Empringham, Nastasi Score Fresh From Florida 200 Victory for Blackforest Motorsports in KONI Challenge Opener DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2007) -- Canadian hotshoe David Empringham passed fellow countryman Scott Maxwell on Lap 61 of the ...
Empringham, Nastasi Score Fresh From Florida 200 Victory for Blackforest Motorsports in KONI Challenge Opener
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 26, 2007) -- Canadian hotshoe David Empringham passed fellow countryman Scott Maxwell on Lap 61 of the 64-lap Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, scoring himself and co-driver Tom Nastasi an overall victory in the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang GT in the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season opener.
Empringham battled Maxwell throughout the race's final stint, with both pilots exchanging the point position through the infield and high banks of the 3.56-mile Daytona road course layout. The decisive pass came on the entrance to the famed "bus stop" chicane on the back straightaway, when Empringham dove to the inside of Maxwell and held on, winning by a 0.475-second margin.
"This was pretty neat, getting the chance to race against my best friend, Scott," said Empringham, the 2005 Grand Sport class champion. "Blackforest put together a great car and I can't that Tom Nastasi. We were worried near the end of the race that there wasn't going to be enough time to make the pass, so we had to be a little aggressive on the restarts and extremely creative to get by Scotty."
Nastasi qualified the No. 5 machine third on the grid, and avoided trouble throughout his opening stint while leading 18 laps. The three-hour race was slowed by five cautions--including a lengthy stop during the race's midpoint to repair a damaged guardrail--and Nastasi handed off to Empringham with a chance at the victory. Nastasi has had success at Daytona, winning the series opener at the famed circuit in 2005.
"We knew it was going to be a long race," said Nastasi, who claimed his third-career victory Friday. "My job was to keep the brakes and tires under it and avoid any of the incidents on the track. David did a great job to bring home the win."
Maxwell wound up second in the No. 55 Supercuts Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT with co-driver and polesitter Joe Foster. Maxwell took the lead on Lap 51 when he passed David Murry's No. 33 Playboy Racing Nissan 350Z. Foster took the green flag shortly after 2:15 p.m. ET, but saw his lead quickly vanish as 2006 Street Tuner class co-champion Don Salama worked his No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 around Foster in Turn 1. However, Salama spun in Turn 1 on Lap 2, giving the lead back to Foster, who led a total of four laps.
Sports car ace Bill Auberlen finished third in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW with Chris Gleason. Auberlen ran nose-to-tail with Empringham and Maxwell late in the race in the infield portion of the track, but gave distance to the powerful Mustangs on the banking. Murry and co-driver Hal Prewitt finished fourth, and Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal rounded out the top five in the No. 09 Fresh >From Florida BMW M3.
THOMSON, JOHNSON GIVE KENSAI RACING STREET TUNER CLASS WIN
In a tight Street Tuner class battle throughout the Fresh From Florida 200, Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson scored the season-opening victory in the No. 76 Kensai Racing Acura TSX after starting from the next-to-last position on the grid, as Acura claimed the top five finishing positions.
Technical inspection following Thursday's qualifying session revealed illegal bodywork on the No. 76 machine, erasing Thomson's second place qualifying effort and sending the machine to the back of the pack. Both Thomson and Johnson worked steadily through traffic throughout their stints to claim the victory.
"There was so much traffic out there it was like a freeway," said Thomson, who last scored a series victory in the 2005 finale at Virginia International Raceway. "Today, it was just awesome racing. We had a great package underneath us and Billy did an awesome job."
Johnson took the lead for good on Lap 62, when Travis Walker pulled up lame in the polesitting No. 75 Kensai Racing Acura TSX, misfortune that prevented a 1-2 Kensai sweep. Walker's bad luck proved to be Johnson's opportunity, as he led the final two laps en route to the win.
"Everyone on the team did a great job today," said Johnson. "Karl did awesome during the beginning of the race and the Kensai team had awesome pit strategy. I feel bad for the (No.) 75 guys, but it definitely feels good to win."
Kuno and Nick Wittmer claimed the final podium spot in the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX, and like the No. 76 team, battled through traffic after starting last on the grid. David Thilenius and Todd Lamb finished fourth in the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S, followed by Roger Foo and Lee Niffenegger the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX. Polesitter Beau Buisson led a race-high 30 laps in the No. 75 Acura.
Next up for the KONI Challenge Series are back-to-back 400 km races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, April 14-15, and the brand-new Iowa Speedway, April 20-21.