SEBRING, Fla. (19 March 2021) – The Stoner Car Care Racing fielded by Automatic Racing team battled through traffic, heat, debris and contact to bring the No. 09 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4 home in 13th position in the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway.
Drivers Brandon Kidd and Rob Ecklin Jr. shared the wheel of the Aston Martin for the two-hour event, race two of the 2021 Michelin Pilot Challenge season – part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Kidd had qualified the Aston Martin in eighth position and started seventh following the disqualification of another car. At the green flag, he fought hard to maintain position but was forced to give way as cars in front made contact, falling back to ninth. Unbeknownst to Kidd, debris from the contact ahead had punctured his left front tire, starting a slow leak.
Continuing to work his way forward, Kidd enjoyed a spirited battle with the No. 6 McLaren driven by Sheena Monk, with the drivers trading sixth position. As the field’s pit sequence began, Kidd powered his way to second place before coming into pit lane for four tires, fuel and a driver change over to Ecklin.
Michelin engineers reported ambient temperatures of 75 degrees and track temps of 93 for the concrete and 100 on the asphalt, and Ecklin fought both rising temperatures inside the cockpit and slower traffic on the racetrack. With 27 minutes remaining, he was hit from behind by one of the TCR cars, which knocked him back to 14th. Fighting to clear his way through lapped traffic to reach the GS field, Ecklin was able to make up a spot and brought the car home in 13th position.
While disappointed with the overall finish, both drivers were pleased with the effort from the entire team.
"First of all, the team gave us a great car and they did an incredible job,” said Ecklin. “We got a top ten in qualifying and even held a top ten through the driver change. It was a fight and battle to the end. It was a busy race, with a lot of close calls. I got bumped in the rear a couple of times, but all in all I was pleased. I felt like I got all I could get out of the car and out of myself. I think this is our best finish at Sebring, and lap after lap I was really pushing the car and myself."
"Overall, it was a great race and the car felt really good,” said Kidd. “There was a lot of chaos in the beginning on the first lap. A few guys were getting into each other and we ran over some debris. Apparently, it was cutting down the left front tire during my entire stint and by the time I got into the pits, we had about 10 pounds of air left in it – so I'm really glad we were able to get through the whole run and not have any issues! It was a lot of fun to run sixth or seventh for most of the race. The Stoner Car Care team did a great job and gave me a well-balanced call that was consistent all weekend.”
Automatic Racing team manager David Russell was upbeat after the race and pleased with the car’s performance and the team’s expanded knowledge base after the solid run.
“It was a solid day all the way around, between the drivers and the performance of the car,” said Russell. “My goal was to come away with a top 15 finish and bring the car home, and we did that. Sebring is always difficult, so to have both drivers running in the top 10, that’s a good result. You always want those extra few spots but at the end of the day, the car is in great shape and we learned a lot. We’ll be back even stronger at Mid-Ohio.”
NBCSN will broadcast a two-hour race recap on Friday, April 2 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern (check local listings). Next up for the Stoner Car Care Racing Team will be the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, May 14 to 16.