Stevenson Motorsports Shows Strength at Kansas Speedway

c1dad949-c626-4d13-b7be-d1acbbf874d1Kansas City, Kan. – After winning last year’s inaugural race event at Kansas Speedway, Stevenson Motorsports had high hopes of a return trip to victory lane Saturday night. And the 2.5-hour Grand Prix of Kansas showed great promise as the team took its first race laps around the 2.37-mile ‘roval’ course with the new Camaro Z/28.R. The brother Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R machines spent much of the race among the top-five with both in contention for a top-five finish.

But despite having two very competitive cars, some tough racing luck meant that the team had to fight  back to finish sixth with the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell while the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R of Matt Bell and Andy Lally recovered to a 15th place result.

7813173d-becd-413f-b80e-dc143af16711Davis opened the race from fourth on the grid and didn’t get the start he wanted as the slicing and dicing began. He settled into eighth and worked his way up to as high as fourth during his opening stint. He fought through numerous hits to the No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R that knocked him back a few positions but remained among the top-10.

When Liddell took control of the No. 6 Camaro for the second half of the race, he worked his way up to fourth in the order with 30 minutes to go in the race. Unfortunately, the strong run came to a disappointing halt when a tire issue saw the No. 6 machine return to pit lane for a new set of right side tires with just 22 minutes to go. Despite the setback, Liddell managed to hold on for sixth at the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, at the drop of the green flag, Bell opened the race from seventh on the grid and capitalized on the frantic start to move into fifth on the very first lap. An early race caution saw Bell restart second with two hours still remaining in the race. He maintained the position throughout the remainder of his stint as he wheeled the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R around the challenging Kansas circuit. With just over an hour completed, Bell took to pit road for a routine pit stop and driver change.

Lally took over controls of the No. 9 machine and returned to the track eighth in the order. He steadily worked his way up to run third prior to the second and final full course caution which was displayed with 1 hour and 6 minutes remaining. The Stevenson squad utilized the longer caution period to bring the No. 9 to pit lane for fuel and right side tires with 57 minutes to go.

Upon the restart, the No. 9 had contact with another car and broke a tie rod which forced Lally back to pit road. The Stevenson crew went immediately to work to make a quick fix to what is normally a lengthy repair and returned the No. 9 back to the track. But despite the expert repair, with the laps lost while in pit lane Lally and Bell were forced to settle for 15th at the finish.

“Coming into this race having won it last year we definitely had high expectations,” said Team Manager Mike Johnson. “We had done some really fun stuff to the car to make it work in the oval and we thought we were going to have a great oval car and we really did. But we still just can’t move forward with the weight we are carrying, the car just won’t progress. So we have to be very aggressive in how we get around cars and today I think we were a little too aggressive with the No. 9 car and maybe not aggressive enough with the No. 6 and things just didn’t work out the way we wanted. But usually when we have a day like this we finish somewhere like 20th and 23rd, but somehow we ended up with a sixth and fifteenth place finish so it could definitely be worse.”

The team returns to race action at Watkins Glen International on June 28.

“This will be a well-deserved break for the guys,” said Johnson. “They have been on the road testing and building these cars from nothing and it has been a real struggle to get to this point. We have definitely had some highlights of brilliance but a day like this is really where we are. A few days at home and some time off is going to get these guys regrouped. These guys know how to win, we all know how to win. We have the four best drivers in the paddock and we just need to do what we know how to do.”

Matt Bell, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “My stint was fine, it was relatively uneventful. We had a good car, it wasn’t the fastest out there but it wasn’t at all the worst. It was actually better in the race than we had all weekend, which is awesome. The team did great. Andy got tangled up a little bit and broke a left front tie rod, but the team actually fixed that really quickly. To put a new tie rod on the front of this car is so difficult, you are working around a brake rotor that is probably around 1,000 degrees when it comes in, but they got it done so quickly and got him back out there. The whole team is working so well together now, we are really meshing. With a bit more hard work and a bit of good luck I think we can be top-five every weekend.”

Andy Lally, No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R: “I just want to apologize to the team. I made a mistake out there. We restarted with lapped cars out in front of us and the first guy dropped wheels and went off, and I got by him, and I thought that the second guy was leaving me a spot to move up. At the same time, I wasn’t thinking about how I had hot tires on the left and cold tires on the right and that played havoc with the ABS the first time I went to hard brakes, and that kept me from slowing down. The pedal went full stiff and I was unable to avoid hitting the car in front. That’s all on me. I should have thought about the tire temperature difference from right to left, but I messed up. Unfortunately, that’s what I have to live with until Watkins Glen and I can try and make things better.”

Andrew Davis, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “That was a wild stint! It didn’t start off very well for us, we lost a bunch of positions on the start and that put me in the middle of a battle I didn’t really want to be in. I was trying to recover and just do our thing and work our way back up because I knew it would be a long fight. But I was going along the outside of Turn-4 around the outside of the Mustang which then got center-punched by one of the Nissan’s and he hit me and made contact and that sent me into the air! I thought our day was done at that point in time. When I handed the car over to Robin, he did a great job, but then we had more problems with the tires. So it was a disappointing race because it was kind of ‘what could have been’, but in reality it wasn’t a bad points day for us. The car is a bit damaged and I hate that, but we did gain ground in the points and that is all we can ask for right now. We just have to race that way and our day will come and we will be back on the top step of the podium. I’m really proud of the whole Stevenson Motorsports crew and thankful for the help from Pratt and Miller and everybody at Chevrolet and GM.”

Robin Liddell, No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R: “It was quite an eventful race really. We ended up in sixth, so we are quite happy with the result but not really happy with how we got to that point. Andrew got off to a tough start and then he got hit in the hairpin and obviously that upset the handling of the car. The car took quite a big hit from what I understand, but I don’t think that had anything to do with him. We did our best with the car throughout the stint, it was reasonably fast. We had a small issue with fueling the car in pit lane and that is why we ran out of fuel at the end because we should have been good. I had an ABS failure and that is why we had two big lock ups and then the tire blew in the banking and I was really fortunate to not hit the wall, actually. Then we came in and got the tire changed and we were able to stay somewhat in contention to finish sixth, so I am happy with the result but we need to do a little more work within the team and keep building on what we have here. Ultimately it wasn’t a really bad points day, so that is good.”