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.”