Monday June 11, 2012
No. 9 Stevenson Camaro GS.R Picks Up First 2012 Top 5 Finish at Mid-Ohio
Yellow flags flutter often as Camaro comes home just under six seconds behind leader
After a promising start from sixth place on the grid, the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GS.R went on to a top five finish, coming across the line just six seconds behind the race winner at the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Mid-Ohio this past weekend. Going into qualifying, Team Manager Mike Johnson felt the Camaro had pole position potential. In the end, a great performance by co-drivers Matt Bell and John Edwards kept them near the front throughout the race despite being rear-ended by another car and losing a gamble on fuel.
Johnson: “As John was leaving pit road, (after his first stop) he had to stop at the pit exit while the ST cars passed by and he got hit from behind by the No. 51 Mustang which smashed the rear end of the car.”
Fender-bending racing is an inherent part of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge but no one likes to be the beneficiary of ‘spirited’ driving. That is also how race officials came to display the bright yellow flags for full race caution periods no less than eight times.
Johnson: “This was another typical GS race for the Stevenson team this year where we had a great car, great pit stops and the drivers were awesome, but we just couldn't find a way to the podium and the car rolled onto the truck with damage to every body panel but the roof.”
John Edwards describes the fender-bending that went on during his stint.
“This was a very intense race, with lots of rubbing and bumping going on throughout the race.” Edwards noted. “It was a bit frustrating to be off the podium after running towards the front for a while, especially with Lawson (Aschenbach, CKS Autosport Camaro) finishing second after we had battled for some laps. However, after Lawson got by, another car tried to follow him through and bumped me off line in turn eight I made the mistake of trying to stay inside of him into turn nine when I was a little too far back to make it, and clipped my left-front tire on his right-front, which knocked the toe out a little bit. This allowed a few more cars by me and dropped me to seventh or so. Fortunately, I was able to make a spot up on a restart and then Gunter (Schaldach, Mitchum Motorsports Camaro) ran out of fuel allowing me by on the last lap.”
During his stint, Matt Bell tried to avoid the rest of the field as he moved through it, and he ultimately managed to make a minimal contribution to the body shop’s future workload.
“I decided that I would try and just keep paint off the fenders in my stint,” Bell commented, “while trying to make up as many places as possible. I'm proud to say, for the most part, I completed my goal. I made up one place on the first lap, and ended up in third by the time a caution came out and John got in. The car was awesome to drive. The track was greasy, the temperature was increasing, but our Camaro performed flawlessly.”
“John's stint was great as well.” Bell continued, “He did end up having contact, but he charged right back up to fifth by the checkered flag. It was really impressive to see the wounded car lay down solid lap times when they really matter. “
Those lap times reinforced the change the team made a few races back when Kaz Technologies came on board to take on the engineering tasks for the No. 9 Camaro. At Mid-Ohio, Bell continued to bring attention to how well he feels the change has benefitted the team.
Bell: “The results in each session, including qualifying and the race, didn't really show it, but this was one of our better weekends. The glue that bonds this team together is getting ever stronger. Tri (Edmund "Tri" Gaffney) from Kaz Technologies has been steadily deciphering our Camaro and we've made some huge improvements on fixing our usual problems. Considering how tough Mid-Ohio can be on cars that struggle for traction, our car was the best I've ever felt it here, dare I say, it's the most balanced I've ever felt it, period!”
Pit stop strategy played a role in deciding the outcome of the race, as it almost always does, and if there had not been so many caution periods, the team’s strategy would have likely delivered a podium placing. Because the yellow flag waved quite a bit it allowed the leaders to forego a late stop for fuel that would have put them behind, rather than in front of the, No. 9 Camaro.
With just over an hour to go in the race, Mike Johnson brought the Camaro in for fuel and tires under one of those yellow flag breaks in the action. “At the yellow late in the race, we figured the lead cars would stop since they were very short on fuel, but they didn't stop again as the race never had more than five or so laps without going yellow again and again which allowed the lead cars to go the distance without having to make another stop for fuel.”
Johnson put the day down as being both a bit of a surprise for how well the leaders were able to conserve fuel, and how the day brought a very welcome return to a top five finish, the team’s first this season.
Johnson: “We had the right strategy and track position for a win but the last half of the race was almost all yellow, and the winning car somehow ran for an hour and 43 minutes on a tank of fuel! I think if we would have had just one long run, John could have easily passed a few cars and they would have run out of fuel anyway, but it's nice to get a top five again and we'll head off to Road America in two weeks and look to land a spot closer to the top step of the podium.”
Bell too thinks the best is yet to come.
“Overall, the weekend is a great one in my book.” Bell noted. “If nothing else, it was another school day for all of us. We may be three years into this program, but we're learning more now than ever and I think our car's relative performance is proving it. We're had some bad luck so far this season, but if we keep doing what we're doing, it's just a matter of time until we're tasting champagne!”
Edwards: “We finally picked up a top five finish after a rough start to the beginning of the season. However, I feel like I've never worked so hard for a fifth place finish before! The Stevenson crew did a great job on the stops and the setup, and really earned themselves a podium that just slipped away in the last few laps of the race.”
The next race in the 2012 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge 10 race schedule will be on June 24th at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
More information about the Stevenson Motorsports team, and the new Stevenson performance shop, can be found on Facebook.
For more information on the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, go to www.grand-am.com
Stevenson Motorsports operates out of a facility located in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
This report was provided by an outside PR source and posted by Beth Lunkenheimer.
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