At Lime Rock Park on Saturday morning, Stevenson Motorsports’ Matt Bell and Robin Liddell used excellent pace and superior pit strategy to open up a lead of 31 seconds over the rest of the pack. Cautions cut that lead down, but Bell and Liddell were able to keep the No. 57 Camaro up front to claim their second straight overall win.
Afterwards, Liddell was confident that outright pace was not the only factor in the team’s victory.
“I think the key was really just strategy. Matt ran a super opening stint, but the [Bodymotion Racing] Porsche was faster, for sure,” Liddell said after the race. “It was a bit odd with some of the normal finishers starting, so I don’t really know what their strategies were, in terms of how we played out, we made the right call to pit under the first yellow, took tires and fuel, and Matt was able to drive around and get into the lead then because we were on better tires. I only got two tires for my stop, so it was really a question of getting the hammer down on the restart and getting a little gap, which I did. Then, I was just sort of waiting there and hoping that we had enough tire under us for the end. Fortunately, with the traffic, etc. I was able to maintain the gap. For sure we were losing grip there at the end, but we only took two tires on that final pit stop like I said, so it was a good effort with regard to the Continentals and actually making it to the end, so I’m happy with that.”
Liddell did have a point. As noted on Friday, Bodymotion Racing’s Trent Hindman qualified on pole. When the green flag dropped, Hindman was able to open up a small gap on the rest of the field. Bell was not too far behind, but Hindman was able to put slower traffic behind himself and the Camaro.
31 minutes into the race, Russell Ward pulled the No. 35 CJ Wilson Racing Porsche off due to a fuel pump issue. That brought out the first full course caution of the day and brought pit strategy into play. As Liddell noted, Bell pitted. Hindman stayed out while Bell dropped to fourth.
Once the green came back out, it took a mere six laps for Bell to snag the lead on fresher tires. Once out front, Bell pulled away from the pack. By the time Bell handed off to Liddell, he had an 11 second lead. A quick stop, plus issues for the other contenders resulted in Liddell inheriting a 31 second lead.
That massive lead did not last long as the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 of Andrew Carbonell stalled in turn 2 to bring out a second yellow with 46 minutes remaining.
For the rest of the race, lapped traffic played a role in keeping Liddell out front with a comfortable lead. Liddell and Bell held on to win the Lime Rock Park 120 by 2.784 seconds.
Second went to Rennsport One’s No. 28 Porsche for Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott. Third, nearly 40 seconds back was the No. 33 CJ Wilson Racing Porsche of Till Bechtolsheimer and Marc Miller. The finish came despite a spin in turn 4 after contact with JDC/Miller MotorSports’ Stephen Simpson. Motorsports in Action’s Chris Green and Jesse Lazare finished fourth while Hindman and Cameron Cassels ended up in fifth.
For the vast majority of Saturday’s race, the front of the Street Tuner class was a three-way battle between Freedom Autosport’s Nos. 25 and 27 Mazda, and Murillo Racing’s No. 34 Mazda. These three car, led by pole-sitter Chad McCumbee in the No. 25, drove away from the rest of the class.
If you look at the Lap Chart, you would notice that McCumbee and teammate Stevan McAleer led nearly the entire race by themselves. It almost looks like a butt-kicking. It was not a butt-kicking. Britt Casey Jr. and Matthew Fassnacht in the Trumpf-sponsored No. 27 were right on their tail. Christopher Stone and Christian Szymczak were right there as well.
The three Mazdas ran nose-to-tail until the final minutes of the race. Casey appeared to have the faster car, but could never get to the inside of McAleer in the second half of the race.
The class was decided with 15 minutes to go when Casey clipped the curb on the inside of the Climbing Turn. For Casey, that was nothing new. He had been using the curb there all day in order to help his MX-5 rotate through the turn. However, Casey went into the Climbing Turn a little hot on this occasion. At that speed, hitting the curb like normal spun Casey out. Szymczak had nowhere to go and hit Casey. The hit straightened Casey out, but sent Szymczak into a tire bundle.
Szymczak was forced to back up to get his front wheels clear, then drove back to the pits for repairs. Despite a front end that looked a little like the Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors just prior to eating, Szymczak finished the race 17th in class, nine laps down.
The incident gave McAleer a 7.5-second lead. He was easily able to hold onto that to take his third straight win at Lime Rock.
Afterwards, McCumbee downplayed the No. 25’s pace.
“Today was all about efficiency,” McCumbee told Frontstretch after the podium ceremony. “Its been a struggle here for the last couple of weeks. We had a little damage at Watkins Glen. The [crew] has barely had time to go home and fix this. We were not the dominant car by any means, [but] today was a team effort.”
For Casey, he believes that the No. 27 was the strongest car in ST all day.
“I’m pumped. [They] knew we were there,” Casey told Frontstretch. “I know that if I didn’t make that one mistake [in the Climbing Turn], I’m sure I would have gotten the lead at some point. If you talk to the guys in this [class], they’ll tell you that the No. 27 was the car to beat.”
BimmerWorld Racing’s James Clay and Tyler Cooke were third, 12 seconds back. Rennsport One’s Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante were fourth, while Bodymotion Racing’s Devin Jones and Drake Kemper were fifth.
Today’s race will air on FOX Sports 1 Sunday, Jul. 30 at 11:30 a.m. The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge will be back in action on Saturday, Aug. 5 at Road America.