Shane Lewis, John Schmitt Capture KONI Challenge ST Race DANVILLE, VA. -- Shane Lewis and John Schmitt, driving the Red Line Oil/Honda of America No. 22 Honda Accord, captured the six-hour race around VIRginia International Raceway's scenic ...
Shane Lewis, John Schmitt Capture KONI Challenge ST Race
DANVILLE, VA. -- Shane Lewis and John Schmitt, driving the Red Line Oil/Honda of America No. 22 Honda Accord, captured the six-hour race around VIRginia International Raceway's scenic 3.27-mile natural road course, beating out the Fountain Motorsports BMW 330i driven by Guy Cosmo and V.H. Mirzayan by only 26 seconds.
Starting from the pole, after qualifying over 1.3 seconds quicker than their next competitors, Lewis led the first 20 laps of the six-hour enduro race, leading the most laps, at 94 combined for the duo, out of 153 laps that the race took. Racing around VIR's sweeping bends and plunging hills, the HART racing team led the first 20 laps before a pit stop dropped them back briefly. "We were both driving as hard as we could," Lewis commented. Lewis won with Schmitt at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this season. "Some of this win was fuel strategy, and the rest was hard work by the team. Grand-Am does a great job at keeping these cars equal. We could only go 90 minutes on a fuel load while others are able to go two hours. We basically took any opportunity we could to fuel up, and the great pit stops our team performed allowed us to get this win."
Schmitt took over the wheel at the middle of the race. "I ran an hour and a half just as hard as I could," he described. "We worked really hard all year and had a few potential good finishes that didn't work out, so to come here and win this event means a lot to us."
While Lewis and Schmitt were dominating the race, the No. 95 Turner Motorsports BMW 330i driven by Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood ran smoothly to the finish, giving the team both the individual driver championships and the team crown.
The BMW was running in fourth place until the final few feet of the race, when the No. 29 Acura RSX ran out of fuel on the last lap, leaving driver Mike Liebl stranded at the track's final turn. Liebl's bad luck handed Burrows and Hopwood another in their string of podium finishes, In spite of never being able to score a victory, the team's consistently high finishes have enabled them to sweep the driver crown and the team title in Grand-Am's ST classification.
"This is fantastic and a huge relief," said Burrows. "We knew that we just had to focus on our own race and it played out perfectly for us," he added.
The racing action continues at VIR on Sunday, with the second of the six-hour enduros starting at 12:00 noon. The Sunday race is for Grand-Am's "Grand Sport" class, consisting of Porsches, BMWs, Mustangs and Pontiacs.
Sunday's race begins at noon and runs for a full six hours, closing out the season for the Grand American Road Racing Association's KONI Challenge Series. The championship is still not decided, with several drivers mathematically capable of winning.
More than just the Grand-Am racing is on the schedule for Sunday, as a wide variety of stunt motorcycle competition, drifting and "track attack" events will fill every minute of the day with action for guests to enjoy. Tickets are available at the gate and fans are invited to stroll the paddock to get a close-up view of the cars and stars.