Stevenson Pontiac Takes Another Top 5 Finish At The Glen Robin Liddell unable to race -- Andrew Davis joined by Spencer Pumpelly With a man down, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, still managed to land a top...
Stevenson Pontiac Takes Another Top 5 Finish At The Glen
Robin Liddell unable to race -- Andrew Davis joined by Spencer Pumpelly
With a man down, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports / BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, still managed to land a top five finish at the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen, the 9th race of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16. Driving almost the entire race alone, Andrew Davis kept charging hard but simply could not match the outright speed of the Porsche and Mazda entries on the ultra fast Glen 'short circuit'.
Robin Liddell is Davis' co-driver on any other day but having contracted a severe case of the flu, Team Manager Mike Johnson sought the assistance of another seasoned and professional driver to take Robin's place. Previous Rolex 24 GT class winner Spencer Pumpelly put in a short stint turning the car back to Davis to run to the end.
Johnson: "When Andrew and Robin arrived at the track around lunch time, Robin was already quite ill. He went to see a team doctor who gave him an IV to replace fluids and since the race was so late we just waited around to see how Robin was feeling. About 4 o'clock Robin was not in good shape, so we asked Spencer to fill in for him and he came by the trailer to make sure he fit in the car and the belts and everything worked."
Liddell: "Around 6pm I felt a little better and wanted the doctor to give me another IV but he believed that I was too ill to race so that was that. First time I've ever had to withdraw like that. And I don't ever want it to happen again."
Davis: "Robin is one of the toughest guys I know, so for him to miss the race altogether gives an indication to how seriously ill he was feeling. I was actually not aware that Robin was unable to drive until I saw Spencer hopping into the car during our first driver change. Mike Johnson told me to stay ready, for I would be getting back in the car at the next opportunity. That opportunity came about two laps later with another caution period."
Johnson: "For most of the day, we were hoping Robin would pull through as he is such a fighter, and I think he believed he would be ok by race time. I think about 10 minutes before the start of the race, he knew there was no chance and we had to scramble around getting Robin to a doctor, get the driver change paperwork filled out and teach Spencer where all the switches were and where the shift points were. We were lucky that Spencer was available since he knows how to win at Watkins Glen and he's driven the Pontiac before. I wish he would have had a few laps to show his talent and I think we all would have been amazed at how well he would have gotten to pace."
Davis describes the start of the race: ""The team worked very hard during the practice sessions on Thursday to improve the car for qualifying. I was pleased with the balance of the car, and we were able to secure a front row starting position. I had a good jump at the green flag, but I got hung out on the outside of the first corner. Keeping close in tow to the lead Porsche, we were able to pull away from the rest of the field.
"The Stevenson Motorsports GXP.R was strong, but we just didn't have enough to fight for a podium spot. We were experiencing some tire blistering on the left rear during my second and third stint which made it difficult to push as hard as possible. I spent the final hour of the race in a battle with the #66 and #07. The crew did a stellar job in getting me out of the pits in front of those two, so I knew it would be on my shoulders to make sure we stayed in front of them."
Pumpelly's services were much appreciated but an extra stop for a driver change did not help the team in their struggle to stay at speed with the rest of the GT field.
Johnson: "After 20 minutes or so, we got the OK from Grand-Am for Spencer to drive and we put him in at the first yellow at around 28 minutes. We lost all of our track position in the driver change and fell back to 12th and Spencer got hit on the green flag lap by a DP that did not notice the yellow right after the restart. When the pits re-opened, we thanked Spencer for his assistance and put Andrew back in the car. From there Andrew worked his way up through the field and at the last pit stop - which was under green - we took two tires while the rest of the field took four which allowed us to jump two positions and finish 4th."
Grand-Am racing is so competitive that teams can not give up any time to the competition and expect to do well in the end. Johnson lamented the need for a second driver change but holds that the short Glen circuit (used for NASCAR racing taking place the same weekend) simply favored the Porsche and Mazda cars overall. That aside, there is simply no quit in this team and Johnson remained optimistic.
Johnson: "The short course is just so hard to pass on and after we lost all the track position with the two driver changes, I knew we were going to have to be creative at the final stop. With about 55 minutes to go, teams were diving into pit lane for their final splash and 4 tires. When we saw that, we knew we would have to change two to make up any ground. Unfortunately, at the last stop when we took the left side tires off, the left rear was blistered, so Andrew had to be cautious on the final stint."
The fourth place finish marked the fifth top five and eighth top ten finish for the No. 57 Pontiac this season. While the championship aspirations may have all but melted away, the fight to finish first in each of the remaining three races continues.
Johnson: "I was really proud of how well Andrew drove today, especially with the tire situation. When you can hold off Andy Lally and a factory GM driver for more than an hour, you have definitely earned your paycheck. Even with a healthy Robin, I'm not sure we would have caught the Mazdas and Porsches today. The short course is just too high-speed for our car, but we are quite happy for the result and we were able to get 2 points closer to the 07 in the team championship."
Davis: "I am glad that we were able to make up a little ground in the points championship to the team currently in second place. However, I am sorry for Robin since he was unable to take advantage of a points scoring opportunity. He is going to be extremely hungry for results when we arrive at the next event in Montreal, so I am looking forward to having him back in the car."
The next race on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 will be the 10th of the season with the series moving to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.