SCC: Homestead: Automatic Racing preview

Automatic Racing Confident After Successful Test at Homestead ORLANDO, Fla. -- Automatic Racing is confident about this weekend's KONI Sports Car Challenge Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, thanks to a successful test at the South Florida...

Automatic Racing Confident After Successful Test at Homestead

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Automatic Racing is confident about this weekend's KONI Sports Car Challenge Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, thanks to a successful test at the South Florida track last month. The two Automatic Racing BMW M3s were put through their paces at the test in preparation for this Sunday's round two.

Mark Hillestad and Barry Waddell tested their No. 99 H & S Tool Automatic M3 (www.handstool.com). Hillestad noted that it was a fairly routine test. "We just experimented with setups, trying different ride heights and sway bar settings," he said. "But it was valuable: I think we learned things with both cars, and what we gained will be a big plus going into the weekend."

Hillestad and Waddell are both relieved to have the opening round at Daytona behind them: it was the first professional race after a hiatus for the co-drivers, and they were both anxious to get the first green flag of the season out of the way. Contact from behind ended their day at Daytona early, but they are hoping to use speed and strategy at Homestead to get a boost in points.

"At Daytona the car is not quite at its limit in the banking, but at Homestead to be competitive in the banking requires the car and driver to be well-prepared," explained Waddell. "We also expect that the heat will play a bigger part of the weekend than at Daytona. The tires and driver don't get much time to rest or cool down during the lap and as the weekend and race play out, we'll try to make this an advantage for us."

Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub will be co-drivers in the No. 91 BMW M3. The longtime teammates have tasted success at Homestead before, winning their class in a 13-hour race there. The "short" 2.5-hour KONI Challenge race will be, as Putman says, like a sprint race in comparison.

After last month's test, Putman was full of praise for team manager Joe Varde, explaining that they had to make very few changes to their car. "Joe has a lot of experience setting cars up for these tracks, so we just made minor changes to the setup he gave us," said Putman. "The test gave us some valuable data, though, and we'll be trying some new things this weekend during the pre-race test."

Espenlaub echoed his confidence in the No. 09 BMW, saying, "We had a good car at Daytona, and we should be in good shape at Homestead. It's a tighter track, which should be more favorable for the BMW M3s."

Automatic Racing's sponsors include Imported Car Store, H & S Tool, Sparco, Rogue Engineering, LandAir and Engine Music Studios.

The weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway will begin with testing on Thursday, followed by practice and qualifying on Saturday. The Grand Sport class, which includes the Automatic BMW M3s, will race on Sunday, March 15, at 2:30 p.m.

-credit: ar

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