SCC: VIR II: Automatic Racing preview

Automatic Racing Prepares for Dramatic Finale at VIR ALTON, Va. -- There's nothing like a little drama at the end of the race season. Automatic Racing co-drivers Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal clinched their first KONI Challenge championship...

Automatic Racing Prepares for Dramatic Finale at VIR

ALTON, Va. -- There's nothing like a little drama at the end of the race season. Automatic Racing co-drivers Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal clinched their first KONI Challenge championship last year at Virginia International Raceway, and they're hoping for a repeat at this weekend's season finale.

Thornton and Segal, who drive the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Rogue Engineering/LandAir/Engine Music Studios BMW M3, were well on their way to winning their second consecutive championship this year. They posted a top-five finish in the first eight rounds of the season, giving them a healthy points lead, but a crash at New Jersey dropped them to sixth in the points.

Never ones to give up easily, Thornton and Segal earned valuable points two weeks ago at Miller Motorsports Park. The KONI Challenge season wraps up this weekend at VIR with a six-hour endurance race, and six drivers are all in close contention for the driver championship in the Grand Sport class.

Thornton is optimistic about this weekend's race. "The good news is that the BMWs perform better than the Mustangs, so if we can keep the car running all six hours we should be in good shape," he says. "It's going to be a great weekend no matter what. I like all four of these guys we're up against. Whoever wins it, I'll be happy for them."

"The tough thing about this weekend is the length of the race," added Segal. "I'm looking forward to it, but we've got a ton of work to do if we're going to win the championship. We always have a good car at VIR, though."

VIR is the home track for Automatic Racing's Rob Finlay. He and co-driver Steve Cameron will have a crowd of friends and family cheering them on as they aim for the win in the No. 99 Mobile-Shop.com BMW M3.

Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub will share the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3, and they already have plenty of laps around the 3.27-mile VIR circuit. "We tested at VIR earlier this year, and we ran there with World Challenge," said Putman. "We've got to fly in at the last minute because we're at Road Atlanta this weekend, too. We'll only get to do one practice before the race, but we feel good about it because we've run there recently and the car has been coming off the trailer in great shape."

Automatic Racing will have a fourth BMW M3 in the race this weekend: the No. 90 will be piloted by Derek Whitis and Tom Long. The ST-class regulars raced an M3 in the GS class at Barber Motorsports Park, where they put in a strong run. Long has plenty of laps in an Automatic BMW after a very successful season with the team last year, and Whitis is a longtime friend of the team.

The six-hour KONI Challenge Grand Sport finale begins at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 5.

-credit: ar

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Charles Espenlaub , Tom Long , Jep Thornton , Rob Finlay , Charlie Putman , Derek Whitis , Steve Cameron
Teams Automatic Racing