Stevenson Pontiac Moves Back Into Championship Race No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R Charges From Back Of Pack After Wave-By Comes Too Late While everyone enjoyed some beautiful weather at the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio, the sixth race in the 2009 ...
Stevenson Pontiac Moves Back Into Championship Race
No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R Charges From Back Of Pack After Wave-By Comes Too Late
While everyone enjoyed some beautiful weather at the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio, the sixth race in the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, for one team at least, the clear blue skies served to dissipate some dark clouds of frustration. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, driven by Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell, had been struggling of late but under a Midwest sun they finally found their way back onto the podium. It took some luck of both the positive and negative variety but in the end they were in second place for only their second podium visit this season.
Davis qualified fourth on the grid and with some solid driving he quickly found his way to the front of the GT field where he kept the lead for 11 laps before coming into the pits to hand the car over to Liddell. While in the pit stall, a yellow caution came out and when Liddell exited the pits he was right behind the safety car, but was not allowed to pass the safety as allowed by the rules. Liddell explains: "We should have been able to pass the Safety Car straight away under Grand Am protocol, as we were not the leading GT car at that stage, Team manager Mike Johnson immediately asked the officials for clarification. Grand-Am finally allowed me to overtake the Safety Car just as the caution period was ending so I effectively 'lost' half a lap on our competition dropping us to eight place."
Team Manager Mike Johnson: "We had a tough break with the wave-by incident. Grand-Am simply didn't recognize that we were in the pit lane when the yellow flag came out. We should have gotten the wave by and gone around to come up behind the pack. This would have put us in the perfect position to move back to the lead once all the other GT cars made their pit stops.
"Being in front of the Porsche and Mazda cars is a key for us as we don't have the straight line speed that they do. We do very well in the corners but at Mid-Ohio, if you don't have a car that is faster on the straights you are never going to pass anyone. We needed to be in the lead for strategy so that our cornering speeds would balance out their straight line speed.
"We had no mechanical failures. We had a good car for the race. We had perfect race strategy, although it wasn't allowed to come into fruition the way it should have but in the end we were able to get results. "
As the race entered the final few laps, Liddell had been charging towards the front when the No. 86 Farnbacher-Loles Porsche that was running in second place was bumped by a Daytona Prototype. The impact cut a tire on the Porsche causing it to slow down. Liddell then passed the ailing German chassis and held on to the second spot until the checkered flag waved.
Davis was not surprised the Porsche and the Prototype came together on the twisty course.
"Mid-Ohio is a tough track to pass on. The traffic can be insane there, whether it is a DP car passing you or you passing a slower GT car. Either way it really affects the ebb and flow of the battle you are in. There were a lot of instances of cars bumping into and off of one another throughout the race. Robin had been in a tough fight to move up to third and getting a little help with the cut tire on the Porsche was just great for us."
Johnson could take solace in the final outcome of the race, but in the hours that followed his consolation diminished a tad when Grand-Am decided to penalize the team several hard-earned points for a minor technical infraction.
Johnson: "After the race we have to go through Grand-Am tech inspection to ensure we are legal, but it wasn't until two hours after the end of the race that they finally rolled our car onto the tech inspection scales. By then our tire pressures had dropped four pounds below what we started with and so the bottom of the chassis barely scraped the height bar. They fined us three points for a ride height violation.
"Putting that and the earlier wave-by issue aside, I am really proud of the way Andrew and Robin drove this race. That was probably one of Andrew's best drives this season. After the last few races where we seemed to be going backwards, finishing second here was a great boost for us. It felt good to be back on the podium where we belong. "
Looking ahead to the next race, Johnson noted that the Stevenson Pontiac held no advantage on the high banking at Daytona -- where top speeds are reached for a major portion of every lap - but it was time to move forward and he intends to build on their recent good fortune.
"Daytona will find us at a disadvantage to the Porsche and Mazda cars but we are going into that race with the feeling that we might have just gotten our MoJo back, We will be looking to put together a string of podium finishes for the balance of the season."
Davis and Liddell agree.
Davis: "The team has had some problems and issues in the last few races. When we stepped back and took a look we realized we were actually causing the problems. You can put our fortune up to bad luck but it is really true that you have to work to make your own luck. We know how to win and while this race didn't give us a win in some ways it felt like one. We got back on the podium and scored some important points for the championship.
Liddell: "After some recent disappointments we are very happy to get back on the podium. Last year we were very consistent especially in the second part of the year and we were desperately trying to find our form again after some tough results so this result is really important to us.
"The team did a great job and now we are looking forward to getting back to Daytona in a couple of weeks where we will be the support race to the main NASCAR event."
The team's second place finish put them right back into the thick of the point's race for both he Team and Driver's Championships.
The next race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be the 7th of the season with the series returning to Daytona International Speedway on July 4.