Johnson “Very Happy” With Stevenson Legacy, Eyeing Next Move

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Stevenson Motorsports team manager Mike Johnson says the recent announcement that the team would cease operations following the conclusion of the IMSA season has left him with plenty of uncertainty about where the future will take him.

Johnson has been a part of the Johnny and Susan Stevenson-owned operation for 11 years, guiding the program to numerous wins and championships in IMSA and GRAND-AM before it, and helped to oversee the team’s WeatherTech Championship and Continental Tire Challenge programs.

The news that the team patriarch was considering stepping away from team ownership started filtering down to the team at the last round at Virginia International Raceway before being officially announced last weekend, leaving Johnson and the rest of the crew unsure what the future holds but thankful for their experiences.

“I think that at Virginia, John and Susan were starting to have serious conversations about maybe their time had come,” Johnson told Sportscar365. 

“I think a few things lined up and they decided that it’s just time.

“From all of us on the crew, we’re just thankful we got as many great years as we did. I’ve said that five years is an eternity with one race team, and they gave some of us 10-15 years.”

While still focused on preparing for the final two races of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Motul Petit Le Mans, Johnson said the team has also begun assessing what to do with the cars and equipment they have in stock.

Possibilities include selling off the assets piecemeal to various customers, or selling the cars and equipment together to potential new team owners looking to start a GT3 or GT4 operation.

According to Johnson, the latter option carries with it the possibility to keep at least some of the tight-knit team intact should it prove to be a viable option.

“If you wanted to go Audi GT3 racing, and you were starting at zero, we have everything you need,” he said. “We have a car, a spare car, truck, trailer, pit equipment, everything. If you want to go Camaro GT4 racing, same story. All of those things are open.

“Obviously the group of guys that John and Susan have assembled, have become very close. The way we work is like any good race team: you don’t have to talk about what to do and where to go, everybody knows what to do.

“It’s the way it’s supposed to be. If there’s a way that we can all stay together, that’s what we’re going to work for. That’s going to be our first goal. You might as well hire the guy that knows how everything works on the race car if you are going to buy it!”

One option that is not on the table is for Johnson to take an ownership stake. The former Archangel Motorsports team owner said his ownership days are behind him.

“I don’t want to buy anything, and I don’t want to own anything,” he said. “I’ve been there and I’ve done that. The best day of team ownership is when you sell all of the equipment!

“I did it 15 years ago when the budgets were so different. The series was so different. The costs are higher, it’s too much pressure every year trying to find a new deal. 

“I think a perfect world for me, would be if someone calls up and says, ‘Hey Mike, I want to build a team or change my team and here’s the keys, now get to work.’

“If that’s the kind of deal that comes together then I’d definitely entertain it. And if the phone never rings, hopefully I’ve got another job by then!”

Johnson said that while a GTD title ultimately eluded the team, there are plenty of accomplishments to look back on proudly.

Now with two races left for Stevenson Motorsports, his focus is closing this chapter on the highest note possible.

“Obviously nobody wants their deal to end but I think we’re all just very thankful that we had such a great program and a great run and two great owners that really gave us the tools that we needed to go win races and championships,” he said.

“I do feel like there’s some unfinished work since we never did get that GTD championship.

“We’ve got a lot of races that we probably could have won or should have won that we left out there one way or another but all in all, what is it, 33 wins in 11 years? I’m very happy with all of it.

“The guys right now are doing the best that they can to do the best job at the last two races. More than anything, we want Johnny and Susan to go off with the style and grace they deserve.”

17 Comments

  1. Jenner

    September 8, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Hard to compete against manufactures with factory drivers with a privateer budget.

    Thought GTD was a customer supported Pro-Am class.

    • Anthony Thomas

      September 9, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      This is directly related to the drop in car sales.

  2. Juninho

    September 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Stevenson Motorsports Corvette C7 GT3-R GTD in 2018

    • Jake

      September 8, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      What in gods name would give you that idea?

      You may see the C7 GT3 suddenly become eligible in the US now that it seems the Caddy PWC program might be terminating. But after this announcement, Stevenson wont be running anything in 2018.

    • Juniho is a tool

      September 8, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Doubtful as the GT3 homologation for the Callaway car would have to be pulled for a GM/P&M built GT3 car to race. Possibly next gen but now, no way.

      • Andy Flinn

        September 8, 2017 at 10:40 pm

        Tool, it was always “no way.”. GT3 homologation is a joke.

        The Callaway Corvette C7 GT3 almost won the ADAC championship in Germany last year.

        Back in 2001, a Callaway Corvette (Aspen Knolls) and a Pratt and Miller Corvette (Trinker Racing) raced in the same ALMS GT class at Sebring.

        So much for “homologation.”

        Fast forward 15 years and oh how times have changed.

        At least GM is happy.

    • jaysfan

      September 8, 2017 at 6:47 pm

      New flash bud, Stevenson Motorsports are no more after this season! So, quit fantasizing about them coming back next season! And another thing, GM won’t allow customer run Corvettes in GTD, besides Pratt and Miller

    • Andy Flinn

      September 8, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      A GTD Cadillac or Corvette might have kept Stevenson going. Clearly a Conti series GT4 Camaro and a customer GT3 Audi didn’t do it.

      However, GM is clearly not interested in building GTD cars. And their even less interested in selling those cars to customers.

      The factory GTLM Corvette operation is the only IMSA GT program GM cares about. That program obviously ain’t broke. So why would GM change their strategy?

  3. DC

    September 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Great sales and marketing pitch! Hope they can stay together.

    • Eric

      September 8, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Not really…

      “Hey, we have got a bunch of stuff for sale, so you can become a new team owner!”

      “Oh, alright… Say, you were a team owner once, maybe you could do that again?”

      “Hell no, it costs way too much. The best day of being a team owner I had was when I sold all my stuff!”

      • DC

        September 10, 2017 at 7:07 pm

        I love these articles though.

        “We plan on running a 3 car program next year!”

        (We just need 2 rich guys to fund the other cars….)

  4. Mike S.

    September 8, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Well glad they made a classy decision and it’s not something sinister. Gave team and drivers the time at least to have a chance to find their feet. GTD is over priced for mid level customers and Stevenson being stalwarts for a long time indicate that.

    • Some Dude

      September 8, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      That’s only because his lawyers made him. Audi and GM were not happy in the least, some might say mighty pissed. No, Johnny gave the guys three weeks, then the lawyers stepped in and told him he can’t just break contracts like that.

      So no, not too classy at all I’d say.

      • Andy Flinn

        September 8, 2017 at 10:48 pm

        Dude, sports car racing teams come and go constantly. It’s the nature of the business. However, Stevenson was in operation for 15 years! That’s a heck of a lot longer than most.

  5. Andrew

    September 8, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Think there is a good chance some will find a home along with the Camaro GT4s for 2018. It seems to be a great car and there’s space in the CTSC/PWC fields for them. The R8 might be a harder sell as it seems there are lots out there, Audi is learning from Porsche how to sell a car. And it seems like Lamborghini is the preferred car of the VAG offerings in GTD for race teams, maybe it’s the kids saying they want the ‘cool’ car.

  6. Just a guy

    September 8, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    “” Hard to compete against manufactures with factory drivers with a privateer budget.
    Thought GTD was a customer supported Pro-Am class.””

    i am going to jump off a bridge ( golden gate) if I hear this garbage one more time!!!

    Jenner, just in case you didn’t know,( I’m sure you do) Stevenson is ahead of both “pseudo ” factory teams in points.

  7. Anthony Thomas

    September 20, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Maybe Johnson should do what happen to Flying Lizard and just buy the assets from the current owners and run the team yourself.

    It has certainly worked out well for everybody involved at Flying Lizard, they are already competitive they just need to get some outside sponsorship or bring in pay drivers for a second car to help fund the first one.

    Taking on Audi factory drivers would save some money as well. You are allowed one Gold/Platinum driver.

    I think Matt Bell and Andrew Davis is the biggest losers in this.

    Lawson has had a successful career already he can basically just focus on PWC next season.

    Robin has been a 3rd drive for the Corvette team before and filled in at the request of Simms for Risi at Petit a few years ago. I think he’ll find a ride as 3rd driver in GTLM, if not with another GTD team as there will be some driver shuffling.

    Team owners come and go, but this is a opportunity for Johnson to not only continue working but own his legacy.

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