SCC: Birmingham: Series ST race report

Curran, Holtom Capture Grand-Am KONI Challenge Street Tuner Race at Barber Motorsports Park BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 21, 2007) -- After taking over the controls of the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt from co-driver and...

Curran, Holtom Capture Grand-Am KONI Challenge Street Tuner Race at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 21, 2007) -- After taking over the controls of the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt from co-driver and polesitter Eric Curran midway through Saturday's two-and-a-half hour Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) race at Barber Motorsports Park, co-driver Jamie Holtom put a thrashing on his fellow competitors to win the team's first series race of 2007 on the 2.3-mile, 16-turn permanent road course.

Curran started the car on the pole and led the first 47 laps before handing the car off to Holtom on Lap 48 during their standard pit stops. Holtom reentered the race in the top five, and returned the car to the point when No. 86 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4 driver Toby Grahovec pitted. Without any caution periods to bunch the field up, Holtom ran solid and pulled away to beat Trevor Hopwood -- co-driving with Adam Burrows -- and the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i by 12.762 seconds. Overall, Curran and Holtom led 84 of the 86 laps.

Curran brought the field to the green flag and led a four-car breakaway that included Burrows, Grahovec and the No. 53 Predator Auto Sport Auto Tech Chevrolet Cobalt of Tyler Givogue. The four opened up over a 10-second lead on the rest of the field through the early stages of the race.

But it was the pit stops that made the difference. Waiting until the last possible point, Curran brought the car in and quickly hopped out of the car to allow Holtom his opportunity. After the pit stops cycled through, Holtom held an 8.491-second advantage over Hopwood. From there, he continued to pad his lead until a race-high 14.742 seconds.

"We've been working hard at it all year and haven't had anything come together for us so to take the SCADAPack Cobalt to victory lane is obviously a big plus, especially after not having a victory since last year," Holtom said. "The Cobalt was great; it seemed to be easier on tires, which was key throughout the weekend."

Despite encountering flu-like symptoms Friday evening and Saturday morning, Holtom made the decision to climb into the car Saturday morning. Luckily, the decision paid off.

"I fell asleep last night and had a bit of a sore throat and woke up this morning with full-blown flu," Holtom said. "To be able to get such a great result while not feeling so well will definitely help me get better."

Burrows spent much of his first stint trying to stay within reach of Curran's No. 01 Cobalt, but eventually had to give way to a charging Grahovec.

"At the start of the race, my primary purpose was to get through the start of the race," Burrows said. "Eric (Curran) was doing a great job so I tried to get up behind him and stay close with him. By the end of my stint the tires started to go a little bit and I was getting a little loose. Rather than put up a big fight with Toby (Grahovec) I gave him some room and let him go by on the hairpin so we could focus on my pit stop and get Trevor in the car."

While Hopwood wasn't able to give Holtom a serious challenge for the lead, he was able to hold off a hard-charging Kleinubing throughout the race's second half.

"The Turner Motorsport guys gave us a smokin' pit stop today and I was able to get out in front of Pierre with enough of an advantage that I didn't blow it too bad," Hopwood said. "I saw Pierre coming behind me and I just kept my head down and kept pushing it."

The second-place finish also put Hopwood and Burrows back into the KONI ST Championship lead, leaping to a six-point advantage ahead of Billy Johnson and Karl Thompson (230-224).

"We want to keep the same strategy as all year -- finish as many laps as we can in the best position that we can," said Hopwood. "It's kind of frustrating; this is our second (runner-up) finish and hopefully we can get to the top spot on the podium soon."

Third- and fourth-place finishers Kleinubing and David Haskell engaged themselves in a strong battle for third over the final five laps, with Kleinubing edging Haskell coming out of the final turn on the white-flag lap. Kleinubing took over from Grahovec -- the only driver other than Curran and Holtom to lead the race -- in the No. 86 BMW Z4 just after Curran's stop, and he sat in third much of his stint before the final 10 laps.

Haskell, in the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding Mazda RX-8, took over third from Kleinubing after surging through the field and setting some of his car's fastest laps near the checkered flag. He seemed to pull away, but in the final turn on the white-flag lap, Kleinubing dug deeper and reclaimed the spot.

"On the last lap I knew I was a lot better coming down the hill," Kleinubing said. "In the second to last corner, I was on the inside, he closed the door and I was there. It was a bit too late for him and he had to give it up."

Grahovec's first stint allowed Kleinubing to bring the No. 86 home for the duo's second-consecutive ST third-place finish.

"I got into a good spot, started seventh and worked my way up to fourth and just spent some time trying to stay with the other Cobalt," Grahovec said. "About an hour into the race, I just put my head down and tried to work my way up before the pit stop to hand it off to Pierre. He did all of the hard work there at the end."

Haskell took over from co-driver Jose Armengol outside of the top 10 and continued to make a dramatic charge through the field. It marked the team's second ST top-five finish in the last three races, as the pair teamed together at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for a second-place finish.

Fifth-place Nick Wittmer and Glenn Bocchino were top-five competitors all afternoon in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura/Cobalt Friction/Alpinestars Acura TSX. Wittmer raced to third late before dropping off the pace, allowing Kleinubing and Haskell to pass. It was also the duo's second straight top-five performance.

Incoming championship series points co-leaders Thomson and Johnson started slow, with Thomson running as high as 11th after qualifying 13th. After an early pit stop, Thomson returned to the track in 16th one lap off the lead, but pedaled through the field to finish seventh in the No. 76 Kensai Racing Brakes Acura TSX and drop behind Burrows and Hopwood in the championship.

The Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series ST division resumes Aug. 19 at the temporary 1.521-mile, 10-turn street course in Trois-Riveres, Quebec, Canada. The GS two-and-a-half hour race at Barber is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers David Haskell , Eric Curran , Toby Grahovec , Glenn Bocchino , Jose Armengol , Tyler Givogue , Trevor Hopwood , Adam Burrows , Nick Wittmer
Teams Turner Motorsport , SpeedSource