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Jeff Courtney 2007 season review

IMPRESSIVE SEASON FOR JEFF COURTNEY IN WORLD CHALLENGE GT Season Recap: No. 99 Kenda Tires/ProMPI/Karavan Trailers/Badger/JG Wheels/ Foerster Signs/Eibach Springs Dodge Viper Comp. Coupe SLINGER, Wis. (Oct. 29, 2007) -- Jeff Courtney and...

IMPRESSIVE SEASON FOR JEFF COURTNEY IN WORLD CHALLENGE GT

Season Recap: No. 99 Kenda Tires/ProMPI/Karavan Trailers/Badger/JG Wheels/ Foerster Signs/Eibach Springs Dodge Viper Comp. Coupe

SLINGER, Wis. (Oct. 29, 2007) -- Jeff Courtney and the No. 99 Kenda Tires/Pro MPI Dodge Viper posted a solid season in the SPEED World Challenge Series, finishing seventh in the overall standings and impressing in his first season in the GT division.

Courtney, nabbed to drive for Woodhouse Performance after impressively winning Rookie of the Year in the Touring Car division in 2006, made a successful and notable transition into the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe, a completely different animal than his AWD Audi in the Touring Car Series. And it had its challenges within the series. The Woodhouse Performance team worked hard all season to overcome the competition deficit with the Viper in a series where domination by Cadillacs, Porsches and Corvettes kept them from competing for the win each week. Although frustrating, it was fuel for the fire for Courtney, who, despite the difficulties with the levelness of the playing field, impressed with his consistency.

The opening race of the season was telling for Courtney, as he posted an 11th place finish right out of the box. A monsoon-like rain hit the Sebring International Raceway the morning of the race, forcing Courtney to make his first start in a Viper in wet track conditions. But the combination of challenges didn't phase him. The new team, new car, new division, new group of competitors and slippery racetrack couldn't keep him from his signature clean, consistent racing. Starting off the season just outside the top-10 in points? Not bad.

At Long Beach, a new set of challenges arose: A tight street course, a group of folks from sponsor company ProMPI/MPI Coin to impress and limited track time to prepare for the race. But the resilient Courtney was awarded the Sunoco Hard Charger Award, after picking up 16 positions on his way to a 13th-place finish.

The third round of SPEED World Challenge GT competition took place at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City. It was the site of Courtney's first top-10 finish, of both his GT career and the season. He left 11 th in the championship standings, just four points out of 10th. The next race would help him break into the coveted top-10.

That next race featured NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series star Kasey Kahne joining in the World Challenge festivities as teammate. Courtney would make the best of Round Five on the modified oval of Lowe's Motor Speedway and finish fifth in the No. 99 Kenda Tires/ProMPI Dodge Viper. It was his first top-five of the season and it was also a finish one spot higher than the celebrated Mr. Kahne -- something to write home about. Heading to Round Six at Watkins Glen, Courtney was sitting 10 th in the season standings, on-track to start the second half of the season in prime position.

The next three races, taking place at Watkins Glen International, on the streets of Toronto, Canada and at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, would produce solid top-15 finishes and confirm his newly-tabbed nickname 'Mr. Consistency.' Through the finishes he maintained his spot in the top-10 in points, while at one event hosting a special group of 100 sponsor guests. At Mid-Ohio Kenda Tires associates cheered Courtney on from a frontstretch hospitality tent, watching their No. 99 Dodge Viper race its way to the front after one of their associates gave the command to start engines to the entire SPEED World Challenge GT field.

With two races remaining in the season, SCCA made a competition adjustment to the entire field that helped the Vipers become more competitive, and it showed in Courtney's results. It was just the ticket Courtney needed to level out the playing field and kick his performance into high gear.

Round Nine took place at the historic, super-speedy Road Atlanta. The race itself could only be summed up in one word: Craziness. But for Courtney, it was one of his best of the season. He started out the weekend by posting his best qualifying effort to date, a seventh, and making his way through the multi-car wreckage resulting from a downpour of rain that came about midway through the race. He came out of the carnage cleanly in second, and had it not been for a first-time-in-SCCA-SPEED-World-Challenge-history extension of the race, Courtney would have gotten the first podium of his GT career. Still, the strategy and skill of Courtney and the direction of crewmen Erik Messley and Eddie Martin led him to a sixth place finish at Road Atlanta, one of his favorite tracks on the circuit. Again, Courtney left sitting inside the top-10 in the championship points, one solid finish away from solidifying a spot there in his opening season of GT racing.

Then came the finale, at none other than Laguna Seca Raceway, in the beautiful hills of Monterey, Calif. The challenging road course and well-known corkscrew has given drivers funny feelings in their stomachs for years. The track was one Courtney knew he could tame, in part because of his confidence in the preparation of the Viper by Rick Maxwell and Ashley Wick. Qualifying saw consistent Courtney post his best qualifying run of the year, a fifth. Courtney told the team he felt like he had a chance to give the leaders a run for their money. But an unfortunate weight penalty after qualifying forced him to start at the back. An aggressive drive to the front found Courtney gaining 15 positions in the opening laps of the race and in the battle for 12 th before the mid-point of the race. Much to his dismay, a mechanical issue would slow his drive, forcing him to nurse the Viper home to an 18th place finish. However the championship points position was not in jeopardy, and Courtney would hold his place in the top-10 in points.

The Slinger, Wis. native and former Panoz Series champion finished seventh in the SPEED World Challenge GT championship points standings, scoring 151 overall. He finished in the top-10 four times, the top-five once and the top-15 in each of the rest of the races, with the exception of Laguna Seca.

At the banquet, Courtney thanked his sponsors Kenda Tires, ProMPI, MPI Coin, Badger Tire and Wheel, Karavan Trailers, Foerster Signs, JG Wheels, and Eibach Springs for giving him the opportunity to race in the SPEED World Challenge series in 2007. He placed emphasis on the fact that he wouldn't be racing without their support.

"Despite some fighting with the series to make our cars competitive, and a few driver mishaps, I felt like we put together a good season and learned a lot this year," Courtney said. "I'm really looking forward to going racing next year, whether it be in SPEED World Challenge, American LeMans or another professional series. The high competition level in World Challenge GT and the great support from the crew at Woodhouse Performance helped me raise my game this season to a level where I am confident that I will be competing for wins and possibly a championship next season."

-credit: jc/dh

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Series PWC
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Erik Messley , Jeff Courtney , Eddie M