Birmingham, Ala. (Apr. 7). -- Round 3 of the GRANDAM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park proved to be a successful weekend for John Edwards and Stevenson Motorsports. Between the two events at the 2.3 mile road course, Stevenson Motorsports earned a track record setting pole position, one race win, one fastest race lap and a second place finish.
Edwards not only qualified the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro on the pole position, but shattered the 2010 track record with a 1:26.610 lap time. The twenty-two year-old racer led the GT class of Rolex Sports Car Series to the green flag Saturday afternoon, and held his position as the No. 31 of Boris Said stayed close behind, challenging for position. The first full course yellow of the day came out in lap eleven, and the Stevenson crew made the decision to pit for tires and fuel. After leading the race for thirteen laps, Edwards pitted in first and rejoined the field in 9th position.
"We pitted and took tires when a lot of people didn't, so I had to work my way through the field," said Edwards. "It put us back in traffic, but taking tires was the right decision as we saw Boris struggling on old tires at the end of his stint." By the end of the first lap following the restart, Edwards had climbed up to fourth, and a few laps later, he was running in the top three. When it came time for co-driver Robin Liddell's stint, the No. 57 Camaro was running in second and after a perfectly executed pit stop, Liddell rejoined the field without losing the position.
"We were going flat out the whole time," said Edwards. "In a two hour race, those positions are really going to matter. The crew did an awesome stop. The driver change went perfectly, as did the tire changes. Robin got back out there and did a great drive." With thirty-five minutes remaining, Liddell made the pass for the lead, and held it for the next twenty-seven laps. In the final moments of the race, the No. 63 Ferrari came within half a second of the Stevenson Camaro, but Liddell pushed hard and took the first win of the year for the team. The first win of the season moves Edwards and Liddell up to eighth place in the Rolex Sports Car Series driver standings. The race will air Sunday, April 7th on SPEED at 5:30pm Eastern.
Later that afternoon, Edwards had a quick turnaround from victory circle to the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge pre-race grid. Matt Bell started the 2.5 hour race in seventh, losing two positions on the start. He quickly regained the lost positions before pitting on lap twenty-two during a full course yellow. With another perfectly executed pit stop by the Stevenson Auto Group crew, Edwards took over the racing and rejoined in 18th. As the rest of the field cycled through pit stops during the caution, the No. 57 Camaro restarted in seventh position. Within the following laps, Edwards was challenging the No. 46 of Bryan Sellers for second position. After overtaking Sellers, Edwards set his sights on the No. 48 of Charles Espenlaub, slowly closing the gap with each lap. With 58 minutes remaining on the clock, Edwards took the lead and started to put distance between himself and the competitors. He pitted in the lead with a seventeen-second lead and rejoined the field in first, with a comfortable seven-second lead over the GS field.
A full course caution came out in the final hour, diminishing the lead gap for the Stevenson Camaro. Following the restart was an intense GS battle between Edwards, Sellers and the No. 13 of Matt Plumb. After leading for eighteen laps, Edwards made a rare mistake and missed a shift, allowing Plumb to make the pass for the lead. The final caution of the day came out with 20 minutes to go, and the field went back to green with only 13 minutes for Edwards to attempted his second win of the day. Although his final lap times were faster than the leader, the remaining laps did not provide enough time and Edwards crossed the finish line in second, earning Stevenson Motorsports their second podium of the weekend.
"I hate to sound depressed to be in second, but when you're leading with 20 minutes to go and you make a rookie mistake, it's a little disappointing," said Edwards. "It's that elusive double win. It would have been incredible to earn the second win today, but second place still feels great. The crew was on it all weekend long and the Camaro performed so well." The second place finish moves Edwards and Bell up to second in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge driver standings. The race will air Saturday, April 13th at 2:00pm Eastern.
In two weeks, Edwards will compete at Road Atlanta for Round 4 of the GRANDAM Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge April 18-20th.
Photos: Juha Lievonen, PhotosByJuha.com