When the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series made it’s third visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) July 24-25, the drivers and teams were greeted with a different track layout than upon which they raced in 2013 and 2012. The 2014 Brickyard Grand Prix used the new 2.4-mile configuration at IMS along with a newly repaved surface. These changes meant a large amount of setup information teams saved from previous years was useless.
Run over the same weekend as the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup series, IMSA teams used Indy’s sports car track configuration on the Thursday and Friday prior to the oval track series’ race days on Saturday and Sunday. The compressed two-day schedule meant the crews had to work quickly to change chassis setup or worse repair crash damage before the next on-track session. Test sessions proved critical to finding the right setup on what was essentially a brand new course for each time.
After the dust settled from both practice sessions, Mustang fans will be pleased to learn that Billy Johnson and Ian James were the quickest in their No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R 1:34.741 lap time. Eric Curran and Lawson Aschenbach were second quickest in their No. 01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R, followed by Riddle and Wilson in their Aston Martin Vantage.
But everyone knew that the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.Rs would be fast, and in qualifying the Stevenson team showed their hand. Matt Bell put his No. 09 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R on pole with a 1:34.821 time. Bell barely edged out BMW factory driver John Edwards, who clocked a 1:34.838 lap in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. Third on the grid was Ian James in the No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R.
Notably, Nick Longhi in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche slid into the wall on the last turn on his “out lap.” The incident severely damaged the Porsche, and the team was forced to make repairs to the right-side suspension and gearbox late into the night.
On Friday, fans were treated to a combined IMSA TUDOR/Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series fan walk on the track between turns six and seven. Fans could visit with drivers and cars in both series. As usual, there were plenty of autographs, “selfies,” and photos of kids behind the wheel of their favorite cars.
The weekend’s forecast called for only a 10% chance of rain, though as the pace car led the field to the green flag, the skies were dark and there was rain to the west. A downpour mid-race would seriously throw a wrench all the teams strategies!
At the start, Matt Bell (No. 9 Camaro) held onto the lead, and Eric Curran (No. 01 Camaro) slipped into second after he and John Edwards (No. 46 BMW) made contact at the start. The field filed in behind Edwards and the chase began. After a few laps, the GS-class leaders started lapping the tail end of the ST-class cars, which made holding positions difficult. However, Bell still led the field for the first 20 laps. As 37 minutes of racing elapsed, the Stevenson Motorsports team called Bell to the pits for fuel, fresh tires, and to get co-driver Andy Lally behind the wheel of the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R. The rest of the field stayed out under the green flag. Curran inherited the lead and Lally rejoined the race at the back of the field.
Nine laps later, Eric Curran ducked into the pits so the CKS Autosport crew could service the No. 01 Camaro Z/28.R. Lawson Aschenbach climbed behind the wheel to finish out the race. The Fall-Line Motorsports crew kept John Edwards out on the track, where he led for a lap before coming into the pits to hand over driving duties of the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 to Trent Hindman.
As the leaders cycled through their pit stops, Joey Atterbury in the No. 48 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW (sister car to the No. 46) stayed out and was clearly on a different strategy. Were they waiting for rain? Atterbury held the lead for the next seventeen laps until he was forced to pit for fuel, tires, and to hand over driving of the No. 48 BMW to Shelby Blackstock. The Fall-Line crew called the No. 46 to the pits as well for a splash of fuel. With just under an hour remaining, both BMWs were good to go the distance.
In the mean time, Robin Liddell went to the lead in the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro, a position he held for the remainder of the race. While Blackstock (No. 48 BMW) and Hindman (No. 46 BMW) tried valiantly to chase Liddell down, they couldn’t catch the seven-liter Z/28.R. Liddell and co-driver Andrew Davis captured their second win of the season. Surprisingly, sprinkles fell intermittently throughout the race, but the moisture was never significant enough to call for rain tires.
The win for Liddell and Davis netted them significant points for the series championship, but Trent Hindman and John Edwards (No. 46 BMW) finished second. The points difference meant Liddell and Davis only slightly closed the gap to Hindman and Edwards.
Blackstock and Atterbury finished third to round out the second double-podium of the season for the Fall-Line Motorsports BMWs. Significantly, the other championship contenders leading up to the Indy race, Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb, were dealt a serious blow when the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche only completed a few laps before its engine expired. Perhaps the crash that Longhi suffered in qualifying played a factor in the engine. With only four races remaining this season, the two-time defending series champions have their work cut out for them if they’re going to secure a third consecutive championship!