SCC: Daytona: Automatic Racing preview

Automatic Racing: Taking the Family to Daytona ORLANDO, Fla.--Automatic Racing has often been praised for its camaraderie and warmth, in addition to the kudos the team receives for its continued success. For 2009, Automatic Racing has combined...

Automatic Racing: Taking the Family to Daytona

ORLANDO, Fla.--Automatic Racing has often been praised for its camaraderie and warmth, in addition to the kudos the team receives for its continued success. For 2009, Automatic Racing has combined the two with a driver line-up that boasts both skill and a sense of family.

After a solid test at Daytona International Speedway earlier this month, the KONI Challenge team is ready for this weekend's season opener at the Florida track, and ready to add more Grand Sport-class wins to their name.

Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub are returning to the team, driving the No. 09 BMW M3. Both drivers put their skill to use last year, earning five top-ten finishes. With the new season and a clean slate before them, the co-drivers are aiming for more top finishes and a spot at the top of the championship.

"We had a great '08 season with Automatic and we're happy to be back," said Putman. "We built up a lot of positive momentum last year and are looking forward to building on that so we can get some podium finishes."

"We're excited about returning with Automatic Racing this year," said Espenlaub. "We started the season right last year with a seventh at Daytona, and we hope to improve on that to really kick off the season."

Mark Hillestad and Barry Waddell are teaming up to drive the No. 99 H & S Tool BMW M3 (www.HandSTool.net). They are new to Automatic Racing this year, but the two are no strangers to the members of the team. When the co-drivers were considering their options, it was a natural choice to turn to Automatic. Waddell and Automatic's David Russell have known each other for 15 years, and Hillestad once drove with Russell in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

"It was a natural to work our way back into KONI Challenge competition this way," commented Waddell. "We had a lot of confidence in what the team was doing, and it's been everything we expected. It's a very comfortable fit."

Hillestad is making his return to racing after a nearly ten-year hiatus that he took when his daughter was born. Hillestad was enthusiastic after several test sessions with Automatic, but he's realistic about his approach to the season. "I'll be a different driver by the end of the season," he said, noting that he's also hired a personal trainer to get back into "racing shape." "For Daytona we want to have a clean race with good pit stops and no mistakes. We really want to get decent points, and this is a chance for me to work on my racecraft. It will be nice to get this first race under our belts, then build on that."

-credit: ar

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Charles Espenlaub , Charlie Putman , Mark Hillestad , Barry Waddell , David Russell
Teams Automatic Racing