GRAND-AM KONI CHALLENGE COMPETITORS RETURN TO BRAVE ALABAMA HEAT THIS WEEKEND AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK No Lead is Safe, But Wilden, Miller Still Control Their Respective Classes DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 15, 2009) - Braving the Alabama heat...
GRAND-AM KONI CHALLENGE COMPETITORS RETURN TO BRAVE ALABAMA HEAT THIS WEEKEND AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
No Lead is Safe, But Wilden, Miller Still Control Their Respective Classes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 15, 2009) - Braving the Alabama heat in the middle of July is one thing. Doing so in a race car of any kind, for more than an hour, is a different story.
However, nearly 90 drivers will attempt to fight off temperatures expected to be in the high 80s throughout this weekend and their fellow competitors for a Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge victory at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. The series will run two races. Street Tuner (ST) competitors will run at 2:50 p.m. CT Saturday (SPEED, noon ET July 25), and Grand Sport (GS) drivers will race at 8:20 a.m. CT Sunday. Both races are scheduled for two-and-a-half hours.
With only four races remaining in the 2009 season, now is not the time for competitors challenging for the championship to run for strong finishes alone. On the GS front, four different drivers could exit the weekend with at least a share of the point lead, while in ST, first and second are separated by only 24 points.
Ford dominated last year's GS race at Barber, with 2008 GS champions Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell leading a 1-2-3 finish for the Mustangs. Second were Bret Seafuse and James Gue, and third were Dean Martin and Jack Roush Jr.
This year, Mustang drivers are 1-2-3 in the standings, with Rehagen Racing's Ken Wilden and Martin first and third respectively, and JBS Motorsports co-drivers Gue and Seafuse second. Wilden and Martin are coming off a 30-second victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where the pair led 90 of 94 laps in a caution-free race in their No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT.
Gue and Seafuse's No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang has the second longest streak of top-10 finishes in KONI Challenge competition. Unfortunately for them, the No. 59 has the longest streak; that car hasn't finished outside the top 10 in over a year. Gue and Seafuse's Barber result last year put them in contention for the championship lead, but Wilden's current 21-point lead (204-183) - not to mention his two victories and five top fives - may be too much to overcome this season.
Behind the Fords are two Turner Motorsport BMW M3 drivers and one TRG Porsche 997 pilot still in striking distance. Chris Gleason is fourth in the standings - tied with Martin with 174 points but classified fourth due Martin's two wins - while Matt Bell is sixth with 167 points. This weekend, both drivers, each with one victory this season, will have different co-drivers: Gleason and Justin Marks in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, and Bell and Boris Said in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3. Sandwiched between Gleason - the eldest driver entered - and Bell - who has a season-record five poles in 2009 - is Duncan Ende, who won at New Jersey Motorsports Park with Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 39 Adam's Polishes/DigiTrust Group Porsche 997. Andy Lally, a 2007 Barber winner and only former KONI Challenge race winner entered, and John Potter will drive the No. 41 Magnus Racing Porsche 997.
BGB Motorsports returns for the first time since Daytona International Speedway with two cars, including the No. 83 Porsche 997 for Rolex Series regulars Guy Cosmo and Scott Russell. Kinetic Motorsports, based two-and-a-half hours away in Braselton, Ga., will bring three BMW M3s.
APR Motorsport Heads Home on Hot Streak
The strongest team over the last three Street Tuner races has been APR Motorsport and its two Volkswagen GTIs. The team has won the last two races, at Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the last three pole positions, and their cars have led more laps than any other team.
APR is also based in Auburn, Ala., about two hours from Barber. The ST class did not compete at Barber last season, but Dion von Moltke started the GS race. After two consecutive victories with co-driver Mike Sweeney - sixth in points - in the No. 181 APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI, von Moltke is ready to continue the streak, while No. 171 APR/Gunther VW GTI co-drivers Ian Baas and Josh Hurley - tied for fourth in points - attempt to break through for their first triumph.
Still, APR is chasing Compass360 Racing, which has led the driver and team standings since the second round at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Driving the No. 74 034 Motorsports/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si, point leader Christian Miller - who co-drives with veteran Randy Pobst - holds a 24-point cushion (207-183) over Kristian Skavnes and Andrew Aquilante, co-drivers of the No. 111 Subaru of America Subaru Legacy.
Compass360 Racing's driver lineup has been solidified with the addition of GS regulars Bell and Glenn Bocchino, as well as rookie Bret Spaude.
The series features a pair of new teams this weekend. Irish Mike's Racing team owner/driver Michael Flynn will bring two Volkswagen Jettas for himself and drivers Mary Katharine, Paul Ronie and Todd Buras. Prey Racing, owned by driver Chris Prey, will field a Porsche Boxster for himself and James Hunt.