of our quickness. I think they will allow us to run a larger restrictor and a smaller one for the BMW. They also need to take back some of the weight they had us add to our car after we ran that first race at the end of last season."

The ground the cars race on can sometimes be a bit less wide than some drivers need it to be, hence there is a tendency sometimes to go off the pavement in pursuit of an advantage. The practice is dicey at best and many times it can mean your paint scheme will be subjected to a quick revision. Bucknum was a first hand witness to how quickly that can happen.

"I got hit three times during the race. I don't know who was driving it but an orange Porsche clobbered me in the door three times. I was able to keep going and in fact, the next three laps were my fastest of the race! The Porsche suffered a cut tire and had to pit."

Bell: "For the record, I brought the car in completely clean!"

Johnson: "Jeff came over the radio and said, 'I just got hit three times in turn one!' I said he was lucky it wasn't four times! That is what makes our racing so much fun and so great. We take the cars back to the shop and pound out the dents and slap on some new paint. Our cars actually get heavier throughout the season because of all the bondo and paint!"

Al Carter is a rookie to this series and to racing in a closed fender race car. He was all smiles after finishing in the top 10 in his first race.

Carter: "This is my first time with any team in professional racing and I feel very lucky to be with the Stevenson team. All my experience is in open wheel racing with Skip Barber. I am really impressed with this organization and they had me calm and ready to go and I am so glad I kept the car in good shape during my stint. As a rookie there were a few moments where they gave me a few love taps to let me know there was racing going on!

"Being here has fulfilled a dream of mine since I was six years old. I was happy with the speeds I ran at. We had one unfortunate pit stop that came right before a yellow but Hugh came in and we are really proud we ended up in the top ten. I am really looking forward to a full season in this series and with this team. I feel like I can really learn and grow with the great people here."

With a full season ahead, starting off on the right foot can set the stage for even greater things to come. The drivers on the Stevenson team are very optimistic about what lies ahead.

Bucknum: "It is a tribute to this team and to Mike's strategy that we did as well as we did. Matt and I drove the crud out of this car! When I checked the lap times after the race I found that we were the 15th fastest GS car (out of 45). We didn't have a chance to work on the balance of the car because we had to change the gearbox before the race. We knew our car wasn't going to be a front running car but that is why you race. The secret is to go out there and try to do all the right things and be the one who finishes the race."

Bell: "One great attribute with these cars is that they brake much better than you would expect them too. Drivers in the smaller cars probably see us coming and think they can 'out brake that school bus', but we are able to out brake just about everyone. We aren't up to where we want to be just yet with our overall speed but we will keep working on it. The Stevenson team is great to be with and Mike Johnson is just a great strategist."

Plumb: "Stevenson Motorsports really has worked hard on this car, all the way up to the race, and it showed. I am really proud of the guys for working hard all week. We keep making this car better every session."

The next race in the 2010 Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Series 10 race schedule takes place March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-source: stevenson motorsports

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