But when the checkered flag fell, it was the No. 15 Multimatic Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R-C of Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell out front for the second straight race, as the team also won at their home track, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park near Toronto earlier this month.
“This race,” Maxwell said, “was really won in the pits. Our pit stops really helped keep us out front.”
“I don’t think we had the fastest car out there today,” Johnson said. Indeed, they didn’t; that would be the pole-sitting Porsche of Burkett and Miller. That car had the fastest lap of the race – 57.334 seconds – but the winning Shelby Mustang wasn’t far back at 57.434.
The margin of victory was 5.038 seconds. For the first time since 2013, the race went green for the entire two hours and 30 minutes, which turned out to be 150 laps of the 1.5-mile track for the top four cars.
Third and fourth also went to Porsche Cayman GT4s – third was the No. 12 Bodymotion car of Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels, with the No. 35 C.J. Wilson Racing Porsche of Tyler McQuarrie and Till Bechtolsheimer in fourth. CJ Wilson Racing, the team owned by the Major League Baseball pitcher, was a frequent winner in the ST class, but since moving up to the faster GS class, is still waiting for its first victory.
Speaking of the ST class: It was won by the No. 25 Freedom Autosport ModSpace Mazda MX-5 of Stevan McAleer and teammate Chad McCumbee, who qualified on the pole Friday.
In fact, the top three cars in the ST class were all MX-5s. Second was the No. 34 Alara entry of Christian Szymczak and Terry Borcheller, followed by the No. 26 Freedom MX-5 of Andrew Carbonell and Liam Dwyer.
“This is a track that favors the Mazdas,” McCumbee said. “The next race,” – the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at the four-mile Road America circuit in Wisconsin, Aug. 5-7 – “we’ll be struggling. Just too many straightaways.”
With no caution flags, tire management was critical. Maxwell and Johnson made two pit stops, changing four tires the first time, the two left tires the second stop – critical since Lime Rock has only one left turn, so the left-side tires are always under stress since the car’s weight shifts to the left tires on right-hand turns.
Johnson said that like the Mazdas, the long tracks like Road America and Circuit of The Americas in Texas are tough on the Shelby Mustangs, which weigh an extra 400 pounds, putting more stress on tires and especially brakes.
Even so, with the Lime Rock track heating up quickly after the 10 a.m. start, the surface began to get slicker and slicker, the tires hotter and hotter. “With so few straightaways,” Dwyer said, “there’s no place for the tires to cool off.”
Johnson and Maxwell said the 3 p.m. start for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race will be right in the hottest part of the day, “and those guys will be struggling out there.”
Of course, struggling cars make for exciting racing. Live coverage of the IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix starts at 3 p.m. ET today on the FOX Network.