GRAND-AM CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE OPENS 2010 SEASON FRIDAY AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY Eighty-one cars entered to take the green flag in Fresh From Florida 200 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2010) - The 10-race GRAND-AM ...
GRAND-AM CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE OPENS 2010 SEASON FRIDAY AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
Eighty-one cars entered to take the green flag in Fresh From Florida 200
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2010) - The 10-race GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season commences this Friday at Daytona International Speedway with the Fresh From Florida 200, and 81 cars - 45 in the Grand Sport (GS) class and 36 in Street Tuner (ST) - will push for victory in the two-and-a-half hour race, which begins at 1:45 p.m. ET.
The race will feature several new cars - the Chevrolet Camaro, Subaru Impreza WRX STI and Audi S4 in GS and the Kia Forte Koup and MAZDASPEED3 in ST - and new models - the Mustang Boss 302R and the Porsche Cayman.
Friday's race also features a host of former race winners and series champions. GS titlist Ken Wilden returns in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT that has 17 consecutive top-10 finishes. Wilden won the GS crown by eight points (317-309) last October, and starts 2010 with co-driver Andrew Caddell, a two-time Ford Racing Mustang Challenge champion.
David Empringham also starts the season in a Mustang, but in the Boss 302R, driving with Jade Buford at Racers Edge Motorsports. Empringham, a two-time series champion in GS, has a series-high three victories at Daytona, most recently in 2007.
Two other former champions will also drive Mustang Boss 302Rs. Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster, who topped the 2008 points standings, will drive the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang Boss 302R for Multimatic Motorsports; the team will also field the No. 16 Ford Mustang Boss 302R for Gunnar Jeannette. Multimatic won the 2005 team title.
Defending race winners Bill Auberlen and Matt Bell are running for different teams this season. Auberlen will defend his race victory in the same No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 with new co-driver Paul Dalla Lana; the team also fields the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 for Joey Hand and rookie Michael Marsal.
Bell is teaming with Jeff Bucknum in one of six Camaros entered. Bell and Bucknum will drive the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS.R, while the team's second car will be piloted by Hugh Plumb and Al Carter.
Former race winner Craig Stanton is also a part of a three-car team - BGB Motorsports, which is based about 25 minutes from the track in Ormond Beach, Fla. Stanton will drive fulltime in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche Cayman this season, and will work on his second championship after winning the title in 2004.
The Subaru Impreza WRX STI and Audi S4 come from two teams that have proven successful in the ST class. Andrew Aquilante and Bret Spaude will drive the No. 35 Subaru WRX for Subaru Road Racing Team, while Ian Baas and Mark White are in the No. 01 Accumoto/BBS Audi S4, fielded by APR Motorsport.
In ST, Compass360 Racing returns to defend its team title with a strong driver lineup. Reigning race winner Lawson Aschenbach is among those drivers, and he will pilot the No. 74 Hondata/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si with David Thilenius. Also competing fulltime in 2010 are Ryan Eversley and Zach Lutz in the No. 75 HPD/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si and rookies Greg Liefooghe and Jesse Combs in the No. 76 Skunk2/Exclusive Management Honda Civic Si.
Compass360 Racing team owner Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson, driving ROUSH Performance's No. 61 Valvoline Ford Mustang GT in the GS class with Jack Roush Jr., won the 2007 race.
APR and Freedom Autosport combined to win the last six races of 2009, and return with strong lineups as well. APR will field two Volkswagen GTIs; the No. 171 for three-race winner Mike Sweeney and veteran Mike Halpin, and the No. 181 for 2009 MESCO Building For The Future Rookie of the Year Josh Hurley and rookie Kevin Stadtlander.
Freedom will field four cars - two MAZDASPEED3s and two Mazda MX-5s. Patrick Dempsey will prepare for Saturday's Rolex 24 in the No. 27 MAZDASPEED3 with open-wheel star John Edwards, while team regulars Tom Long, Derek Whitis and Andrew Carbonell - all series race winners last year - begin the season in their Mazda MX-5s.
Former champion Jamie Holtom will compete fulltime with the two-car GS Motorsports stable out of Canada with co-driver Andrew Danyliw. Glenn Bocchino, who won the 2008 ST race, returns to the class in i-MOTO Racing's No. 30 Mazda RX-8 with co-driver Todd Lamb.
BimmerWorld/GearWrench, which was among the fastest teams during the January Test Days earlier this month, will field a pair of BMW 328is, with the expectations of a strong debut in the series.
Practice for the Fresh From Florida 200 begins at 11:45 a.m. ET Thursday, with qualifying set at 5 p.m. A 45-minute practice session at 10 a.m. Friday precedes the two-and-a-half hour race, which is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. ET.