Strong Pace Out Front for Stoner Car Care Racing at Road Atlanta

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Starting on the pole, it was a day of promise for Stoner Car Care Racing fielded by Automatic Racing, as two of the team’s three Aston Martin Vantage GT4s raced to the front of the Fox Factory 120 field at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

Despite the promising performance, the results didn’t yield the result that the team had been working hard to achieve in the season-ending IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.

Leading the three-car Stoner Car Care team was the No. 09 Aston Martin driven by Aston Martin Young Driver Academy star Akhil Rabindra and sports car veteran Tom Long. Rabindra earned the pole on Thursday and held the lead early while also trying to save fuel.

Two early full course cautions assisted that effort, and Rabindra pitted from the lead for left side tires and fuel 35 minutes into the race, and headed back out on track in third.

With a small window for refueling based on the IMSA reguations for the Aston Martin entry the team was constricted for choice when it came to call for a pit stop. Sharing a pit box with a TCR class squad created an obstacle with overlapping pit sequences which forced the No. 09 Aston Martin to stay out on track until the pit box cleared. This unfortunately prevented Long from reaching his drive time minimum. 

Despite battling from the back of the pack (including a well-timed move in Turn 1 to take second position), the team was relegated to the back of the Grand Sport class in the final results despite crossing the finish line second in the order.

Rabindra and Long were disappointed for the team, but impressed with the season-long performance of the new-for-2019 Aston Martin.

“When I was not leading, I was putting pressure on the lead, and that made for a good early part of the race,” said Rabindra. “It was a good stint, through the start and the restart. We finished second in theory, but with the penalty, that goes away. I am happy with my stint overall: I had a few mistakes but nothing too expensive. Tom did a wonderful job, really fast with some great passes. I am looking forward to coming back!”

“That was a fun drive,” said Long. “We were under a lot of pressure throughout, but the team did a terrific job. The Aston Martin just pulled through the field. It was an incredible day for a lot of reasons, especially with Akhil putting the Stoner Car Care colors up front and keeping them there. But unfortunately, each driver has to have a minimum of 40 minutes but our first opportunity to get into pit lane was with 38 minutes left. I feel for the entire team – to not provide the team with the finish they deserve is really gutting.”

Gary Ferrera and Kris Wilson also played the strategy game in the No. 97 Invisible Glass-sponsored Aston Martin. Starting 14th, Ferrera lost positions at the start when the car behind him on the grid sliced across his bow coming down for the green flag. Recovering to push the car as high as ninth Ferrera, the team kept Ferrera in the car, hoping for a late race yellow to help fuel mileage. When the yellow didn’t materialize, Ferrera handed the car to his teammate and driver coach with 42 minutes remaining – his longest race stint to date. Wilson and the team hoped for a late-race caution to get their lap back, but it was not to be as the team came home in 14th position.

“The start was a bit strange,” said Ferrera. “Before we came to the acceleration zone, the car behind me just jumped in front of me and that put me back two or three positions – so I spent my stint trying to make that back up. That was also my longest stint in the car. Strategy didn’t work out for us, but it was a blast anyway. I’m really happy with my progress behind the wheel this season.”

“Baptism by fire for Gary!” said Wilson. “It was good for him to see what it’s like out there, late in a stint and on old tires. It’s been great to see his progress throughout the season. And it was great to drive all three cars this season, both new Aston Martins and the old car as well. The new cars are so state of the art, but the old car certainly aged well!”

For the No. 99 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin, veteran Ramin Abdolvahabi and series rookie Ben Waddell earned the right to pilot the car in its final race. With over 62,000 race miles under its belts, the 7-year-old Aston Martin took its final checkered flag on Friday and Abdolvahabi and Waddell saw that it went out in style.

Starting 23rd after experiencing fuel pickup problems in qualifying, Abdolvahabi kept the car safe through the hectic early going. 

Waddell took the wheel for his first GT race (having raced in the IMSA Prototype Challenge for much of the season) with over an hour remaining. The 23-year-old quietly moved up through the field and coming back from a caution period and an extensive pit cycle with 38 minutes remaining, Waddell had raced to the lead the race in his IMPC debut. 

Holding off all comers for five laps, Waddell would slip back to sixth before coming in for a splash of fuel in the race’s waning moments, bringing the car home for the final time in 16th position.

“You always have to be careful in the first stint,” said Abdolvahabi. “You just can’t put a foot wrong in order to bring the car home in one piece. We tried to get to the point where we could do it in one stop, but we needed one more yellow.  The car is seven years old, but it held its own and this was a good send off. Ben did a great job, there was not much I had to do to help. It was a great stint.”

“We tried to save fuel toward the end, which was new for me,” said Waddell. “I’m used to prototypes, where you go as fast as you can, so it was a balance, to save tires and fuel but not lose too many spots. But the car really has some get up and go. And it was a privilege to finally get into the Stoner Car Care car, especially in the 99 car’s last hurrah. To take her to the lead was great, even a bit surreal. I just had to get a good restart and tried to hang on the best I could. We didn’t get the caution we needed at the end, but it was a great weekend and great to drive with Ramin.”

Partners