SCC: VIR II: Season finale preview

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Titles to be Garnered in Six-Hour Season Finales at Virginia International Raceway; Maxwell, Foster lead GS standings by one; Holtom owns 29-point lead in ST DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2008) - In a points race...

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Titles to be Garnered in Six-Hour Season Finales at Virginia International Raceway; Maxwell, Foster lead GS standings by one; Holtom owns 29-point lead in ST

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2008) - In a points race that has come down to the wire, the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) race is too close to call. Seven drivers will be battling for the championship, or at least a share of the title, and they'll all be suited up for Sunday's season finale, the Bosch Engineering Twin Six Hours at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. The race begins at 11 a.m.

All seven drivers battling for the GS title have led the championship at one time this season, and each of the last three races has had a new pair of leaders. Heading to VIR, No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT drivers Scott Maxwell (Toronto, Ontario) - the 2002 GSI champion - and Joe Foster (Atlanta, Ga.) lead the standings by one point (222-221) over James Gue (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Bret Seafuse (Trumansburg, N.Y.). Gue and Seafuse, driving the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shur Save Ford Mustang GT, led the standings heading into the most recent race at Miller Motorsports Park.

Defending champions, No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 co-drivers Jep Thornton (Miami, Fla.) and Jeff Segal (Philadelphia, Pa.), and 2004 titlist Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.) in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink/Weeden Consultants Porsche 997, are tied with 213 points. Maxwell, Thornton, Segal and Stanton have previously won the GS championship, while Foster, Gue and Seafuse all finished among the top seven drivers in last year's standings.

Several scenarios exist regarding the championships. Maxwell, Foster, Gue and Seafuse have to drive 30 minutes and win the race, and the championship is theirs. Thornton, Segal and Stanton are in a different position. If any of the three drivers complete 30 minutes and take the checkered flag, they must hope Maxwell, Foster, Gue and Seafuse finish no higher than fifth.

Even the tiebreakers could get messy. If Thornton and Segal win and tie Maxwell and Foster for the most points, Maxwell and Foster would come away with the championship based on most second-place finishes (1-0). Maxwell and Foster would win the victory tiebreaker (2-1) if Thornton and Segal tie them and don't win the race. Meanwhile, a victory for Stanton would give him the title if Foster, Maxwell, Gue and Seafuse finish fifth or worse, as Stanton holds the victory tiebreaker (3-2) with Maxwell and Foster.

However, the championship standings goes deeper than those within nine points of the lead. If all of the drivers in the top 11 in points fail to complete 30 minutes, or finishes 31st or worse, 12th-place Dean Martin (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Valvoline/ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT) could win the race and the championship by one point (223-222) over Foster and Maxwell. Jon Miller (teammate to Stanton), Billy Johnson (No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Morris Animal Foundation/Meisha's Hope BMW Z4 M), Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen (No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3) are all still mathematically eligible to win the championship.

Holtom leads ST points; Skavnes, Wittmer still have a shot to take title

Jamie Holtom (Ottawa, Ontario) needs only a 25th-place finish in Saturday's KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) to become the youngest champion in Grand-Am history. The six-hour ST race is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Holtom, co-driving the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS with Eric Curran, has four victories in nine races this season and is 29 points ahead of Kristian Skavnes (Sparta, N.J.) and Kuno Wittmer (Hudson, Quebec). Holtom returned to the point lead at Le Circuit de Trois-Rivieres after losing the advantage two races prior at Watkins Glen International.

At age 21 years, four days - Holtom's birthday was Sept. 30 - he would surpass Segal, who at 23 years, six months and 10 days won last year's GS title with Thornton. But it's not over yet. Skavnes, co-driving the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy with Andrew Aquilante and Chuck Hemmingson, has one victory this season, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Skavnes, who said he considers VIR one of his favorite tracks, is in his first full season on the KONI Challenge trail. Hemmingson, who has missed the last two races, returns to racing seventh in the ST standings.

Meanwhile, Wittmer is in his second full season, and is driving the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation/Alpinestar Acura TSX with Rookie of the Year point leader and fifth-place driver Peter Cunningham (Saukville, Wis.). They sandwich Bob Beede (Greenwich, Conn.), who is fourth in the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civic Si. He is driving this weekend with Bob Endicott (San Pedro, Calif.).

Outgoing champions Adam Burrows (Canton, Conn.) and Trevor Hopwood (Lee, N.H.), sixth and eighth in points, have two victories this season, and are aiming for their third win in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Skunk2/Sunday Group Management Acura TSX. Teammate Christian Miller - driving the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Skunk2/K&N Honda Civic Si with Beau Buisson and Scott Nicol - is ninth in points. Rounding out the top 10 is Pierre Kleinubing, who co-drives the No. 86 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4 at VIR with Toby Grahovec.

RACE SPECS

- This is Round 11 of 11 for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season. Both KONI Challenge Series races are scheduled for six hours. The green flag for the ST race is scheduled to fly at 2 p.m. ET Saturday. The green flag for the GS race is scheduled to fly at 11 a.m. ET Sunday.

- All drivers must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective championships.

KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)

- Friday: KONI Challenge GS Practice (10-11 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (2-3 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (3:15-4:15 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (4:30-5:30 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (6:30-8 p.m.)

- Saturday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (9-9:30 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (9:45-10:15 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Qualifying (10:30-10:45 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Qualifying (11-11:15 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Race (2 p.m.; six-hour time limit)

- Sunday: KONI Challenge GS Race (11 a.m.; six-hour time limit)

NEWS & NOTES

- Home Sweet Home: Several drivers and teams call Virginia home. Drivers include Spencer Pumpelly (born in Mason Neck), Mike Canney (formerly of McLean), Payton Wilson (Chantilly) and Eric Metzger (Vienna). Motorsport Technology Group (Richmond) will bring three GS cars this weekend. Local North Carolina drivers include Eddie Gramisci (Greensboro), Tom Long (Raleigh), Donald Barnes (Chapel Hill) and Mike Skeen (Durham).

- Manufacturer Standings Also Tight: With three victories and at least a fourth-place finish in every race, BMW leads two other GS manufacturers by a total of seven points. Porsche is six (285-279) behind despite a season-high four victories, while Ford is seven points in arrears with two victories. In ST, Chevrolet also owns a six-point lead (275-269) over Acura. Chevrolet has four victories to Acura's three, therefore holding the tiebreaker in case of a deadlock in points.

- MTG to Host Karting Challenge Thursday: Motorsport Technology Group will host Thursday's Race for Hope Kart Challenge event for all Grand-Am drivers and teams, in conjunction with this weekend's KONI Challenge season finale at VIR. The event will be a heat-run elimination beginning at 6:30 p.m. Organized as a fundraiser to support the Morris Animal Foundation, team members and drivers can test their skills on the state-of-the-art 5/8 mile Plantation Valley Kart Track at VIR to win the "winner take all $1,000 cash prize." Winners of each heat will receive a gift prize, and a maximum of 35 entrants will participate.

- 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 VIR. Scott Schroeder and Andy Lally of TRG are the only GS drivers entered, outside the top 10, with a victory (Iowa Speedway). Schroeder and Lally will drive the No. 41 TRG Porsche 997 at VIR; 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 to victory at Daytona.

- By the Days: At 21 years, four days, Jamie Holtom will become the youngest Grand-Am champion if he leaves VIR with the most points in the ST class. He will surpass Jeff Segal, who was 23 years, six months and 10 days when he won last year's KONI GS title. The oldest Grand-Am champion was Doug Mills, who won the 2000 Rolex Series AGT title at 58 years, 24 days.

- Complete List of Teams: In GS, teams competing this weekend (in numerical order) are Cardiosport Racing, Automatic Racing, CMA Motorsports, Motorsport Technology Group, Wright Motorsports, C-MAX/Unitech Racing, Playboy Racing/Fall-Line Motorsports, JBS Motorsports, BGB Motorsports, TRG, Rehagen Racing, Hyper Sport, Maxwell Paper Racing, Kinetic Motorsports, Ranger Sport Racing and Turner Motorsport. In ST, teams (in numerical order) are Georgian Bay Motorsports, Maxwell Paper Racing, Flatout Motorsports, Meyer Motorsports, HART, V-Pack Motorsport, Bill Fenton Motorsports, i-MOTO Racing, Kinetic Motorsports, Brass Mitchell Racing, Predator Auto Sport, Roar Racing, T Giovanis Motorsport, Riley Racing, Team MER, Hickham Motorsports, Compass360 Racing, Classic BMW-Plano, Turner Motorsport, ICY/Phoenix Racing, Istook's Motorsports, Fountain Motorsports, GS Motorsports, Freedom Autosport, APR Motorsport, LRT Racing and RSR Motorsports.

KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POINT STANDINGS

- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Scott Maxwell, Joe Foster (222); 3. (tie) Bret Seafuse, James Gue (221); 5. (tie) Jep Thornton, Jeff Segal, Craig Stanton (213); 8. Jon Miller (204); 9. Billy Johnson (202); 10. Matthew Alhadeff (194).

- Street Tuner: 1. Jamie Holtom (252); 2. Kristian Skavnes (223); 3. Kuno Wittmer (223); 4. Bob Beede (212); 5. Peter Cunningham (209); 6. Adam Burrows (207); 7. Chuck Hemmingson (183); 8. Trevor Hopwood (172); 9. Christian Miller (165); 10. Pierre Kleinubing (163).

- MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Peter Cunningham (209); 2. Jack Roush Jr. (162); 3. Andrew Aquilante (158); 4. Tony Rivera (157); 5. (tie) Kirk Spencer, Ashley McCalmont (144).

SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES

Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "The whole team is really pumped after our win last race at Miller. We're lucky to have a lead in all three championships, but we're not taking anything for granted. Georgian Bay Motorsports is coming with a contingent of three Chevy Cobalt SS' each with strong drivers to try and secure the manufacturer's championship for GM...We'll be going all-out to win the championships and it should be a fun race."

Jeff Segal (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "The tough thing about this weekend is the length of the race. 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."

Jep Thornton (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "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. 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."

Bret Seafuse (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "We've got to go for the victory. There are four teams that are very, very close, and several other teams still capable of winning the title if we all have bad races. There's no holding back. We've got to go for it. We've had success at this race in the past. We finished fifth last year after being involved in an incident 15 minutes into the race. We fought back from being almost a lap down. We think if we can stay out of trouble and do what we've always done there, we can finish very well."

James Gue (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "Obviously heading into the race, we're only one point out of the lead, and we're thinking championship. We're going to look at it as any other race. We'll be looking to win, and the points and championship will take care of themselves. We'd like to end the season with the first win of the year.

"We've had a very good year so far. The only bad finishes we've had this year - outside the top 10 - we were tangled up in some other mess. We've been running in the top five or top 10 in every other race. The key to this series is to stay out of trouble and keep your nose clean."

Joe Foster (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "The big thing is trying to stay focused on our own plan and own car. We're going to treat this as any other race and be professional. To be honest, we struggled at Miller, so we need to prepare our car and have it set up a little better. Everyone in this championship is a friend, and we all deserve to be there. Whatever happens, happens. We're just going to show up and try to enjoy ourselves and be professional."

Craig Stanton (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "I'm just going to put my best foot forward, physically and mentally, and do the best I possibly can. My personal mission statement is to lead my team by example, and drive the car to the best of my ability. Win, lose or draw, it is what it is. You can't eat the elephant in one bite. You have 2,000,002 things you have to do perfectly. I visualize everything, from winning to what to do during pit stops. You have to qualify perfectly, protect the car during the last half hour. The team is prepared in terms of strategy. You just have to do everything perfectly, but make sure everything is broken into smaller pieces. The end result is the championship, but you have to make sure to think about everything else first to get there."

Kristian Skavnes (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): "I've had a really great year. Our team has been wonderful. Our goal at VIR - as it is every time - is to go out and win the race, and then let the chips fall where they may. Jamie Holtom and the Georgian Bay guys have had a great year and they haven't had a lot of bad luck come their way, but the season isn't over yet. It still has six hours left. We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Right now, I think the pressure is on Jamie Holtom."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Bob Beede , Kristian Skavnes , Scott Maxwell , Andy Lally , Pierre Kleinubing , James Gue , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , Chuck Hemmingson , Spencer Pumpelly , Tony Rivera , Tom Long , Toby Grahovec , Craig Stanton , Bret Seafuse , Kuno Wittmer , Jep Thornton , Doug Mills , Kirk Spencer , Bill Fenton , Bob Endicott , Jeff Segal , Glenn Bocchino , Dean Martin , Billy Johnson , Joe Foster , Matthew Alhadeff , Duncan Ende , Payton Wilson , Scott Schroeder , Mike Canney , Trevor Hopwood , Adam Burrows , Nick Wittmer , Scott Nicol , Mike Skeen , Andrew Aquilante , Ashley McCalmont , Donald Barnes , Chris Miller , Jack Roush Jr. , Jon Miller
Teams Kinetic Motorsports , Rehagen Racing , Turner Motorsport , Wright Motorsports , Compass360 Racing , Automatic Racing , Freedom Autosport , LRT Racing , HART , Fall-Line Motorsports , Phoenix Racing