Image credit: Stevenson Motorsport.
Saturday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at VIRginia International Raceway will be a homecoming of sorts for the Jacksonville, North Carolina-based Stevenson Motorsports team, which considers VIR its home track.
Co-drivers of the Grand Sport (GS) points-leading team Andrew Davis and Robbin Liddell have three victories this season in the No. 6 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R but haven’t reached the top spot on the podium in the last three races. Teammates Matt Bell and Lawson Aschenbach are looking to make up for an early exit at Road America in the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R.
Though, if the team wants to win in front of its home crowd, the drivers will have to navigate some tough competition.
Matt Plumb became the leading winner in Continental Tire Challenge history in the most recent race at Road America, scoring his 21st career victory. He and his brother Hugh also won the 2015 season opener at Daytona in the No. 13 The Billfish Foundation/Rum Bum Film & HD Studios/RumBumGear.com Porsche 911 for Rum Bum Racing.
Doran Racing’s BJ Zacharias and Brad Jaeger are coming off a runner-up finish in at Road America in the No. 14 Nismo GT Academy Nissan 370Z, while Nissan GT Academy drivers Nick McMillen and Nicolas Hammann finished fourth in the team’s No. 41 entry.
“I’m really looking forward to VIR,” Jaeger said. “We had a very competitive car there last year and we ran extremely competitive lap times. The way the team has been working together has been excellent. We’ve produced four podiums in the last five races, and we’d like to continue that streak. The long backstraight at VIR suits our car, and I think we’re going to have a strong finish.”
Multimatic Motorsports has a pair of victories this season with the Ford Shelby GT350R-C, which was introduced midway through the season. Mooresville, North Carolina native Austin Cindric and Jade Buford won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the team’s No. 158 entry, while Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell scored a victory at Lime Rock Park in the No. 15.
Defending GS champion Trent Hindman and co-driver Ashley Freiberg have a pair of podium finishes in the No. 46 IHG Rewards Club/Trim-Tex/Fall-Line BMW M3 for Fall-Line Motorsports, most recently placing third at Road America.
Looking towards the Street Tuner (ST) class, two Virginia-based teams are shaping up to be the competitors to beat.
Tyler Cooke, a native of the Charlotte, North Carolina area, is coming off the best finish of the season for Dublin, Virginia-based BimmerWorld Racing, placing fourth at Road America in the No. 81 BMW 328i co-driven by Andrie Hartanto. VIR is located on the Virginia-North Carolina border near Danville, Va.
“Since I’ve lived in North Carolina so long, I’ve considered VIR to be my home track, and it’s the team’s home track, too,” said Cooke, who turned 21 on Tuesday. “I love that track. It’s a difficult place to learn and it takes several visits to master it. It also suits our BMW’s handling. Greg (Liefooghe) and I finished third last year, and I think if we had two more laps we would have won.”
BimmerWorld also fields the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i for team president James Clay and Jason Briedis.
Next Level European debuted in 2015 as a satellite team to BimmerWorld, with the two teams sharing space in the paddock. Liefooghe and Eric Zimmermann gave the team this victory earlier this season at Sebring in the No. 83 Red Line Oil Porsche Cayman. The team also fields the No. 38 Porsche Cayman for Dan Rogers and Seth Thomas.
Two Mazda teams are ranked one-two in the ST points. Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee are two-time winners in CJ Wilson Racing’s No. 5 ModSpace Mazda MX-5. They hold a two-point lead, 185-183, over Liam Dwyer and Andrew Carbonell in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport SemperFiFund.org Mazda MX-5.
However, Dwyer will not compete this weekend at VIR due to a minor medical issue. The team has enlisted TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Mazda Prototype driver Tom Long to substitute for Dwyer in the No. 25 machine alongside Carbonell. The Raleigh, North Carolina racer will start the race in the No. 25 and finish in Freedom Autosport’s No. 26 Mazda MX-5, which will be started by Britt Casey Jr. Dwyer is expected back in the cockpit of the No. 25 machine next month at Circuit of The Americas.
Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler used their best finish of the season – second at Road America – to take third in the ST standings, co-driving the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Cruise America/Thor Motorcoach Honda Civic Si. They have finished in the top five in four of the last five races.
Virginia native Spencer Pumpelly leads the three-car RS1 entry. Pumpelly and rookie Luis Rodriguez Jr. have two victories in the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman, but suffered a heartbreaking last-lap defeat at Road America when their fuel feed failed while leading in the final turn. That misfortune gave the Road America victory to Chad Gilsinger and Ryan Eversley. This weekend, Gilsinger will be joined by Kevin Boehm in the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si.
Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss are the defending ST winners at VIR, taking momentum into the event with back-to-back podium finishes in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman.