Team Report: Double Podium for Stevenson Motorsports at VIR
Stevenson Motorsports kept up the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship momentum at Virginia International Raceway on Saturday when the team Camaro Z/28.Rs took a double podium finish.
The No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R of Matt Bell and Lawson Aschenbach led the Stevenson charge with a second place result while the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell took home third at the checkered flag.
The race saw a split strategy for the brother Camaro machines and each played out positively for the Stevenson squad which is based just three hours south of the 3.27-mile Virginia road course in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The result was extra special for Stevenson Motorsports who used that strategy to overcome some of the IMSA regulations that prevent the Camaro Z/28.R from showing its full potential.
“How crazy was this!” exclaimed an enthused Johnny Stevenson from the podium celebrations. “We were hoping to just get a top-five out of it today because we’re not competitive with everybody else but with strategy and fuel you never know until it’s over. Mike (Johnson) made some great calls from the box both on the No. 6 car and on the No. 9. We were just hoping everybody in front of us would run out of gas and had it stayed green the No. 13 car would not have made it either and we would have finished first and second. You don’t have to have the fastest car to win and my guys did a great job. Nobody made a mistake in the pits, they were perfect. The drivers were good as usual, thank you. Mike Johnson did his normal magic with his strategy so it was a successful day.”
The No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R started fifth on the grid and the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R started seventh. A yellow on Lap 14 saw Davis take the No. 6 to pit road for tires and fuel while the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R of Bell stayed out and took over the race lead. Bell handed the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R over to Aschenbach under green on Lap 25.
During a lap 32 pit stop under yellow Aschenbach came in for fuel only while the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R made a driver change to put Liddell behind the wheel with a new set of Continental Tires and full load of fuel with about an hour and fifteen minutes in the books. The quick pit work saw Aschenbach return to the race out front as the rest of the field did their driver changes.
Knowing both cars would need to make an extra stop for fuel before the race was over, Mike Johnson pitted the No. 6 car under green on Lap 44 for left side tires only and fuel to the finish. A nearly 20-lap run of green flag laps saw the No. 9 take to the pits for about eight seconds of fuel with 11 minutes to go. As the leaders in the GS class began running short on fuel, the Stevenson Camaros found themselves moving up the order as they charged to the checkered flag.
While the fuel advantage and strategy didn’t play the full dividends for the team as the race finished under a full course caution, saving a potential fuel stop for the race-winning car, it was another double podium finish for the team running close to home.
“From the beginning of the weekend it was pretty evident that we did not and were not going to have the straight away speed to really compete with anyone straight up,” said Team Manager Mike Johnson. “As the race came to us on sticker tires we lost a lot but on old tires we were competitive and we could hang in with the group. We realized when we got that last yellow we knew there was no way we could make it so we took the early gamble to pit hoping to get into some clear traffic to get some lap time. We were really worried because if the other guys made it they were going to beat us and if the other guys splashed they were still going to beat us so we had to do something to work with it. To be honest, it was really the best scenario that everybody actually ran out of gas, because if they had all pitted and got fuel and gone back out they would have beaten us and the 13 could have won and we could have finished seventh. As a team we’re happy, you look at the results and you say great you finished second and third but with one lap to go we were behind by 50 seconds. We’re hopeful that the series is going to let us and the No. 13 have a clean fight for the championship in the last two races. We don’t need a lot, just that last mile and a half they took from us after Laguna.”
With the result, the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R of Davis and Liddell continue to lead the championship by a 10-point margin. The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship continues at Circuit of the Americas on September 16-18.
The VIR event will be televised on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, September 6 at 9:00 AM ET.
Matt Bell, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “That’s the weirdest podium finish ever because we were all really upset at the car all weekend. The car was a disaster all weekend, not by engineering standards, but just we knew going into this race with these long straights we’d definitely be out-classed by these cars that have been untouched by the AOP. Going into this, we knew fifth or sixth place is where we were going to wind up which is kind of where we were sitting before everybody started running out of gas. We’ve got the best strategy, engineers, and team really in my opinion in this paddock but we need some help from the series going into COTA because it has really long straights.”
Lawson Aschenbach, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “I’ve got to say thanks to everyone at Stevenson Motorsports, our Chevy Camaro Z/28.R was fast all day. We didn’t quite have the pace we wanted to keep up with the leaders but once I got in the car I knew it was going to be a fuel strategy race and we were going to have to get to the end one way or another so I’ve got to say thanks to everyone on the pit lane. Our guys made a great call. It was an interesting call early in the race to stay out and in the end we ended up being able to short pit and jumped a couple people, and got the lead. We knew we didn’t quite have the pace to stay up there, fell back a little bit, but once it became a fuel strategy race we hit the nail on the head. Disappointed with second unfortunately but obviously we’ll take it.”
Andrew Davis, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “It certainly was a surprise. We didn’t think with our competitiveness of our Camaro Z/28.R at this track with the rules package we’d be fighting for a podium and we really weren’t, but obviously better to be lucky than fast today, so some great strategy. We came in early and went ahead and filled up. We played the safe game. We were not going to run out of fuel, and we were hoping that was going to come to us and it did. Not exactly the way we thought. Robin (Liddell) was pushing so hard at the very beginning of his stint after we splashed and made up a lot of ground and it was holding steady. As cars came in we were able to gain some positions. We probably didn’t need that yellow at the end, I think we maybe could have squeaked it out we would have seen, but at the same time to be on the podium we lost some points today but not as many as we could have. It’s always nice to have both Stevenson cars up on the podium and all four of the drivers up there to celebrate so very excited about that. I’m very proud of the team and proud of Pratt & Miller, the efforts that they put forward for us, Team Chevy and General Motors, everything’s great!”
Robin Liddell, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “It’s really important to keep the gap to the No. 13 car to the minimum. Right now they’re winning races consistently and frankly we don’t have a car to win with but we certainly maximized our points today. Very lucky there at the end with cars running out of fuel, gaining extra positions, but we’ve played a smart safe strategy pitting for fuel early and obviously the team did a great job to get the car back out but we just didn’t have the pace to run those guys down. Very happy with the whole team and for Team Chevy and the Stevenson family.”