SCC: Utah: Series race report

Turner Motorsports Holds Winning Hand in Grand-Am KONI Grand Sport Race at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE, Utah (September 14, 2007) -- In a race that was ultimately decided by fuel strategy and pit stops, Turner Motorsport drivers...

Turner Motorsports Holds Winning Hand in Grand-Am KONI Grand Sport Race at Miller Motorsports Park

TOOELE, Utah (September 14, 2007) -- In a race that was ultimately decided by fuel strategy and pit stops, Turner Motorsport drivers played the winning hand in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race Friday at Miller Motorsports Park.

Joey Hand and Matthew Alhadeff piloted the No. 97 Turner Motorsports BMW M3 to the checkered flag 23.254 seconds ahead of second-place finishers Hugh Plumb and Craig Stanton in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997.

The Miller Motorsports Park event was the first time this season the duo had stepped into the Turner Motorsports machine, but it didn't take the pair long to get adjusted to the car. Alhadeff qualified the car fifth and drove a flawless first stint, running in the top five until pitting on Lap 12.

"It was a great start. I got lucky and picked up a couple positions right at the start," Alhadeff said. "I had a pretty good stint. I think I overworked the tires at the beginning, because I picked up some understeer. But we lucked out and picked up a good yellow and got Joey (Hand) in the car. He was able to run a great pace, real competitive. Joey ended up in first place and was able to hang on to the car and keep it out there. It was an awesome race."

Hand had the hot shoe from the moment he took over the car. By Lap 18 Hand sat in fourth place, and a Lap 22 pass on Duncan Ende in the No. 39 TRG Carlsen Porsche/DigiTrust Group Porsche 997 proved to be for second place when then-leader David Russell of the No. 99 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3 pulled into the pits.

From there, Hand had a battle to the end. Andy Lally in the No. 41 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Mitchell Global Porsche 997 passed the Turner Motorsports driver on Lap 25, just before Hand made the team's final pit stop. Hand rejoined in eighth position and found himself back in second position on Lap 35, just behind Lally. Hand took the lead for good on Lap 36 when Lally pulled into the pits for fuel.

"It's great. I love winning, and the team loves winning," a deservedly-excited Hand said. "Turner Motorsports prepares a great race car. With some teams, you come and fit right in and the car goes real well. This is one of those teams, and I've never won with this team. I've had a few good runs but never gave these guys a win."

Hand's main competition to the finish was Lally. The TRG driver had stretched the lead to 40 seconds on Lap 34, and was set to pit for fuel on Lap 35. As Lally tried to follow Nick Wittmer in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX onto pit lane, Wittmer spun and hit the pit wall, blocking the entrance. Lally was left with no choice but to put his Porsche into reverse, back onto the racetrack, and run another lap.

"When it rains, it pours," Lally said. "We had a car that could win, and we just picked the one and only lap we shouldn't have pitted on. Just out of dumb luck, somebody stuffed it in the fence, and when you have a one-car wide pit entrance, I had to back up, and then look and decide if it was a gravel trap behind me, or dirt. At that point, we had no choice, gravel trap or not."

That large lead evaporated once Lally was able to complete his pit stop on the next lap. With Hand 13 seconds in front, Lally began a charge to the front that ended when his car ran out of gas on the final lap. The error was an uncharacteristic one for the normally reliable TRG team, obviously trying to make up for the unavoidable incident one lap sooner. Lally finished the race in fourth position.

"I came out, lost our lead by a bunch, but we were running him down," Lally said. "TRG gave me the best car out there, hands down, and we ran out of gas. We only needed to take about another second of gas more, but I can't fault the guys, they do a great job, week in and week out. They were as much on the edge as I was."

Benefiting from the TRG fuel error was the Plumb and Stanton. Plumb began the race in 11th position and spent the early laps avoiding the early lap incidents that come with 63 cars on the track. Plumb climbed into the lead on Lap 21 and led until pitting on Lap 24.

"My shift was very eventful," Plumb said afterward. "It was a complete catastrophe at the beginning -- dust, cars, wheels all over the place. We got a great start through the mayhem up to fifth. After that, I put my head down and kept working lap after lap. That's all I could do, and give the car over to Craig and go from there."

Stanton rejoined the race after Plumb's stop in 13th position. Making sure to take enough fuel to get to the end, Stanton steadily climbed through the field until the checkered flag. The strategy nearly paid off, as the team finished just one mistake away from a win.

"It was amazing. We were running consistent laps," Stanton said. "The BGB guys did a great job both on strategy and prepping the car. During the race, Hugh did a great opening stint and we continued on. We knew it would be close for a lot of teams. A lot of them were cutting it real close on fuel, and we ran it as hard as we could at the end. I think if it went one more lap, we would have won. The Turner guys were so close on fuel, and we had six gallons at the end."

Rounding out the podium was the No. 25 Fiorano/C-Max Racing Porsche 997 of Dave Riddle and Kris Wilson. Riddle qualified and began the race in 18th position before handing the car off to Wilson. Wilson steadily climbed through the field, also taking advantage of the TRG team by passing a slowing Lally on the last turn of the last lap.

"We totally lucked out on the last corner of the last lap," Wilson said. "The guys in the pits were telling me on the last lap that he was running out, and sure enough, in the last corner right before start finish I went by him and said, great, we've got a podium. It worked out real well. Fiorano gave us a great chassis, but we just didn't quite have enough for the top two at the end."

Automatic Racing's Tom Long and David Russell finished fifth in the No. 99 Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3.

***

GS championship leaders Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton nearly locked up the championship for the No. 09 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3 with one race to go, running in second place on Lap 35. Segal unexpectedly pulled into the pits with a broken axle. The crew repaired the car but the duo finished in 18th place -- four laps down from the leaders.

Segal and Thornton will head to the season finale at Virginia International Raceway still holding a substantial lead, however, his nearest competitor Joe Foster was not able to take advantage of the leader's bad day. Foster and co-driver Scott Maxwell could only manage a 16th-place finish in the Hyper Sport Supercuts Mustang GT and trail the Automatic Racing drivers by 25 points (279-254) with one race remaining.

Fuel strategy also played a decisive role in the ST race, won by Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack/Track Bar Chevrolet Cobalt. Curran and the car, running on fumes at the checkered flag, posted a nearly an 11-second advantage over No. 93 GOTO Racing Cobb Tuning/Calculated Risk Subaru Legacy co-driver Mike Lock, who took over the polesitting car from brother Brian Lock late in the race.

Curran grabbed the lead from David Haskell on Lap 40 after Haskell came into the pits for a splash of fuel. Curran was never challenged by any opposing driver, but was challenged to save fuel as he and Holtom pitted only on Lap 27. Curran was third before leader Shane Lewis -- who led six laps in his attempt to win his second race of 2007 -- ran out of fuel on Lap 39.

The race was also the second victory of the season for the team, as they won in July at Barber Motorsports Park.

"The Subaru seemed to be the car of the weekend," Curran said. "The car's extremely fast in a straight line, and we didn't know if we had anything for them. We were keeping our fingers crossed that they would have to do two pit stops, and also keeping our fingers crossed that the all-wheel drive would use up its tires. It seemed like it did all of the above. We were in good shape, and our Cobalt SS was wonderful today consistent. Not the fastest car, but consistent enough to get the job done. A win here at Miller Motorsports Park is a lot of fun."

Holtom, who started the car third, moved past front-row starter Adam Burrows on the opening lap and kept close to Brian Lock for the opening 11 laps. Holtom took the lead on Lap 12 when Lock pitted for the first of two times, and led the next 12 laps.

"I started from third, was able to get into second from the start right away, and from there, I was trying to control the pace and stick to the Subaru in front of me," said Holtom, who with Curran finished 14th overall. "That Subaru has more power than anything in the field, that's for sure. Despite that, the great handling of the SCADAPack Cobalt SS was spot-on all day. We were able to keep it right up at the front, and the guys at Georgian Bay called great strategy. They gave us just enough gas to make it to the end. In fact, the car shut off on the last lap."

Brian Lock led the first 11 laps and returned to the lead for eight laps -- passing Holtom on the track on Lap 24 -- before turning the car over to Mike Lock on Lap 32. Mike Lock tried to reel in Holtom over the final 45 minutes, but could come no closer to the final 11-second margin.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't catch them at the end," Mike Lock said. "That Cobalt was running strong. Our Subaru was right there with them, but I didn't have quite enough on him. Our car was pretty used up. We unfortunately had to drive through a whole second stop over the rest of the field, because we have such a heavy car and burn a lot of gas. Second place is our best result, and we're real happy."

Brian Lock, who led a race-high 19 laps, was pleased with the car's performance. It marked the first time the car had competed since May's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, which ended in a crash.

"It was an intense stint," Brian Lock said. "Like my brother said, we had to drive the extra pit stop. We came in the first yellow and splashed, came out in seventh and had to drive all the way back up to first. Unfortunately, it used up the car and my brother didn't have much left. We're happy with second."

Third in ST were Justin Hall and Magnus Karlsson in the No. 58 BSI Racing MOMO/Joe Gibbs Mazda MX-5, the duo's best performance of the season and first top-five finish since Laguna Seca. The pair narrowly escaped a fuel shortage of its own, as the car ran out of fuel on the cool down lap after pitting only once. The third-place finish also vaulted Hall and Karlsson back into the top 10 in points.

"You have to hand it to the BSI crew for its great strategy today," Hall said. "We ran out of gas on our cool down lap. The car was sputtering in every turn on the last lap. We literally ran her dry. Perfect job with a one-stop strategy."

Fourth were No. 51 Tom Mitchell Motorsports Phoenix Development/MSR Houston BMW Z4 drivers Aaron Robinson, Al Mitchell and Tony Rivera, who was celebrating his 33rd birthday Friday. The duo ran as high as second before pitting late. Despite pitting late, Haskell and No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding Mazda RX-8 co-driver Jose Armengol finished fifth. Rivera and Haskell came together in a last lap incident as the duo were closing on the No. 58 machine, but were each able to cross the line in their respective finishing positions.

The race did little to solve the slim point advantage for No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i teammates and ST championship co-leaders Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood. Starting second, Burrows fell to third on the first lap, and he and Hopwood battled fellow championship contenders Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson in the No. 76 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX most of the race. The two pairs of drivers finished sixth and seventh, and will enter Virginia International Raceway next month separated by only five points (285-280).

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Joey Hand , Scott Maxwell , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Tony Rivera , Tom Long , Hugh Plumb , Craig Stanton , Jep Thornton , Jeff Segal , Brian Lock , Mike Lock , Jose Armengol , Billy Johnson , Dave Riddle , Joe Foster , Matthew Alhadeff , Kris Wilson , Duncan Ende , Justin Hall , Magnus Karlsson , Trevor Hopwood , Adam Burrows , Aaron Robinson , Nick Wittmer , Al Mitchell , David Russell
Teams Turner Motorsport , Automatic Racing , SpeedSource