For the ...
For the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, running in the GT class in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Reserve, the big, wide, spacious and beautiful surroundings of Barber Motorsports Park, located outside of Birmingham, Alabama, proved to be just a little too narrow. That is, in one corner at least, when Vic Rice and Randy Pobst tested one of the tenets of physics and proved yet again that two physical bodies can not occupy the same space at the same time.
The race detour into the physics 101 lesson meant "homework" for the Corvette as they had to come into the pits to serve a 30 second stop and go penalty.
Team Engineer and Strategist Ron Ogletree explains how the contact between the two GT cars came about. "Vic got a run coming down the front straight and he went inside of Randy going into the little left hander going down into the dip. From the markings on the tire, the wheel on the Corvette was about even with Randy's door. Randy came down and chopped him down. Vic had the inside and Randy left it wide open. But when he saw that Vic was there he chopped him down.
"The Grand Am Officials said the contact was avoidable so we served the penalty."
Vic Rice had qualified in 10th spot on the grid, at a speed of 88.53 miles per hour, a mere 1.5 mph slower than the pole sitting car. Forgetting the hot Alabama locale for a moment, it is easy to see just how heated the competition is in this series when the top ten cars can set qualifying lap times that close to one another.
But something that remains a mystery still, had transformed the car from fast to frantic, right when it was most detrimental -- in qualifying. Where everything had gone right in the last practice, the car was just not in the mood to go fast after that no matter what we did to it. Ogletree elaborates:
"We still can't figure out what happened to the car. We had a handle on setup for the last practice before qualifying. We just could not tell what had changed to make the car unmanageable. But once qualifying started both drivers said the car was unmanageable."
And coming into the pits offered no respite for the weary stars and stripes warrior.
"When Vic came in and went up on the jack stands, I heard a large 'POW!". Apparently the regulator on the nitrous bottle had failed and sent the full pressure of the tank to the air jacks. That literally blew the jacks apart. We had to scramble to get a regular hand-operated lift jack to get the car back in the air. As we let it back down we saw that the left front jack had blown apart and the spring and other bits were dangling down. We had to repair that before we could go back out and so that put us out of it. We had been as high as sixth in the race but the penalty and the repairs kept us from getting any closer to the podium."
While they ran as high as 6th in class earlier in the race, at the end of the 97 lap race the Stevenson Corvette wound up finishing 11th out of 17 cars, and three laps behind the GT leader.
With this weekend's race at Barber Motorsports Park, the Stevenson Motorsports Corvette has entered 12 of the 14 events held to date on the Grand Am GT calendar this season, with a best placing of fourth at the Lime Rock round, and a just-missed podium run at the Brumos 250.
Prior to the Barber race, the team held down 11th place overall in the Team Standings - putting them ahead of 30 other GT teams -- despite having to miss two races.