Our 2018 season came to an end with back-to-back events at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin Texas and the following weekend at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach Florida.
The final two races netted the Stevens-Miller Racing (SMR) the year’s best overall performances. With Marc Miller finishing second at Daytona, Ethan Wilson’s forth at COTA, Drew Neubauer in his debut brought home second overall in COTA’s SVRA GT division. And just as in the opening round at Sebring, Daytona found all three SMR entries finishing in the top ten – Miller second, Wilson seventh, and Brian Swank in ninth.
Team Owner Joe Stevens said, “The season was a success on all levels-Ethan Wilson in only his second year racing cars finished third overall in TA2 and won Rookie of the Year driving our Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com, PREFIX, Dodge Challenger. Team pro driver Marc Miller won Sebring and finished second at Daytona driving our PREFIX, Liqui Moly, Dodge. Marc’s two podiums were a great way start and end to our season. And Brian Swank coming in at Mid Ohio with zero road racing experience and finishing in the top ten in only his fourth race was a thrill for us all. We had a variety of drivers from Discovery Channel hosts, to pros from IMSA, as well as TA2 champions from Finland and Australia in our cars.
“Ethan’s result was a stand out for sure. His season is one of the best rookie performances in the history of the Trans Am,” Stevens said. “Not only did he win Rookie of the Year but to finish third in the championship against drivers with many many more years of experience says a lot about Ethan’s raw talent. His drive from 12th to fourth at COTA was one of the best drives of the season.”
Wilson said, “I have to thank the whole team especially Joe Stevens for his leadership and Marc Miller for his coaching. Tate Boenker my car chief and Steven Fite my mechanic never ever gave up and their effort made a difference race in and race out.
“My goal was a top ten-to finish-third is was beyond my wildest dream. There was a lot of pressure-I put the pressure on myself and on the team. As the results got better and I started to climb the standings the pressure kept piling on. Managing the pressure and the expectations was probably the most difficult. Being a rookie was part of it, but after many years of being successful in karting on a national level well as having been a four time national champion also played a part. My long time karting partner and SMR’s Marketing Manger Steve Sharp and I dreamed of racing Trans Am 20 years ago-for it to come about and to be successful in our first year is amazing.”
SMR Marketing Manager Steve Sharp said, “Ethan and I talked about Trans Am many years ago. To be a part of SMR and Ethan’s success is a thrill for us both. Joe and his team welcomed us both. When Ethan asked me what he should do I told him ‘do what you do’ drive the wheels off it and I’ll support you like I have always have done with parts and pieces to support you and the team. Neither of us thought or expected it would lead us to were we are today. Joe and his guys are fantastic-they never give up and they always keep pushing. Marc Miller’s coaching and data analysis is above and beyond and Marc played a huge role in Ethan’s and all of the SMR driver’s successes.
“Having my day job USA Automotive Supply and President Yousef Hamamdeh support both my efforts and the team was above and beyond,” Sharp said. “Yousef sent me to the races to support our new web site usaautomotivesupply.com and the lines we carry Berryman Products, Liqui Moly, Shark and Permatex. I can’t thank Yousef enough for allowing me the time and funding the program.”
Stevens said, “So many people and companies contributed to our year. Having Berryman Products sponsor cars, an entire event, and now becoming a major sponsor for our team next year is incredible. Liqui Moly providing us lubricants and becoming a true partner in what we do and a technical partner with SMR engine supplier PREFIX is a big step for our team. PREFIX expanding their involvement and sponsoring Marc Miller at Daytona shows just like Berryman how we work with our suppliers and sponsors to provide the return they want and need from a sports marketing program.
“Working with Rick Talbot PREFIX’s drivetrain division manager and having his team at every event supporting our team was exceptional. Stefan Braun of Liqui Moly working with Prefix on the dyno to help maximize both power and longevity of our engines was another key to our success. And having Beau Blankenship with us from Berryman Products kept us smiling and his products kept our parts clean.
“Trans Am chassis supplier Chas Howe and his company Howe Racing Enterprises have been essential to our progress. Our association with Howe helped put Finland’s Henri Tuomaala from V8 Thundercars and Australian champion Russell Wright in our cars this year.
“I also want to than Brian Swank for his generous support of our efforts. He and his wife Carol have brought an unexpected bit of sunshine to what can be a trying and emotional business. Brian has contributed beyond being a client and his passion for building Autism awareness through exposure on his car and our transporters in 2019 is above and beyond.”
Every race team SMR grew. Each race brought new talent, Stevens said. “IMSA and Liqui Moly team driver Dillon Machavern, Discovery Chanel host and Legendary Motorcar Company owner Peter Klutt, new comer Drew Neubauer and his sponsors Wabash National and ProcureIt Network all played a role in our growth as a team. Running Anthony Honeywell’s Camaro out of our tent and finishing second place in the Northern Cup behind Trans Am Champion Ernie Francis Jr. underscored whether you run your car or ours SMR can help you succeed.”
It was a year of firsts for SMR, he said. “Marc’s first at Sebring, the first team to bring corporate sponsors to the series, the first team to field international TA2 champions, the first team to field all three major brands, Dodge, Chevrolet, and Ford under one awning, and the first TA2 team to make a concerted marketing effort across national, international, and social medias.
“A lot of work goes into everything we do including marketing. We debuted our new hospitality center at COTA, we had product displays at 10 of the 12 races, drivers Marc Miller and Ethan Wilson were interviewed multiple times for CBS Sports. Ethan was profiled on the Trans Am home site gotransam.com. Steve Sharp developed this blog for fans and sponsors and Tabitha Lohr of Lohr Marketing built our new web site. We even filmed a pilot for NBC Sports regional networks with Steve as the host.
“I want to also thank all of you who have followed us on usaautomotivesupply.com, Facebook and Twitter. This blog will be moving to our website stevensmillerracing.com, and in 2019 we will be expanding our national and social media coverage. We invite all of our fans to the 2019 Trans Am events next year, although we will not be at Homestead we will be at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca in March and Lime Rock Park over Memorial day weekend.
“Our paddock and pit area are open to you-stop by and say hi and we’ll do our best to make you feel welcome. Until then-thank you to my team members, our drivers, our sponsors, our suppliers and to you. We can’t wait for the first green flag of 2019!”