Entering the final four races of the year the usaautomotivesupply.com, Stevens-Miller Racing team was poised to rise to the top. The work has never stopped; testing, building, developing, analyzing the data, and the introduction of new parts. Hard work has provided us the opportunity to be better and better we’ve become!
Along with our team’s efforts the continued support of usaautomotivesupply.com, Berryman, PREFIX, Liqui Moly, Howe Chassis, Wix Filters, Pagid and so many others, had put us in a position to pressure the front-runners at Watkins Glen.
Ethan Wilson in our bright orange Berryman, Liqui Moly, PREFIX powered Dodge Challenger was fast off the trailer. Running lap times in the top five in the first test session, eighth in the first official practice then fifth in the second. Trimming the front splitter between the first and second practice sessions had paid dividends and behind the wheel Ethan was back on form with his father Dave Wilson returning to his side
“It’s so great to have my dad back -he’s always been by my side in racing, in business, and in life. Without him I was not myself at Road America. It’s so great to have him back at the track! Every time we come off the track the guys make changes to the car and having Marc Miller helping with the data and as a driving coach is huge for everyone on the team.”
Returning for the first time since the opening round at Sebring was Peter Klutt from the Legendary Motorcar Company driving our Berryman, Liqui Moly, PREFIX powered Ford Mustang. The Mustang was fast but still going through the “new car blues” and a very needy piece. Klutt was 10th in the first practice, eighth in P2, and getting faster in every session.
During the first practice session fellow competitor Jordan Bupp suffered an engine failure. Without a spare for his Ford Mustang entry, the Ft. Lauderdale Florida driver approached SMR about the use of our spare Dodge Challenger. Jumping into action the team pulled our number 12 Challenger out of the transporter and went to work. Wholesale changes were necessary to get Bupp’s seat installed and the car ready. Undaunted the team pushed though and had Bupp on track for the second session.
Admittedly it was a big ask for the team and the driver. Bupp had never driven a Dodge and each of the three: Camaro, Mustang, and Dodge, TA2 cars have different driving characteristics and after his first run he was obviously uncomfortable in the car. Bupp decided to call it a day rather than putting in the time to adjust the setup necessary to hold down his third place in the championship.
Bupp said, “I was third in the points so I wanted to keep racing-blowing up the motor was a big set back to my 2018 program. We’re building a new car for next season and I decided the extra expense and effort was just not worth it. Unfortunately this means I’m out of the championship hunt – but that’s racing. It’s time to focus on the new car and 2019.”
The team was disappointed not to be able to keep Bupp’s title chase alive. “When Jordan told us his decision it was like being told we were going to bed without desert,” Team owner Joe Stevens said. “My guys relish a challenge and the opportunity to go above and beyond.”
Often when one door closes another opens. Our engine specialist and Drivetrain Manager for PREFIX Rick Talbot made a call and secured enough backing from PREFIX to put pro driver Marc Miler in the car. Once again the team went to work and in Marc’s first session the car improved by more than one second but was still down in 15th. With qualifying up next there was plenty of work going on under the Stevens-Miller awning.
At the start of qualifying Wilson was on pace with the leaders and put in his best effort of the season. Wilson would start on the second row in fourth next to championship leader Rafa Matos in his 3-Dimensional Services PREFIX powered Camaro.
Qualifying proved difficult and Klutt and ended his Friday’s work qualified in 11th. “The car is much better than we showed in qualifying. We made a differential change and we just did not hit the sweet spot with our set up,” Klutt said. “This team never stops and we’ll be better come race time.”
The team was head down and working hard on the 12 car. Miller dropped another two seconds putting him 10th on the grid. Miller said, “I’m so proud of the team-this car had not been raced for months. To pull it off the trailer and give me something I can drive is a huge testament to what Stevens-Miller Racing can do. We’ll work on it over night and I know we’ll be in the hunt tomorrow.”
Driving our forth entry was Brian Swank in the lime green Royal Flush, Berryman, PREFIX Dodge Challenger. A short track veteran Swank driving in his second ever road race is rapidly improving. With the help of fellow driver and coach Marc Miller, Brian was quicker every session and in the race he broke the magic two-minute barrier, a great accomplishment for the road-racing rookie. In the end Brian drove a consistent race finishing 15th out of the 22 starters. “That was so cool,” his wife Carol said. “I know how much this means to him and I’m thrilled he did so well.”
From the drop of the green the race was exciting… Wilson was challenged down through the eases on the opening laps trading a little paint in the process with second place finisher Shane Lewis. Wilson said, “I blocked Shane a bit and in hind site-more than I should… He was definitely faster and it showed in the final results. It was a bit of a rookie move on my part. There is a time to hold your ground, sometimes for position, and sometimes to gain respect. It takes experience to know when-to and when not-to hold up another competitor. I spoke to Shane after the race and apologized.”
One of the exciting things about the TA2 category is that the top five always mixes up… one thing that has remained a constant is Rafa Matos and his 3D PREFIX Camaro getting the best of the field. As the race matured pole setter Scott Lagasse Jr. and second qualifier Louis-Philippe Montour both had issues allowing Lewis and our man Wilson to finish in the top four.
Meanwhile fellow Stevens-Miller Racing drivers Marc Miller and Peter Klutt were storming through the field. When the first and only caution came out Miller had moved up to fifth behind Wilson and Klutt was in a solid seventh. The race restarted and Miller played wing-man helping Wilson maintain fourth.
Miller said, “Ethan is doing an amazing job in his first year. As a team we decided that if I got up to him I’d hold position to be sure he got as many points as possible. I’m not running the whole season and my role is to support the team as a coach and as a driver. I’m damn proud of what the guys did this weekend. My PREFIX Dodge was bad fast come race day. It shows how determined Joe and his team are to always be the best we can be…. It’s a terrific program.”
Peter Klutt in his Legendary Motorcar, Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com Mustang was not as lucky. Although he drove a great race steadily moving through the field his race came to an abrupt end with a heavy crash on the final lap. “The car was really good and you hate for a race to end this way especially with only a couple of corners to go,” Klutt said. “We had a great car that kept getting better all weekend, I’m disappointed, but that’s how it goes some days.”
Team Owner Joe Stevens summed up the weekend, “My guys never stopped this weekend. The whole team kept their heads down and just wanted more. I’m so proud of my team, Ethan did a fantastic job, Brian ran his best ever, and Marc showed what true teammates are made of. Peter unfortunately did not get the result we wanted and our Mustang refuses to be tamed… We’ll keep after it, we won’t stop-after all, results are earned not given-and we know that.”