Eleven Drivers Vie for at Least Share of Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series; GS Point Lead at Miller Motorsports Park DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2008) - Consistency has kept several drivers near the front of the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series ...
Eleven Drivers Vie for at Least Share of Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series; GS Point Lead at Miller Motorsports Park
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2008) - Consistency has kept several drivers near the front of the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) point standings in 2008, while others have rested on victories to keep them in the championship hunt. The answer to "Which has been the most beneficial?" will become more clear Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park, where 11 drivers look to leave the 4.486-mile, 24-turn track with at least a share of the point lead.
A tight Street Tuner (ST) battle is also coming down to the wire, with four drivers within 21 points. The two-and-a-half hour race, the penultimate race for both classes, will start at 11:20 a.m. MT. (SPEED, at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 27).
Consistency has rewarded James Gue (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Bret Seafuse (Trumansburg, N.Y.) with the series point lead, as the pair has six top 10s in eight starts. Gue and Seafuse drive the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shursave Ford Mustang GT. Their streak of six straight ended at New Jersey Motorsports Park with a 15th-place finish. While winless this season, the duo has come close. Gue led as late as four laps remaining at Barber Motorsports Park only to finish second. He also pressured Andy Lally (Dacula, Ga.) in the final laps at Trois-Rivieres but he and Seafuse settled for another runner-up finish.
While consistency has been the biggest beneficiary for Gue and Seafuse, others have teamed) steadiness with victories to stay in the hunt. Scott Maxwell (Toronto, Ontario) and Joe Foster (Atlanta, Ga.) currently head that category, as their two victories have them only two points (196-194) behind Gue and Seafuse. Maxwell and Foster have victories at Barber and Mosport International Raceway in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT.
Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.) is the only other driver, aside from Maxwell and Foster, with two victories. Stanton, who moved to fourth on the all-time KONI Challenge overall victory list after winning at New Jersey, is within five points of the lead in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997. Also a victor in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, Stanton - with 191 points - is fifth in the standings. He will co-drive with Jon Miller (Orlando, Fla.), who is eighth in points; Miller joined BGB after the season-opening round at DIS.
Sandwiched in between are defending series champions Jep Thornton (Miami, Fla.) and Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla.), who look to shake off an early race crash that ended their day early in New Jersey and forced the duo to leave the weekend without taking any championship points. But with just six points to make up, the lime rock park race winners shouldn't be counted out as they hope to close out the year with a strong KONI Challenge title defense on a track that was similarly unkind to them last year -here at MMP.
Thornton and Segal led the standings heading into New Jersey, but Thornton spun early in the race in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 and was hit by Mike Canney (McLean, Va.) in the No. 60 Rehagen Racing Sunset Hills Vineyard Ford Mustang GT, forcing both cars to retire. Neither Thornton nor Segal scored points at New Jersey, leaving with 190 points, six out of the lead. The team also looks for better fortunes at Miller after problems last year.
Billy Johnson looked to be headed to victory lane at New Jersey before a last-lap pass by Stanton saw him coming home second. Johnson will return to the cockpit of the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT with Ray Mason (Columbus, Ohio) this weekend. Johnson has competed in several cars this season, and with three podiums and five top 10s in his last six GS starts, is ninth in points.
Lally, who has two KONI Challenge victories with two different teams and with two different manufacturers, is 10th in the standings. He returns to TRG, with whom he won most recently at Iowa, in the No. 41 Porsche 997 with Scott Schroeder (Atherton, Calif.). Dean Martin (Westland, Mich.), in the No. 59 Roush Racing Valvoline/Roush Performance Parts Ford Mustang GT, is the last of 11 drivers who, with a victory, could take the GS driver point lead. Martin co-drives the Mustang with Jack Roush Jr. (Livonia, Mich.).
Holtom, Skavnes still close in ST points with two races remaining
The ST championship isn't quite as close as that of the GS class, but Jamie Holtom (Ottawa, Ontario) and Kristian Skavnes (Sparta, N.J.) are still locked in a strong battle. Neither has led the other by more than five points over the last three races, with Holtom taking the lead after finishing third at Trois-Rivieres. The lead stands at four (217-213).
Holtom has more victories - three - than any other KONI Challenge driver in 2008, and with the return of regular co-driver Eric Curran (Springfield, Mass.), looks to make it two straight at Miller. They drive the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
However, Skavnes' first full season on the KONI Challenge circuit includes a victory, seven top 10s in eight starts, and no finish worse than 11th. Skavnes competed with Chuck Hemmingson (West Des Moines, Iowa) for the first seven races, and the two were poised at their first KONI Challenge titles before Hemmingson, currently sixth in points, dropped out of contention (birth of son) when he missed New Jersey. Skavnes is entered with Andrew Aquilante in the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy at Miller.
Kuno Wittmer (Hudson, Quebec) is the only driver in the top four without a victory, but consistency has him only 17 points behind Holtom. Wittmer drives the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX with Peter Cunningham (Saukville, Wis.), who is fifth in the standings. Wittmer has two runner-up finishes in 2008 and seven top 10s in eight starts. With solid finishes and the point lead after 10 races, Wittmer would join defending series champions Adam Burrows (Canton, Conn.) and Trevor Hopwood (Lee, N.H.) as an ST champion without a victory.
Bob Beede (Greenwich, Conn.) quietly sits fourth in points, only 21 behind Holtom. Beede, who did not race at Daytona after his car was involved in an early accident, has a victory, four podiums and finishes of ninth or better in seven races. Beede and Matt Plumb (Newport, R.I.), who were successful in New Jersey with their race win together, will drive the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civic Si.
Four drivers from three teams round out the top 10 in the standings. Burrows is seventh in the standings, and he and Hopwood will drive the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Skunk 2/Sunday Group Management Acura TSX. Teammate Christian Miller (Newark, Calif.) is ninth in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Skunk 2/K&N Honda Civic Si; he'll drive with team owner Karl Thomson (Toronto, Ontario).
Eighth in points is Pierre Kleinubing (Coconut Creek, Fla.), who drives the No. 86 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4 with Toby Grahovec (Chicago); the pair was second at Trois-Rivieres. Tony Rivera (Missouri City, Texas), the top-ranked rookie in ST, is entered to drive two cars - the Nos. 49 and 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Haljoy Renewable Fuels, LLC Mazda RX-8s.
Practice for KONI Challenge Series competitors begins at 9:10 a.m. Friday, with qualifying at 8 a.m. Saturday and the two-and-a-half hour race at 11:20 a.m. Sunday.
- This is Round 10 of 11 for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season. The KONI Challenge race is two-and-a-half hours or 250 miles, whichever comes first.
- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 11:20 a.m. MT Sunday. The race will air on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 27 (Brian Till - Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder - Analyst; Calvin Fish, Chris Neville - Pit Reporters).
- All cars, in both series, must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective championships.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES MOUNTAIN)
- Friday: KONI Challenge Practice (9:10-9:40 a.m.); KONI Challenge Practice (1:55-2:45 p.m.)
- Saturday: KONI Challenge Qualifying (8-8:45 a.m.)
- Sunday: KONI Challenge Race (11:20 a.m.; 250 miles/56 laps/two-and-a-half hour time limit).
NEWS & NOTES
- Home Sweet Home: Several drivers and teams are calling this weekend's race at Miller Motorsports Park home. Larry Miller Racing will field the No. 112 Utah Jazz/Miller Motorsports Park Ford Mustang GT in GS for Draper, Utah driver James Burke and Grantsville, Utah native Dan McKeever. In ST, CA Sport will field the No. 68 CityDeals.com Acura TSX for Salt Lake City drivers Vesko Kozarov and Lara Tallman.
- Two Victories and It's Over: The point standings are so close in both GS and ST, that if any of the top seven drivers in GS and either of the top two in ST sweep the remaining races, their efforts would give them the championship, regardless of what any other team or driver pairing does. James Gue and Bret Seafuse already lead GS, and Jamie Holtom is already the frontrunner in ST. Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell would at least win the GS title by four points and Craig Stanton by one, nullifying a tied championship. Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal, with two victories, and second-place finishes by Gue and Seafuse in both races, would give Thornton and Segal the tiebreaker with victories (3-0). In ST, Kristian Skavnes could win at Miller and Virginia International Raceway, taking the title by two points if Holtom finishes second at each track.
- GS Manufacturer Standings Also Tight: It almost couldn't get any closer in the GS manufacturer point standings. With two victories and at least a fourth-place finish in every race, BMW leads two other manufacturers by a total of three points. Ford, with the same statistics, is two behind (250-248), while Porsche has two finishes outside the top five despite four victories.
- Team Cars Could Play Key Role in Championship: In each race BGB Motorsports has fielded two cars this season, the team has put one car in the top five at the checkered flag. That could bode well for this team, working toward a title. Craig Stanton, only five points out of the lead, will drive the No. 83 Porsche 997, and his team is also running the No. 38 Porsche 997, with Max Hyatt and James Sofronas. Automatic Racing has three cars entered for Miller. In addition to Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton, Charles Putman and Charles Espenlaub (No. 91 BMW M3) and Rob Finlay and Steve Cameron (No. 99 BMW M3) are entered. Hyper Sport is working on the Jim Click Racing Ford Mustang GTs of Jim Click and Mike McGovern. Rehagen Racing has three Ford Mustang GTs - including one for early season contenders Mike Canney and Hugh Plumb - while Kinetic Motorsports has two BMW M3s. One single-car GS team may not need the advantage, however. JBS Motorsports has entered a second car in the past, but is a one-car outfit at Miller. In ST, Georgian Bay Motorsports, i-MOTO Racing, Bill Fenton Motorsports, Compass360 Racing, Classic BMW-Plano and Brass Mitchell Racing - all with drivers in the top 10 - have multi-car operations; the exception is ICY/Phoenix Racing, which is bringing only one car to Miller after running two cars in each of the previous eight races.
- Twelve Drivers Mathematically Eligible for ST Title - Still: Twelve drivers remain eligible to win the ST driving championship. In addition to the top 10, Andrew Aquilante (11th) and Trevor Hopwood (12th) are still mathematically eligible to win the championship, though their chances are slim as both drivers would have to win both races. In addition, each has a co-driver positioned higher in the standings.
- Pulling Double Duty: Several drivers will be running both the KONI Challenge Series race and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 races this weekend. In GS, those drivers include Jeff Segal, Spencer Pumpelly, Andy Lally, Mike Borkowski, Tommy Constantine, Joe Foster, Andrew Davis, Nic Jonsson, Craig Stanton and Bill Auberlen. In ST, Shane Lewis, Guy Cosmo, Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski are poised for double duty.
- Other Teams Search for Additional Victories: The top 10 drivers aren't the only ones who have scored victories this season and are looking for another at Miller. Scott Schroeder of TRG is the only entered driver, outside the top 10, with a victory; he won with Andy Lally at Iowa Speedway. Schroeder and Lally will drive the No. 41 TRG Porsche 997 at Miller; Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende are in the No. 39 TRG Porsche 997. In ST, Eric Curran has two victories this year, and will drive the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS with Jamie Holtom. Nick Wittmer and Glenn Bocchino drove the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX at Daytona. Trevor Hopwood has two victories this season, but he did not complete 30 minutes on the race track at Trois-Rivieres and has slipped behind the frontrunners.
- Turner Motorsport Seeking Second Miller Triumph: One team looking for its first victory of 2008 is Turner Motorsport, both in the GS and ST categories. Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff have three GS podium finishes in the No. 96 BMW M3, and the car is sixth in the standings. Last year, Alhadeff and Joey Hand won at Miller in the No. 96. Don Salama and Bryan Ortiz are also looking for their first victory of 2008 in the No. 97 BMW M3. In ST, VJ Mirzayan and Matthew Bell finished a season-high second at Iowa Speedway.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POINT STANDINGS
- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Bret Seafuse, James Gue (196); 3. (tie) Scott Maxwell, Joe Foster (194); 5. Craig Stanton (191); 6. (tie) Jeff Segal, Jep Thornton (190); 8. Jon Miller (182); 9. Billy Johnson (172); 10. Andy Lally (166).
- Street Tuner: 1. Jamie Holtom (217); 2. Kristian Skavnes (213); 3. Kuno Wittmer (200); 4. Bob Beede (196); 5. Peter Cunningham (186); 6. Chuck Hemmingson (183); 7. Adam Burrows (168); 8. Pierre Kleinubing (163); 9. Trevor Hopwood (156); 10. Tony Rivera (154).
- MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Peter Cunningham (186); 2. Tony Rivera (154); 3. Andrew Aquilante (148); 4. Charles Putman (130); 5. Leo Maia (125).
SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES
Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "Coming off of our win at Miller last year, the team is very excited for this year's event. I'll be partnered with my third different co-driver in as many races. This time Georgian Bay Motorsports veteran Eric Curran will be joining us, and we'll be trying for the fourth straight podium finish for our TTL Chevy Cobalt. The championship is as tight as ever, but I'm confident that we're the team for the job."
Jeff Segal (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "New Jersey sucked, and we went from the points lead to sixth. Now we've got nothing to lose going into Miller, and we're going to do whatever it takes to make up some ground."
Bob Beede (No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Si): "This will be a real pivotal race for Bill Fenton Motorsports. We're second in the team points championship and want to hold onto that, but with the 5,000-foot altitude out there, all naturally-aspirated cars will be at a disadvantage to the ones with turbos and superchargers. Our real advantage will be having Matt Plumb as my co-driver, (crew chief) Steve Wheeler in the pits doing his normally-masterful job calling the pit stop tactics, and the inherent reliability of the Honda cars."
Kuno Wittmer (No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX): "We want to complete this season on a positive note. Our goal was to continue developing our cars in anticipation of next year and we have fared well given the circumstances. We have made a beautiful climb up the standings with a podium (third) and a sixth."
Bret Seafuse (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "The Mustangs - at least in KONI - haven't really faired the best here, at least not in the past. We're going to see what we can do here this year. Obviously we're in a great position. We have a two-point lead, and with that being said, there are seven cars within six points of the lead. Obviously we want to do well here, but we want to survive. We feel we might be a little stronger at Virginia (International Raceway) than here, but we were seventh here last year, and looking to improve on that."
Joe Foster (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "The point situation after New Jersey was unexpected for us; we were a pretty distant third going in, and there was a lot of bad luck obviously for the (Nos.) 09 and 37 cars. It was definitely not a situation we were hoping to be in at this point. We'll just make the best that we can at this track. This is a BMW-Porsche track, and we'll just try to be best in class, get as many points as we can and see what happens."
Craig Stanton (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "I'm really looking forward to Salt Lake because of our results last year and because of the momentum we have going. We need to do well there and do well at VIR in order to have a realistic shot at the championship. Jon Miller has been getting faster and faster every weekend and our car's handling will be strong at a track like Miller."
Kristian Skavnes (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): "We're running a skeleton crew this weekend, so we've got to adjust the (No.) 111 car this weekend. Once again, Andrew Aquilante is going to be driving with me, so we're going to see what we can do here. It should be a good track for our car, so hopefully we'll be there at the end again."