SCC: Laguna Seca: Automatic Racing preview

Automatic Racing Builds Momentum for KONI Challenge at Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif.--May is a busy and pivotal month for Automatic Racing and the rest of the KONI Sports Car Challenge competitors. With three races in four weeks, the chance to...

Automatic Racing Builds Momentum for KONI Challenge at Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Calif.--May is a busy and pivotal month for Automatic Racing and the rest of the KONI Sports Car Challenge competitors. With three races in four weeks, the chance to earn valuable points in only one month can make or break a championship effort.

Automatic Racing got things started right by putting both of their cars up front two weeks ago at New Jersey Motorsports Park. A fourth-place finish for Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub in the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3 was the best finish the pair has posted in the series to date. Likewise, Barry Waddell and David Russell finished sixth, marking the best result so far this season for the No. 99 Automatic Racing/H&S Tool BMW M3.

With that positive momentum, the team heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend for this month's second KONI Challenge race, where Automatic Racing hopes to have both cars running up front again.

Charlie Putman will be teaming up with David Russell this weekend in the No. 91 M3. Charlie's usual co-driver, Charles Espenlaub, will be racing at Mosport instead due to a commitment to Mazda. Russell substituted for Mark Hillestad in the No. 99 entry two weeks ago, and he's ready to climb behind the wheel again.

Putman and Russell both have plenty of laps around Laguna's hilly 2.238-mile circuit, and Putman is confident that the No. 91 can run up front there. "I think we're always a threat," he says. "In each race this year we've been in a good position to either win or podium, and if things go right we should be a top-two or -three performer. Even though Charles isn't with me this weekend, David has a lot of experience and we have high expectations."

Mark Hillestad will be back in action this weekend with his co-driver Barry Waddell in the No. 99 H&S Tool (www.handstool.net) M3. For Waddell, heading to Laguna Seca represents a happy homecoming to the site of his first professional race. Back in his rookie days in the Barber Saab series, Waddell qualified and finished third at the California track. In fact, of his two professional races at Laguna Seca, Waddell has finished on the podium both times. He hopes to continue that trend this weekend.

"The track has been good to me," Waddell notes. "The BMW M3s are well-suited to Laguna and we're feeling pretty good about it."

Automatic Racing's two BMW M3s will race on Saturday, May 16, beginning at 3:00 PT. The team heads into the 2.5-hour race with a lot of positive momentum from New Jersey, and they'll be applying that same speed and skill in the hills of Monterey.

-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