Lakeville, Conn. — Stevenson Motorsports closed out the GRAND-AM era on Saturday with a double-header at Lime Rock Park with the final round of Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (CTSCC) competition and the final race of the Rolex Sports Car Series. The team entered both events with the mathematical possibility to win the respective championships.
The first race of the day saw the team take their sixth podium of the year in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season-finale at Lime Rock Park Saturday after an intense race in which drivers John Edwards and Matt Bell led a race-high 67 laps on the way to a second place finish.
“Every time I could see in my mirror he was getting a run, I would just back off because I was already pushing too hard anyway, so I would get under my tire and try to power out,” said Bell. “That worked for a while but he had such a good car off the final corner, which is obviously the most important turn on the track and I was only going to last so long.
It was unfortunate I couldn't hold on for just one more lap. This is the first year we have felt like we really had a handle on this car. The effort the team has put in, between Ryan McCarthy and then everything that Chevy gives us, it has been a huge effort. I am very excited to see what Chevy brings us next year."
The result was the second consecutive second place finish for Bell and Edwards, who combined for two wins on the year as Stevenson Motorsports secured second in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship for the second year in a row with the Chevrolet Camaro GS.R.
"The team has been really strong this year,” offered Edwards. “We have had a much more consistent year than last year. Unfortunately it still ended in a second-place finish like last year. But I would say this team is much stronger than the past two years I have been with them and it has been a pleasure to work with all of them, from the crew to the engineers and especially with Matt (Bell). It has been a great time with the team and I definitely think this year was the strongest we have ever been."
“There’s not much worse in racing than leading almost every lap and then losing it on the last turn, but great job for the whole team,” added manager Mike Johnson. “I’m really proud of everybody. That’s two years in a row that we’ve finished second place in the championship. So we let a few get away, had a few wins, and a few podiums, so we’ll just be that much stronger next year.”
The second race on the day saw the team ready with a strong two-car campaign as current American Le Mans Series points leaders Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen joined the team to share the driving duties in the No. 75 Camaro to support the title ambitions of John Edwards and Robin Liddell in the No. 57 Camaro.
The two hour, forty-five minute race opened with Edwards asserting himself into the lead by lap nine and holding the point for 24 laps. But the run was compromised on the short “bullring” course as Edwards went sliding off into the run-off in turn one after a front tire lost pressure on lap 54. The young New York City resident made quick work of bringing the car down to a safe speed and returning the car to the circuit, but the lost track position was significant in the frought GT class battle.
Liddell took over the driving duties in the second half of the race, as the team rallied with the No. 57 to move up to fourth at the checkered flag with the No. 57, with the No. 75 coming home in sixth. The end tally left the team 11 points shy of the title as the Stevenson Motorsports closed out the Rolex Series era after having had a long and successful participation in the category.
“It was a long shot (to win the championship) when we got here anyway, and we were going to need some luck,” said Johnson. “The car was alright. I don’t know if John (Edwards) had a tire going down or something in the first half, and it finally blew and it was just catch-up from there. I don’t know if we had the pace to beat the 63 anyway, but coming back from a lap down to finish fourth is still pretty awesome. You never lose championships on the last race of the year, you lose it throughout the season.”
Johnson has been involved as a racer from the early days of GRAND-AM, and was a little wistful as the future is set to arrive soon with the new TUDOR United SportsCar Series and IMSA sanction.
“It’s an interesting day,” said Johnson. “For a lot of us, our whole careers have been in GRAND-AM. I’ve been here 14 years, and it’s going to be sad to see it go. You want to end on a high note. It’s the end of our Rolex team, at least for a while, with the Camaro. And it’s just racing, I guess. Congratulations to the 63 car.
Personally for me, it’s kind of a little redemption after what happened to them at COTA—after that call that took them out of it at COTA. On the other side of that, Andy Lally is one of my best friends in the world, and I hate to see him lose.
“I know the series is going to be sad to see them leave, but Stevenson is not going to be gone for a long time. The Stevensons will concentrate on the GS program and see where the TUDOR championship ends up in a year or two, then we’ll be back and just as strong as ever. A big thank you to John and Susan Stevenson for their support, all these years. We are all already starting to think about the GS program and looking forward to a big effort next year.”