Rebel Rock Racing’s Robin Liddell made his final stop Saturday (July 6) with an hour to go in the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 120, seemingly outside of the pit window. The team was insistent that Liddell could go the distance. He took the lead with 40 minutes to go when Motorsports In Action’s Jesse Lazare pitted. From there, Liddell held on to earn the victory. It’s the first overall victory for Rebel Rock Racing and for teammate Frank DePew. It is also the first victory in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge for Chevrolet since 2017.
TeamTGM’s Owen Trinkler started from the pole and ran hard early on. The fastest man on track early on was Ben Rhodes in the Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4. Rhodes quickly dispatched of CarBahn Motorsports’ Tyler McQuarrie (but not without some contact) to take second, then ran down Trinkler. After a few laps of racing, Rhodes was able to take the lead on lap 14 and pull away.
Rhodes was able to lead overall without issues until the first of two full course cautions came out. The minimum drive-time for the day was 40 minutes and the pits right after that. As a result, everyone came in for tires, fuel and a driver change. A terrible stop for Rhodes’ No. 15 team took them directly out of the hunt. Grant Enfinger brought the car home in 13th, but not without having contact with a couple of other drivers.
Lazare was able to get out of the pits first and took over the lead. Once out front, Lazare was able to set a decent enough pace to keep ahead of the rest of the pack, but not really fast enough. Liddell at this point was towards the back of the top 10. He had gotten in the car in 13th and slowly made his way up the order.
The leaders began making their final stops with 50 minutes to go. Lazare chose to stay out until lap 52 before making his final stop. The idea here was that he would be on better tires on at the finish.
Liddell took advantage of his fresher tires at the beginning of his final run and ended up with a five-second lead after the stops finished. With everyone good to go to the finish, Liddell was still able to put down good times and expand his lead.
A late caution closed everyone back up for a 10-minute dash to the finish. That put KohR Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli right on Liddell’s tail. Over the final 10 minutes, Marcelli tried his hardest to get past, but Liddell was not going to be denied victory.
The margin of victory was only six-tenths of a second over Marcelli and Nate Stacy in their Mustang. Lazare and Corey Fergus were third, followed by McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal. PF Racing’s James Pesek and Jade Buford were fifth.
TCR was dominated for the entire first half of the race by JDC-Miller MotorSports. Mikey Taylor started from the pole and ran away from the rest of the pack. He was nearly six seconds up on the rest of the class 10 laps into the race. At that point, he got hung up behind Pesek and the previous generation Aston Martin of Gary Ferrara. The two GS cars had a speed advantage on the straights, while Taylor was faster in the turns. The result of that mix was that Taylor would lose time in the turns because of the GS cars. That would allow the Hyundais to catch up.
38 minutes into the race, HART’s Chad Gilsinger and Mark Motors Racing’s Marco Cirone collided exiting turn 3 and went into the wall to bring out the first caution. Cirone was able to continue, but was judged responsible for the crash and had to serve a penalty. Gilsinger’s Honda had left front suspension damage and was out on the spot.
The caution split the pit strategy in three. Taylor and a number of others stayed out. The Hyundais stopped here, swapping out Michael Lewis and Mason Filippi in favor of Mark Wilkins and Harry Gottsacker. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ second car stopped as well, allowing Stephen Simpson to replace Michael Johnson.
Taylor once again ran off from the pack once the race restarted. The Hyundais pitted just after halfway for their final stop and emerged with good track position. Then, they both ran into trouble. Wilkins’ No. 98 overheated and was forced to retire. Meanwhile, Gottsacker spun and hit the tires in Moss Corner. The incident didn’t bring out the caution, but cost him a lot of time. He would eventually finish 10th.
The pit stop for Taylor’s No. 17 was incredibly costly. First, it was slow in general. Then, there was smoke in the car. Finally, Britt Casey Jr. ran over the left front tire that had been taken off the car during the stop while trying to leave. That got him a drive-through penalty. Despite all that, Casey managed to keep the car on the lead lap.
The stop gave the lead to Simpson, who planned to go non-stop to the finish from the stop 40 minutes into the race. Technically, they made it, but not without problems.
KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Alex Popow stalled in turn 3 and brought out the race’s final yellow with 17 minutes left. That put Roadshagger Racing’s Jon Morley right on Simpson’s tail, along with Atlanta Speedwerks’ Todd Lamb and Casey Jr. The final 10 minutes were an all-out brawl. Simpson had the lapped car of Fast MD Racing’s James Vance behind him, but dispatching Vance cost Morley second as Lamb got past.
A lap later, Morley re-passed Lamb for second, then bogged down exiting Moss Corner. That allowed Casey to go from fourth to second and battle his own teammate for the win. With two laps to go, Casey went to the outside at turn 2. Simpson pushed him wide, but Casey made the pass. Then, contact was made between Simpson and Morley, spinning the No. 61. That contact resulted in a penalty for Simpson. From there, Casey held on to take the win.
Casey and Taylor’s margin of victory was 3.854 seconds over LA Honda World Racing’s Max Faulkner and Colin Mullan, despite Mullan sliding into the tires while trying to make his final pit stop. Morley and Gavin Ernstone recovered from their late spin to finish third, while Lamb and Brian Henderson came from the back of the field to finish fourth. Simpson and Johnson ended up fifth.
Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will take next weekend off before traveling to Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park for the Lime Rock Park 120. Frontstretch will be there to bring you all the action.