Fenton Motorsports Team Gambles; Ends up Short in Utah Race
"If we had waited one lap longer to pit our #29 car, we might have been able to win the race today," lamented Bill Fenton, owner of the #27 and #29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civics that compete in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge road racing series.
The result of the decision, based on good input at the time, was a 15th place finish in the Street Tuner class for the #29 Honda Civic's drivers, Bob Beede and Matt Plumb; and an 18th place finish for Fenton and his co-driver, Dave Thillenius.
Beede pitted the car on lap 10, just as a three-lap Full Course Caution session ended. "The question then became -- how many more full-course cautions would we have?" said Fenton. "The answer turned out to be 'not enough' because Matt had to pit again on lap 41 for a splash-and-go, and the race lasted 44 laps. There was no choice. It was either bring Matt in, or risk not getting any points."
"Those are the decisions you make in racing. Some days they make you famous, some days you wish there'd been a third choice," he said.
The 5,000 foot altitude of the 4.486-mile Miller Motorsports Park circuit in Tooele, Utah, west of Salt Lake City, was a boon for all cars in the Street Tuner class with turbocharged engines which could literally fabricate their own air. Not so for normally-aspirated cars like the Hondas and Acuras, which lost horsepower due to the altitude and thin air.
"Because of the chassis setup crew chief Steve Wheeler used this weekend, we were still very competitive," Fenton added. "We had good cars, good drivers. Because of the altitude, we just didn't have quite the power of the rest of the font runners. Matt Plumb, though, did lead the class for seven laps, and ran second for many more laps."
Beede came into the race fourth in driver points, and stayed there, although the gap to the lead increased. Honda, too, held onto its fourth place in manufacturer points.
The 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge series season ends Oct. 4 with a six-hour race at VIRginia International Raceway, a track where Fenton Motorsports team drivers won races in 2002-03-04-06.
"Six hours is a long time, and there'll be a lot at stake," Fenton noted. "But we have confidence in the reliability of the Honda product, and we know we'll finish well."