Kerry Steed, along with five other drivers, piloted the RBankracing No. 184 Saab 9-3 to the checkered flag in the 2015 38-hour Chumpcar World Series championship endurance race at the Palm Beach International Raceway in Palm Beach, Fla.
The victory allowed the Steed and the RBankracing team to defend its 2014 title.
“Strategy, having the best mechanics, and a little good luck will ensure a win every time.” said Steed, a Clinton County commissioner and owner of Generations Pizzeria. “The RBankracing 184 SAAB 9-3 utilized all three on their way to the win. The Silver 184, appropriately named Silvia, led at the 12-, 18-, and 24-hour mark but due to a worn out wheel bearing relinquished the lead to the 522 Honda Civic team from Canada.”
Chumpcar requires all drivers and teams to pit every two hours, Steed said. The two-hour rule put our cars on the same pit sequence as the second place car.
“Without Stephen Denton, our chief mechanic, available to fix a worn out wheel bearing during hour 30 we wouldn’t have been able to finish the race,” Steed said.
Steed said his team had been locked in an epic battle, swapping the lead lap after lap for more than 24 hours.
“To have multiple cars within seconds of each other after that much racing is hard to comprehend but during a routine pit stop for fuel it was discovered that the wheel bearing had failed and would have caused the left front wheel to shear off, thus destroying the car,” according to Steed.
With 10 hours to go Denton, was able to replace the wheel bearing and get the RBankracing 184 SAAB back on the track. The extra time in the pits allowed the first place Honda Team to take a commanding eight-lap lead, said Steed.
Steed and his teammates were down eight laps with 10 hours remaining. They believed the lead Honda car was “pacing us,” said Steed.
“They slowed down and their drivers stopped pushing the car to the limit,” he said. “Our original strategy was to continue pitting on the same sequence as the leaders but now, with an eight lap lead, the leaders were watching what we did and countered any move we would make. We did the only thing we could. We altered our strategy and made a late race decision to short stint the No. 184. Essentially, we broke the cardinal rule of endurance racing, (which is) to stay out for the whole two hours per stint allowed by Chumpcar and brought our car in 25 minutes before its scheduled time to pit. By short stinting we were able to confuse the Honda team. Rather than maintaining an even pace and claiming the victory the Honda team started pushing their drivers to drive faster. RBankracing’s strategy worked, The increased pace caused the 522 Honda team to break their suspension at hour 35. Luckily, the Honda’s 30 minute repair allowed the RBankrancing 184 to retake the lead and cruise to another victory.”
The RBankracing 184 car is owned by Robin Bank of Aliquippa, Pa. It completed 1,256 laps, going 2,554 miles, the equivalent of going from Wilmington to Los Angeles, Calif., in 38 hours.
Steed said endurance races “stretch our team and resources to the limit. Tires, fuel, drivers and crew are all pushed further than you can imagine. The true challenge is being able to make split-second decisions and maintain hyper-focused attention after being awake for a day and a half.”
“Any wrong moves and you a wall at 130 miles per hour or, worse, be involved in an accident with another car,” said Steed.
Steed, who has been racing with RBankracing since 2011, said endurance racing is the most difficult form of auto racing.
“Executing the right strategy, taking care of the cars, and having the right people around to fix what may go wrong are the keys to winning.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.