Daytona Beach, Fla. - Stevenson Motorsports got the 2013 GRAND-AM season off to a strong start on Friday afternoon as team drivers Matt Bell and John Edwards combined for a run to sixth place with the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro at Daytona International Speedway.
The healthy points-earning outing was a satisfying reward after a lot of hard work from the entire Stevenson Motorsports organization.
After the fire, we had an out-lap of practice, and one lap of qualifying, and we still had a car that ran in the top-five all day, led a bunch of laps and finished sixth.
This is a great start to the season, and the good news is that that car was really fast on the infield, so once we get to some handling tracks, and if we can keep that reliability up, we’ll be in a great place.”
After a fire in Wednesday’s practice session, the team had to rally to make repairs to the car, replacing the entire front end and sorting out all the electronics.
The effort saw the team work so quickly that Bell was able to return to the track on Thursday, just in time to score a few practice laps before returning to take seventh on the grid in qualifying.
Bell opened the race from behind the wheel and ran in the lead pack for the opening segments of the race, which ran without incident before a lap 10 yellow bunched the field.
On the ensuing restart, Bell found himself in the lead after contact between two of the front-running cars cleared a path to the front.
Bell held that advantage for several laps before a multi-car battle for the lead saw him exchanging podium positions in a heated battle, running either first, second, or third for the next 10 laps before taking to the pits to turn the car over to Edwards.
“This is probably one of the more eventful events we’ve ever had,” said Bell. “To be top-10 after a weekend like that is amazing. And is a testament more to the guys laying underneath the cars and holding wrenches all day more than us.
I had a good battle with the Aston Martins and eventually we found ourselves in the lead. I’m really happy with the way the car finished and how well these guys did to bring our car from such an awful state all the way into the top-10.”
Returning to the field 14th in the order, Edwards made the most of the strong handling in the infield with the Camaro as he fended off the competition’s pace on the oval section.
Those efforts saw him move up to run in the top five with just laps to go, but ultimately crossing the line sixth at the finish.
“It was absolutely an incredible recovery from the team,” said Edwards. “To be sixth after that battle with Lawson (Aschenbach) , that was actually a really fun battle but I’m kicking myself afterwards because I made the wrong decision!
I shouldn’t have been in the lead in the bus stop on the last lap, because with equal cars, you know that the guy behind is going to be able to draft through as long as you get the same exit.
So kicking myself for that. We crossed side-by-side. I was on the radio saying, “No, no, no, can’t believe that I made the wrong choice!”
But despite losing one spot at the line in what looked like a Daytona 500 photo finish, Edwards knows what the big picture looks like when racing for a championship.
“After the past few years with bad finishes at Daytona, we’ve been a factor in the championship later on in the year, so I’ll take a sixth place over the results we’ve had in the past here any day, and move on to the tracks where we’re going to be strong,” said Edwards.
Stevenson Motorsports will return to GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition March 1-2 at the Circuit of The Americas outside of Austin, Texas.