Consistency Vital as KONI Challenge Series Drivers Head to Barber Motorsports Park This Weekend DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2007) -- Whether the drivers atop the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport and Street Tuner divisions have gotten...
Consistency Vital as KONI Challenge Series Drivers Head to Barber Motorsports Park This Weekend
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2007) -- Whether the drivers atop the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport and Street Tuner divisions have gotten to where they are from multiple strong finishes or a number of victories combined with mixed results, consistency now becomes imperative to the championship as the series closes in on its final four races of 2007.
In the case of this weekend's races at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., GS championship points co-leaders Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal hope to pad their lead with their first 2007 win after seven top-six finishes in eight starts. ST leaders Billy Johnson and Karl Thomson, meanwhile, have proven otherwise. Mixed results have been overruled by a series-high four victories, with the duo targeting a fifth at the 2.3-mile, 16-turn permanent road course.
Two-and-a-half hour races are slated for both divisions, as KONI Challenge competitors will share a weekend with their Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve counterparts for the fourth time in 2007. Saturday's ST race is scheduled to start at noon local time, while GS drivers take the green flag at 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday.
Thornton and Segal, racing the No. 09 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3, is one of four Automatic Racing Team entries this weekend. The pair took over the GS points lead two weeks ago in the Supercuts 200 at The Glen with a runner-up finish. Segal claimed a share of third in last year's GS race at Barber Motorsports Park, co-driving the race with Terry Borcheller.
Ironically, it was that same consistency earlier this season that put Foster in the points lead. Foster, who co-pilots the No. 55 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT with Scott Maxwell, took over the series lead with a solid eighth-place finish at Lime Rock Park and won the next round at Mosport International Raceway. But the Mustang was involved in on-track incidents in both races since, dropping Foster from the lead to third in the standings, 14 points (215-201) behind Segal and Thornton. Foster and Maxwell not only need to put the last two races out of their minds, but also improve on their fortunes at Barber Motorsports Park after finishing 35th a year ago. Maxwell sits sixth in the points championship.
James Gue and Bret Seafuse, in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT, have used their consistent finishes to climb to fourth in the points championship despite a season best finish of fourth place (set in back-to-back races earlier in the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Iowa Speedway).
Dean Martin -- co-driving the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Piloti/Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT with Ken Wilden -- scored the team's first-ever KONI Challenge Series victory at Mid-Ohio earlier this year. Since the win, Martin has launched from 10th to his current championship position of seventh. Martin has finished second, first and seventh in his last three races.
Craig Stanton shares the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997 with Hugh Plumb this weekend as the duo holds down the eighth and 10th slots in the championship, respectively. The pair joined forces beginning at Mosport, and has finished fifth, sixth and eighth since that race. Plumb knows Barber Motorsports Park inside and out, as he visited victory lane with brother Matt Plumb in last year's ST event.
After jumping out to an early lead with wins in the first three races, Tom Nastasi has fallen to ninth in championship points. Nastasi followed the victories with a streak of bad luck, finishing out of the top 15 in the next two races. An on-track incident at Mid-Ohio and no points for the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT at Watkins Glen has left Nastasi in ninth place.
The No. 99 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3 piloted by Tom Long and David Russell landed the pole at Watkins Glen with Long behind the wheel. The sixth-place finish by Russell has moved the teammates into a tie for 10th in the championship with Hugh Plumb. The duo hopes to turn the momentum of the Watkins Glen pole position into their first 2007 victory at Barber Motorsports Park.
Each of the top-10 cars are part of a larger team, with sister cars looking for a strong finish of their own this weekend. Automatic Racing's two other entries this weekend include the No. 90 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Weeden Consultants/Land Air BMW M3 of Jon Miller and Serge Glazunov Jr. and the No. 91 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Gleukos Sports Drink/Imported Car Store BMW M3 of Tim George Jr. and Conrad Grunewald.
The No. 54 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT will race in Birmingham with Charles Espenlaub listed as the lead driver, while Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey is listed in a third Hyper Sport entry -- the No. 156 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT -- with Rick Shelton.
The No. 137 JBS Motorsports ACKCO Inc. Consulting Group Ford Mustang GT team car lists Mark Ackley and Todd Snyder as co-drivers for the weekend. Blackforest Racing also has three additional Ford Mustang GTs entered at Barber Motorsports Park, including Borcheller and Scott Turner in the No. 3 Mustang, Valerie Limoges and Travis Walker sharing the No. 4 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Mustang, and Salvador Jimenez and Roly Faigueras piloting the No. 2 Mustang.
Martin is also scheduled to drive the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang GT with Jack Roush Jr., while Tim Traver and Mikel Miller are entered in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997.
Kinetic Motorsports, Spirit of Daytona Racing, Playboy Racing/Unitech, TRG, Ranger Sports Racing, Turner Motorsport and Jim Click Racing all have multiple entries at Barber Motorsports Park.
In the ST class, Thomson and Johnson will drive the No. 76 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX at Barber Motorsports Park following a win two weekends ago at Watkins Glen. A thrilling last-lap pass for the victory returned the duo to the championship lead, wresting the top slot from the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i co-drivers Trevor Hopwood and Adam Burrows by the smallest of margins, 200-198.
While the two haven't won yet this season, consistency has helped Burrows and Hopwood into a share of the points lead on multiple occasions this season. Their season-best runner-up finish at Mosport last month came at the expense of another Johnson last-lap pass for victory, and they led the standings by eight heading into Watkins Glen before a sixth-place finish left the team in its current situation. History is on the side of Burrows and Hopwood, however, as the No. 95 -- then piloted by Will Turner and Don Salama -- finished fourth in class one year ago at Barber Motorsports Park.
Jose Armengol finished 12th at Watkins Glen International, maintaining a fifth place standing in the championship, and is again entered in the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding Mazda RX-8 with David Haskell. The team finished a season-high third at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Barber also seems to suit this car, as Haskell and Sylvain Tremblay finished fifth last season at the Birmingham road course.
Guy Cosmo currently holds steady at sixth in the standings, entering Barber driving the No. 127 Fountain Motorsports Trackmasters/Hawk Brakes BMW 330i with VJ Mirzayan. Cosmo has finished in the top 10 in each of his last six starts, a streak that began with a victory at Iowa Speedway. Seth Thomas and co-driver Sam Schultz, tied for eighth in the championship, drive the team's second entry -- the No. 126 Fountain Motorsports Trackmasters/Ironclad BMW 330i. Schultz has four top-10 finishes this season, with a best of fifth at Lime Rock.
Nick Wittmer, seven in ST points, will again share the driver's seat with Glenn Bocchino in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Alpinestar/Cobalt Friction Acura TSX. The pair, separated by seven points, teamed to finish third at Mid-Ohio. Wittmer's overall best ST finish was second at Iowa, co-driving with his brother Kuno Wittmer.
Also posting starts in all eight races this season are Justin Hall and Magnus Karlsson, who are tied for 10th in the ST standings. The pair has a fifth-place finish and two 10ths this season in the No. 58 BSI Racing MOMO/Joe Gibbs Mazda MX-5, and head into Barber only six points from climbing to eighth in the championship standings.
No. 22 HART Red Line Oil/Honda of America Honda Accord co-drivers Shane Lewis and John Schmitt are a duo who could upset the favorites at Barber Motorsports Park. The pair won at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished third at Mosport, driving their "parts car" after the primary car became disabled following qualifying. Lewis and Schmitt nearly won at Watkins Glen, with Lewis leading into the final lap before Johnson took command and the win.
Several other cars that have been close to winning recent races are also entered at Barber Motorsports Park. Toby Grahovec and Pierre Kleinubing will drive the No. 86 Classic BMW -- Plano BMW Z4 after finishing third at Watkins Glen, and Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom are entered in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt.
The only other entered ST driver with a win this season is David Tuaty, now driving the No. 74 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura RSX-S. Tuaty finished third last season with Jason Potter at Barber and is currently sharing the No. 74 Acura with Matt Pritko. Daniel Colembie and Beau Buisson will share the No. 75 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX.
Official practice begins Friday for both divisions, with ST qualifying at 4:10 p.m. local time Friday. Qualifying for GS is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time Saturday. The ST race will start at noon local time Saturday, while the GS race will start at 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday.
Barber Motorsports Park Fast Facts
What: Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) divisions
Who: KONI Challenge competitors from across the United States, Canada and Latin America
Where: Barber Motorsports Park -- Birmingham, Alabama
When: Saturday, July 21, 2007 at Noon (ST); Sunday, July 22, 2007 at 8:30 a.m. (GS)
Friday, July 20
8:00 AM - 8:45 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series ST
9:50 AM - 10:35 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series GS
1:00 PM - 1:30 PM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series ST
2:35 PM - 3:05 PM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series GS
4:10 PM - 4:25 PM Qualifying -- KONI Challenge Series ST
Saturday, July 21
8:00 AM - 8:20 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series GS
9:00 AM - 9:20 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge Series ST
10:00 AM - 10:15 AM Qualifying -- KONI Challenge Series GS
12:00 PM START -- KONI Challenge Series ST Race (400 kilometers - 109 Laps - 2 ½-hour time limit)
Sunday, July 22
8:30 AM START -- KONI Challenge Series GS Race (400 kilometers - 109 Laps - 2 ½-hour time limit)
TIME CERTAIN SCHEDULE -- All sessions to start and finish as shown
Live Timing & Scoring is available for all KONI practices, qualifying sessions and races on the official Grand-Am website -- www.grand-am.com.
A live audio webcast in English and Spanish is available at www.grand-am.com.