Birmingham: GM Racing race report

Stevenson Pontiac Fourth In GT At Barber SunTrust Pontiac finishes sixth in DP Leads, Ala., July 20, 2008 -- The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GT team finished fourth today in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.

Stevenson Pontiac Fourth In GT At Barber
SunTrust Pontiac finishes sixth in DP

Leads, Ala., July 20, 2008 -- The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GT team finished fourth today in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Brumos 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. The SunTrust Pontiac was sixth in the Daytona Prototype (DP) category.

The near 100-degree heat proved to be a factor up and down pit lane playing havoc with tires, engines and drivers. Even with the heat the day started strong for the No. 57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R team. Andrew Davis started the red-white-and-blue 57 from his fourth place qualifying position and quickly went into second place. He turned the car over to teammate Robin Liddell who continued the charge at the front of the GT pack, leading 55 laps. Liddell was leading on lap 91 with only 15 laps remaining. However two caution periods flew during the last 15 laps which eroded the 10 second lead the team amassed. The heat and additional weight of the GXP.R used up tires of the Pontiac allowing three pursuers to get by during the last two restarts relegating the team to a fourth place finish.

"My tires were gone the last ten laps," Liddell said. "We were strong and had a ten second lead up until the last two restarts. The 70 was good and I couldn't hold him off. Every restart we just got worse. We really had no chance at the end. The car has been really difficult to drive since we have been weighed down and had the balance changed following Lime Rock. To lose a race in the last ten laps like that is tough to take."

The No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards also had a tough day. The car was sent to the back of the grid as a result of a ride height infraction during qualifying. The team had to employ a different strategy to get the 07 back to the front. As pit stops cycled thru, Collins assumed the lead on lap 32. The team missed an opportunity to pit and fuel the car under yellow and had to come in under green which cost valuable track position. As the race progressed the crew put on additional rear tires in attempt to make up track position, to no avail. The duo was leading the GT points by 24 and the margin is now reduced to 14.

"We had a list of issues today," Edwards said. "We would just assume forget about this one. It was a mistake filled day, we just kept getting put to the back of the field and couldn't make up the track position. The harder you tried to drive and improve your order the more the rear tires would go off. We have three races left to try and maintain our points lead."

The No. 06 Banner Racing GXP.R finished the day in seventh. Leighton Reese started the car and finished it. Marc Bunting drove the middle stint and then got over heated and had to turn the car back over to Reese for the finish. The team took the checker on the lead lap and was able to salvage a solid top ten.

"I have never been that hot in a race car," Bunting said. "Toward the end of my stint I had to call in and get Leighton back in the car. I was afraid I was going to lose the team positions. As it turned out we were the last car on the lead lap and it didn't cost us anything. The car was good, but it was hard to stay focused and charge in the heat."

The No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R had an early end to the day. Tim Lewis Jr. started the car and pitted on lap five. Lewis experienced some overheating problems with the motor.

"I took the start and I noticed immediately that the water temperature was climbing," Lewis said. "The oil temp then got hot and the power started to fall off. It was just a tough day. Terry (Borcheller, co-driver) never got in the car and we were out on lap five. I have had a good run with the Pontiac, in 20 starts that was my first DNF."

The SunTrust Pontiac was the highest placing Pontiac powered DP car coming to the checker in sixth place. Early in the race is it was a Pontiac juggernaut at the front with the No. 76 Krohn Pontiac, the No. 10 SunTrust and the No. 99 GAINSCO car running one-two-and-three. What started out as a strong day for the Pontiac contingent steadily went away as the laps ticked down.

"It was a difficult result after having such a fast car and starting on the pole," Angelelli said. "But, overall, I think it's really clear we have a fast car. We look like we are just trying to put together that complete, trouble-free race. We made some strategy decisions regarding tires, but I met with my guys and assured them I believe there was absolutely no strategy issue or a wrong decision by my guys. We know how to improve things and, overall, we all need to be better, including myself. Then, we can start winning again."

The No. 91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac of Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews finished eighth. The team had run as high as fourth with restarts once again playing havoc with the team.

"It was really hot and really greasy out there today," Matthews said. "It was hard to aggressive. Marc did a great job and brought us back up the order and then he got overheated at the end. The restarts didn't help our cause either."

The Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote with drivers Tom Kimber-Smith and Antonio Garcia had a cool suit problem early in the race which hampered their finish. The cool suit failed during Kimber-Smith's first stint. The team had to make repairs during a green flag stop which sent them down the order.

"It was a shame that Tom had the cool suit problem early in the race," Garcia said. "We missed pitting under yellow to fix it and had to come in under green, costing us valuable time. We had the speed to run with the top cars, but a lot of small things today compromised our race. The gear shift program was also a problem."

The No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola started by Ricardo Zonta took the lead by the first turn. The green Pontiac looked very strong running at the front until pitting on lap 25. Nic Jonsson took over from Zonta who had been suffering from flu like symptoms all week. Four laps later Jonsson returned to pit lane to repair a left front tire, sending the team down a lap.

"It was quite nice to start the race," Zonta said. "We had a very good car for the race. Being the leader for my stint was very nice for me. It was unlucky we had the puncture because the car was quicker and quicker every lap. We could fight for the win here. I think this was the best car we had all season. My first lap was quite good. It was difficult to say whether the No. 10 car missed a gear or something like this because I got a big step on speed around him. It wasn't a risk, I just overtook. Then every lap, I was like a half-second quicker. It was very safe and very easy to drive the car today. Even at the start, it was very safe."

The GAINSCO Pontiac of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney had strong start running in the top three. Then Fogarty handed over to Gurney and clutch problems started on the 99. Despite the clutch problems Gurney managed to lead 35 laps. Then on lap 81 Gurney pulled the red Riley Pontiac off of the track and retired. The team was classified in 16th.

"The clutch was slipping right when I got in the car," Gurney said. "It's a really big shame because the car was excellent. I really think if we didn't have that problem we would have taken it. I couldn't believe we hung on to the lead for that long given what was happening in the car. We really got the car working very well, and that's encouraging, but it was too bad. We had a similar thing happen to us at Laguna Seca in 2007 and that same problem crept up again. It was just a slipping clutch the whole way. I am surprised it held on for that long."

Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele continued the tough outing for the Krohn Racing team. Starting from the back of the field the team had the car back in the top 12 after the first set of pit stops. Soon after on track contact broke a left rear control arm sending the team back to the paddock for extended repairs. The 75 car was shown finishing in 17th position.

"I was fighting with the car in front of me on the restart and he was going down by all the GT cars in front of him," van de Poele said. "I arrived quicker than him at the hairpin. When I pulled away, the other GT didn't see me. A GT car hit me in the back and I spun and hit other cars. It's really a shame because the car was quite good. Anyway, that's racing."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports