INDIANAPOLIS – It was a big day at the Brickyard for Stevenson Motorsports on Friday as drivers Robin Liddell and John Edwards combined to score second in the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Camaro at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
While a run to second wasn’t what the team had been targeting, it still brought with it a huge reward as Stevenson Motorsports won the 2013 North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) title.
The team has scored eight podiums and five victories so far in GRAND-AM competition, and the Rolex GT effort is now just four points shy of the championship lead. The group has utilized a variety of solutions to find their way to victory, employing strategy and strong pit work on days that the car isn’t the fastest, and executing to the full potential as a team on days that the Camaro is the quickest.
The three-hour race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the third and final round of the North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com, and is staged as a “championship within a championship” with the opening round held at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the second round held at the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen.
Though Stevenson Motorsports had a tough outing to kick off the 2013 Rolex Series season in the Rolex 24 when a mechanical issue saw the team’s race end early, the group came back in the second two rounds of the NAEC to lead at both the halfway point and at the end of the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen which put the team in good position to claim the title at Indianapolis.
“It was a surprise because we didn't think we won,” said team owner John Stevenson. “But it was a great recovery from Daytona to get us back in a position to do this. The guys are awesome. This is the best John Edwards and Robin Liddell have ever been, consistent as they can be and the crew is amazing.
They are absolutely flawless and I am tickled to death for them. Now if we can just whittle away these next four or five points and get the other championship we will have had a fantastic year."
Liddell opened the race from the second position and wasted no time in moving forward as he took over the point on Lap 2 as he chased the leader into Turn 1. He led a race-high 24 laps until the team’s first pit stop about 50 minutes into the race.
Shrewd strategy from the team saw Liddell called to pit lane just before a full course caution was displayed for a stalled car on course. Liddell dove into the pits to gain track position as the rest of the field pitted under the yellow and restarted fifth in the order.
The team took advantage of the next full course caution which was displayed with 1 hour and 20 minutes complete and brought Liddell to pit road for a driver change and only three tires to gain track position once again. Another great stop by the Stevenson crew saw Edwards strap into the No. 57 Camaro and emerge from pit lane in fifth.
With 1 hour and 20 minutes remaining in the race, several cars made pit stops while Stevenson opted to stay out. The No. 61 Ferrari had pitted with the first group and did not have to take tires on their last stop which they took under green flag conditions.
The Stevenson squad made its last pit stop with about 50 minutes to go under green for four tires and fuel, as the final stop for the No. 61 saw the team take advantage, as they needed less fuel and took no tires. But a strong run from Edwards in the final stages of the race saw him run among the top-five and move his way up the order to take second at the checkered flag and claim the NAEC title.
"To be honest we did a bit of incorrect math during the race and I was told we had lost it to AIM, but I guess we won it!” exclaimed Edwards following the race. “I just found out when I got to pit lane that we won. I got out of the car and they told me we won it.
So I am pretty excited about it because we really didn't have a good Daytona, but then we won Watkins Glen and led at the three-hour mark and then we finished second here. So we obviously did what we had to do after a poor finish at Daytona. I'm really excited for the team, especially for (team owner) Johnny (Stevenson).”
"I am quite happy with second and with winning the championship,” said Liddell of the team’s podium result. “We had a pretty poor start to the weekend. We lost most of the practice session on Thursday. We lost the whole first session due to a gearbox problem. So to recover from that is great. I only had six laps in the car before qualifying.
So to qualify second and then finish second, we are actually quite happy with that. The guys did a great job in the pits, we jumped ahead of the Porsches. Taking tires at that last stop is what hurt us, they didn't take tires and they basically gained 10 seconds on us and that's why we finished where we did. In hindsight maybe we should have done that differently, but I don't really think we had a car that was fast enough to win today."
"To be honest it still hasn't kicked in because we didn't think we had won it until they announced it over the radio,” said team manager Mike Johnson, who had the added enjoyment of getting to celebrate with his family at the race.
“So I was kind of disappointed because I really wanted to win this race and I really wanted to win this championship for John and Susan. So I was kind of upset, and I know it's kind of bad when you are upset with a second place finish.
But I'm ecstatic right now, my family came up from St. Louis to see it, which was great. And hopefully it's the first of a few more for John and Susan to get these championships. It has taken us a long time to get this first one.
We have been there every year, we just hadn't put it all together. So we are on track and we came and did what we needed to do. We beat the No. 44 as well as the No. 63 and we won this championship! So I am very pleased."
Stevenson Motorsports now sits just four points out of the overall championship lead and looks to carry their podium momentum into the next round at Road America in two weeks August 8-10.