The No. 6 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R driver Robin Liddell held off the charging Nissan of BJ Zacharias on the final lap of Saturday’s Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen International, and held on to win his second Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge victory of the season.
Andrew Davis started the No. 6 machine and led throughout the opening 45 minutes before turning the car over to Liddell. The Scot passed the pole-sitting No. 01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R of Lawson Aschenbach with 45 minutes remaining, and from there it was a matter of conserving enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag.
Liddell had his lead cut from five to 2.387 seconds over the closing three laps. Misunderstanding instructions from his crew, he was concerned about keeping a yellow car behind him. Three corners from the finish, he saw Zacharias quickly gaining ground in the white No. 14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z, and the race was on.
“I don’t know all the car numbers yet,” said Liddell, running his first full season in the series. “I knew the No. 14 car was coming, but I was thinking it was a yellow Porsche. I saw a yellow Boxster behind me when I started my final lap, so I thought I was OK.
“Suddenly I saw the Nissan coming like crazy when I was coming out of the Boot (Turn 8) – while I was in the midst of a four-car ST battle. Then my car coughed – we were running low on fuel. I just managed to hold on, but it was super close.”
Liddell took the checkered flag .169 seconds ahead of Zacharias, with the second-place finish a career best for both the Cincinnati driver and co-driver Brad Jaeger. The winning Camaro led three times for a total of 45 of the 62 laps in the two-hour, 30-minute race.
“I came up about five feet short,” Zacharias said. “I’ve got to hand it to (team owner) Kevin Doran. It all came down to strategy. We took on only left-side tires and loaded it with fuel on our final stop to give us some distance.
“Over the last few laps, (lapped) cars were pointing me – and that doesn’t often happen in this series. It was pretty wild in the last few corners. Robin drove clean. I tried to go to the inside coming to the flag. He gave me racing room, but I got my tires up on the curb, got it sideways, and it just came up short.”
Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi finished third in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911, followed by Andy Lally and Matt Bell in the No. 9 Stevenson Auto Group Camaro Z/28.R, and Andrew Aquilante and Kurt Rezzetano in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302R. Aschenbach and TOTAL Pole Award winner Eric Curran finished seventh.
The top three drivers in the Grand Sport (GS) point standings all experienced problems. Point leader Trent Hindman ran in contention throughout the early going in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. Shortly after taking over, John Edwards – running third in the points – had contact with Lally’s Camaro and struggled to finish 19th.
That could have benefited Kansas winner Kris Wilson – who entered the race with a five-point deficit in the standings – but co-driver Max Riddell got atop a tire barrier in the No. 07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage. While Riddell was able to drive off the tires and continued to the pits, the car was retired in 17th place.
The opening 25 minutes of the race were run under caution following a pair of incidents moments after the waving of the green flag. No one was injured, but eight cars were damaged in the incidents.
Ryan Eversley took over the ST lead when Remo Ruscitti ran out of fuel with seven minutes remaining, and held on to win in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si started by Kyle Gimple. It was the third ST victory for Eversley – but first in three years – and first for Gimple.
“We were fortunate to have saved fuel under the long caution,” Eversley said. “Kyle brought me a good car with plenty of brakes left. We were fortunate with the fuel mileage. I’m happy to get plenty of good exposure for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and Honda HPD.”
Wayne and Will Nonnamaker scored their second consecutive podium finish, with a second-place result in the No. 42 Team Sahlen’s Porsche Cayman, ahead of No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si co-drivers Michael Valiante and Chad Gilsinger.
The No. 5 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 co-driven by Stevan McAleer and Chad McCumbee crossed the finish line second in ST, but post-race technical inspection revealed unapproved bushings on the car, excluding it from the race results.
The next race for the Continental Tire Challenge will be at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on Saturday, July 12.