Grand-Am to Crown KONI Challenge Series Champions This Weekend at Virginia International Raceway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2007) -- After 11 rounds of close, intense competition on the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series circuit and some of ...
Grand-Am to Crown KONI Challenge Series Champions This Weekend at Virginia International Raceway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 3, 2007) -- After 11 rounds of close, intense competition on the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series circuit and some of the closest racing in motorsports, this weekend's dual six-hour races at the 3.27-mile, 17-turn Virginia International Raceway will determine the 2007 Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) champions. The six-hour ST race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Saturday, while GS competitors will take the green flag at noon Sunday.
Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3 have led the GS standings since early July and would like to cap their season not just with a championship, but also their first season victory. Likewise in ST, championship leaders Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i are aiming for their first season victory in addition to the title.
Segal and Thornton own a 25-point lead (279-254) over Joe Foster in the GS driver's championship heading into this final race. The lead duo was in position to take the championship last month at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah before pitting 10 laps from the checkered flag with rear axle problems, finishing in 18th position. To take the championship this weekend, Segal and Thornton -- who have three runner-up finishes this season -- need only a 20th-place finish for the championship.
Automatic Racing is loaded with three other cars also preparing for victory. David Russell and Tom Long sit eighth in the championship after finishing fifth at Miller in the No. 99 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Land Air BMW M3. Jon Miller and Owen Trinkler in the No. 90 Fresh From Florida/Weeden Consultants BMW M3 and Tim George Jr. and Conrad Grunewald in the No. 91 Fresh From Florida/Gleukos Sports Drink BMW M3 also will pilot Automatic Racing entries this season.
Foster, the only competitor still mathematically in contention for the GS driver's championship, couldn't take advantage of Segal and Thornton's problems at Miller as his No. 55 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT suffered problems in the race and finished 16th. Foster held sole possession of the championship series point lead during the season's middle stages before mechanical malfunctions dropped him to second in the standings after July's Supercuts 200 at The Glen. Foster, a winner at Mosport International Raceway with Scott Maxwell, will again pair with Maxwell as well as Charles Espenlaub at VIR. Maxwell is currently sixth in points.
Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey teams with Rick Skelton and Joe Middlebrooks in the No. 54 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT, and Gunnar Jeannette and Auston Harris will co-drive the No. 156 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT.
James Gue and Bret Seafuse have posted strong results all season long, and another strong showing could catapult the pair into second place in points if Foster falters. Only 11 points in arrears of Foster, the pair has two top fives (both fourth-place finishes) and seven top 10s, including three consecutive in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT. Mark Ackley and Todd Snyder will team to drive the No. 137 JBS Motorsports ACKCO Inc. Consulting Group Ford Mustang GT.
Craig Stanton and defending ST race co-winner Hugh Plumb, fourth and fifth in points, will co-drive one of three BGB Motorsports Porsches. After two straight podium finishes -- including a second at Miller -- the pair is in search of its first 2007 victory in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997, and are also entered with John Teece in the No. 72 BGB Motorsports DA Realty, LLC Porsche 997.
Tim Traver and Mikel Miller are among the contenders this year after piloting their No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche to a wet and wild victory in last year's six-hour finale at VIR. The pair returns this weekend in the No. 83 Performance Drink/Simplenet.com Porsche 997. Miller led the final 19 laps of last year's 152-lap affair and cruised to a 25.922-second victory.
Automatic Racing isn't the only team heading to VIR with four cars. TRG and Blackforest Motorsports each have four cars entered, and will attempt to recapture their earlier season glory with one of those cars. Seventh-place Andy Lally and Ted Ballou, tied for ninth in points, headline TRG's efforts. The pair drove to victory at Barber Motorsports Park in the No. 41 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Mitchell Global Porsche 997, and Lally led late at Miller before settling for fourth. Also in TRG's outfit are Duncan Ende and Grant Maiman in the No. 39 TRG Carlsen Porsche/DigiTrust Group Porsche 997, John Bibbo and Scott Schroeder in the No. 40 TRG Carlsen Porsche/CDI Porsche 997 and Ross Smith, Daniel DiLeo and Bryan Sellers in the No. 42 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Maxwell Paper Product Porsche 997.
Blackforest's Tom Nastasi, tied for ninth in points with Ballou, also led the standings early after three victories to open the year. However, mechanical problems and two missed races have dropped him back. David Empringham, who co-drove with Nastasi for the Fresh From 200 win, rejoins the team in the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT. Other drivers include Valerie Limoges and Travis Walker in the No. 4 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT, Scott Turner and Terry Borcheller in the No. 3 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang GT and Salvador Jimenez and Roly Falgueras in the No. 2 Blackforest Motorsports Empresas Jimenez/Emanuelli-Fajardo Ford Mustang GT.
Kinetic Motorsports will bring three BMW M3s to the track, with Russell Smith the lead driver of the No. 78 Kinetic Motorsports Said Head Performance BMW M3, Bryan Ortiz and Nic Jonsson in the No. 79 Kinetic Motorsports Said Head Performance BMW M3 and Charles Putman in the No. 80 Kinetic Motorsports Said Head Performance/Pesco BMW M3.
While several of the aforementioned multiple-car efforts look for their first victories of 2007, many multiple-car teams have already won. Marcus Motorsports, fielding the No. 49 MAX 720 Property Management/Auriemma Consulting Group Porsche 997, won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Spencer Pumpelly and Peter Ludwig. Pumpelly is back this weekend with Darren Law and Michael Auriemma. Mike Johnson, Ryan Eversley and Bob Heniff will drive the No. 87 Marcus Motorsports Heniff Transportation Porsche 997.
Rehagen Racing's Dean Martin, 10th in the championship series point standings, piloted the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Piloti Ford Mustang GT to the checkered flag at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. This weekend, he is joined by Ray Mason. The team's No. 59 Rehagen Racing Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang GT is entered to be co-driven by Martin, Jack Roush Jr. and Colin Braun, now a Roush Fenway Racing NASCAR development driver.
Turner Motorsport picked up its third GS victory of 2007 at Miller with Joey Hand and Matthew Alhadeff in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3. At VIR this weekend, team principal Will Turner and co-driver Don Salama return for a shot at their first win of the season. Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason have shared in two wins this season -- at Lime Rock Park and Trois-Rivières -- in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
Other two-car efforts include Spirit of Daytona Racing (No. 9 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac GTO with Marc-Antoine Camirand and Doug Goad and No. 10 Rockland Standard Gear/Oberto Beef Jerky Pontiac GTO with Mike Weinberg and Larry Oberto), Fall-Line Motorsports (No. 28 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3s with Steve Jenkins, Nick Ham and Mark Boden and No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports/MacNeil Automotive BMW with David MacNeil, Randy Pobst and Christian Miller) and Ranger Sports Racing (No. 88 Ranger Sports Racing Hop-A-Jet Worldwide Jet Charter Porsche 996 with Fraser Wellon and Barry Ellis and No. 89 Ranger Sports Racing GemStar Group Porsche 997 with Ellis, Marcelo Abello and Frank Rossi).
Michael Baughman Racing and Horsepower Ranch/Wright Motorsports are the only single-car teams entered. Mike Yeakle and Bryan Collyer will team to drive the No. 45 Michael Baughman Racing Firebird and Andy Hauck III and BJ Zacharias will drive the No. 20 Horsepower Ranch/Wright Motorsports Porsche 997.
In ST, five points (285-280) separate Burrows and Hopwood from No. 76 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX co-drivers Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson, one of the largest separations between the two pairs of drivers during a competitive ST season. Burrows and Hopwood will attempt to give Turner Motorsport its second straight ST drivers and team championships after Turner and Salama won the titles last season. Burrows and Hopwood have finished in the top 10 in all but one event, with half of those ending on the podium.
Meanwhile, Thomson and Johnson have finished in the top 10 on eight occasions, but are riding the waves of a season-high four victories. The pair has also led the series championship at times this season, having last led following their victory in the Supercuts 200 at The Glen. Thomson and Johnson will have two additional team cars -- the No. 74 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2 Acura RSX-S of Matt Pritiko and David Tuaty and No. 75 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX of Aaron Povoledo and Beau Buisson -- on hand at VIR.
Jose Armengol is again third in points after finishing fifth in the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding Mazda RX-8 at Miller. He will again team with 2004 co-champions David Haskell and team owner Sylvain Tremblay. Piloting the team's No. 70 SpeedSource Sahlen/HRPworld.com Mazda RX-8 are Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker, while in the No. 68 SpeedSource Maxwell Paper Products Co. Mazda RX-8 are Smith, Sellers and DiLeo.
While they are not competing for the driver's title, several other competitors are set to repeat earlier season victories. No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt co-drivers Jamie Holtom (fifth in series points standings) and Eric Curran (10th in points) and No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy co-drivers Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes each have two wins in 2007. Both teams are also running second cars. Ken Wilden, Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer will drive the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports T.T.L. Chevrolet Cobalt, and Davy Jones and David Rosenblum are entered in the No. 141 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy.
No. 22 HART Red Line Oil/Honda of America Honda Accord co-drivers Shane Lewis and John Schmitt won this season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Nick and Kumo Wittmer drove the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura/Cobalt Friction Acura TSX to the win at Trois-Rivières. They are teamed with team owner Glenn Bocchino, who also has the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX entered for this weekend.
Fountain Motorsports also won a race earlier in the season, and expects to challenge for victory at VIR. Fountain is led by Guy Cosmo, who is seventh in points and is scheduled to drive the No. 127 Fountain Motorsports Iron Clad/Hawk Brakes BMW 330i with VJ Mirzayan. Putman and Seth Thomas will campaign the No. 126 Fountain Motorsports Trackmasters BMW 330i, and Derek Whitis is the lead driver for the No. 125 Fountain Motorsports Hawk Brakes BMW 330i.
Two teams that have been close to winning races and put together strong seasons include BSI Racing and Classic BMW--Plano. Justin Hall and Magnus Karlsson are eighth in points after their strong third-place run at Miller in the No. 58 MOMO/Joe Gibbs Mazda MX-5. Teammate Miller is ninth, and will join Todd Buras in the No. 56 BSI Racing MOMO/Joe Gibbs Mazda MX-5 for the season finale. Toby Grahovec and Pierre Kleinubing have three top 10s in their last four starts in the No. 86 Classic BMW--Plano BMW Z4. Al Lamb and Leo Maia join them as teammates in the No. 85 Classic BMW--Plano BMW Z4.
Other potent two-car stables will come from Bill Fenton Motorsports (Nos. 27 and 29 Acura RSX-Ss), Roar Racing (Nos. 62 and 63 Mazda RX-8s) and RSR Motorsports (Nos. 197 and 198 Mini Cooper Ss). Strong one-car efforts include SDS Performance Racing (No. 13 Dodge SRT4), V-Pack Motorsport (No. 24 BMW 330i), Predator Auto Sport (No. 53 Chevrolet Cobalt), Baglieracing (No. 57 Mazda 6), T Giovanis Motorsport (No. 64 BMW 330i), Blackforest Motorsports (No. 02 Mazda RX-8), Kinetic Motorsports (No. 133 BMW 330i), GS Motorsports (No. 138 Chevrolet Cobalt) and LRT Racing (No. 174 Acura TSX).
Official practice begins at 9 a.m. local time Friday, with ST qualifying at 9:25 a.m. Saturday and for GS at 9:50 a.m. The six-hour ST race is set for 3 p.m. Saturday, with the GS six-hour finale taking the green flag at noon Sunday.
Virginia International Raceway Fast Facts
What: Six-hour races for Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS), Street Tuner (ST) divisions
Who: KONI Challenge competitors from across the United States, Canada and Latin America
Where: Virginia International Raceway -- Alton, Virginia
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007 at 3 p.m. (ST); Sunday, Oct. 7, 2007 at noon (GS)