Automatic Racing Gives Fresh from Florida a Top-Five at Miller
TOOELE, Utah -- David Russell and Tom Long gave Automatic Racing and Fresh from Florida another top-five finish during Friday's KONI Challenge race at Miller Motorsports Park. After starting on the pole, Russell and Long went on to finish fifth in the No. 99 BMW M3.
Russell earned the pole during Thursday's qualifying session with a time of 3:11.821. "We didn't quite have the handling we wanted in the qualifying session, but a lot of other teams were having similar setup issues. We did what we needed to do and came away with the pole, which was great for us," said Russell.
At the start of the race, Russell kept Automatic Racing in the top spot for the first 20 minutes. The team opted for just one pit stop during the race, and Russell came in at the halfway point to hand the No. 99 BMW over to Long.
From there, Long worked his way from mid-pack back into the top five. "It's exciting to have the Fresh from Florida BMW in the top five again," he commented. "David did a fantastic job keeping the car up front during his stint, and our strategy worked. I really had fun in my stint, especially getting so many green laps to work my way through the field."
Unfortunately, the day had less than satisfying results for the No. 09 Automatic/Fresh from Florida BMW. Jep Thornton got a solid start after qualifying fifth. Jeff Segal took over after their pit stop, and continued the top-five run. A finish of 22nd was all that was needed to wrap up the Grand Sport championship, but a broken axle brought Segal into the pits. The No. 09 was quickly repaired, but a finish of 37th means that the points battle will continue during the finale at Virginia International Raceway next month.
"Obviously we're a little disappointed that we didn't continue or top-ten streak and that we weren't able to wrap up the points," said Thornton. It is only the second time this year that Thornton and Segal have finished outside the top ten. "But our crew did an incredible job of changing the axle in only ten minutes to get us back out in the race. I'm really proud of their effort and have to hand it to them for keeping us in the points."
It was also a difficult day for Tim George, Jr. and Conrad Grunewald in the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3. A solid qualifying run for George gave them the 13th spot on the starting grid, but damage sustained from contact during the race kept them from staying in the competition.
Jon Miller and Serge Glazunov had a strong run early in the race, and Glazunov ran as high as second during his stint after qualifying an impressive fourth. The team's hopes for a strong finish were cut short after contact from another car.
The final round of the KONI Challenge Series season will be at Virginia International Raceway, September 5-7, where Automatic Racing hopes to wrap up both the team and driver championships.