SCC: Daytona: Race report

SCC: Daytona: Race report
Jan 26, 2008, 5:26 AM

Stanton, Traver Claim Fresh From Florida 200 For Hometown Team at Daytona International Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2008) -- Making the most of his opportunities, Craig Stanton moved from fourth to first late in Friday's Fresh ...

Stanton, Traver Claim Fresh From Florida 200 For Hometown Team at Daytona International Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 25, 2008) -- Making the most of his opportunities, Craig Stanton moved from fourth to first late in Friday's Fresh >From Florida 200, the season-opener for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series. Stanton, with co-driver Tim Traver, handed the BGB Motorsports team and the No. 83 Performance Drink/Toro Viejo Motorsports Porsche 997 a home track victory in the Grand Sport (GS) division.

Stanton -- who was running fourth on the race's final restart with just under 30 minutes to go in the three-hour race -- watched as race leaders Doug Goad and Spencer Pumpelly suffered problems within a three-lap period, then whistled past Tom Milner for his seventh career KONI Challenge overall win. The victory was Traver's second in KONI Challenge competition.

Overall, Stanton led the final nine laps of the 76-lap affair. While running third on Lap 68, Stanton watched as Pumpelly took the point from Milner in the first of 14 turns on the 3.56-mile track. Moments later, however, Pumpelly slowed, smoke bellowing out of his No. 39 TRG The DigiTrust Group/Adam's Polishes Porsche 997.

Stanton made what would become the winning pass moments after that, driving past Milner on the backstretch. Milner later pulled his car off the track, handing second place to Scott Maxwell. But Stanton was too far ahead for Maxwell to mount a serious challenge, and with the final of five cautions waving five minutes from the scheduled checkered flag, Maxwell had to settle for the race's runner-up position for the second straight season.

Stanton, who will compete in the GT class in Saturday's Rolex 24 At Daytona, found the three-hour enduro to be a nice tune-up and momentum booster for the 24-hour race.

"There was a lot of stuff going on late in the race," Stanton said. "I didn't see but about a third of it, but I heard a lot of chatter on my radio. Basically, I put my head down and worked really hard.

"This has been an accumulation of about a four-month project," Stanton continued. "At the end of last year, we were right on the podium. We gained some momentum, so we felt a win was overdue. We worked real hard here at a number of driving events. Being local, we worked hard to get some data and put our best foot forward."

Traver won 2006 season finale at Virginia International Raceway, also with BGB, which is located in nearby Ormond Beach, Fla. He put Stanton in prime position for the victory, stopping within the first hour-and-a-half for fuel, tires and a driver change. The team also pitted a second time just after the two-hour mark.

"The team was awesome today," Traver said. "What can I say about Craig Stanton as a co-driver? It was amazing. Flawless pit stops, flawless strategy. It was just perfect."

Maxwell, driving the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT, was the third of a three-man rotation which saw Jeff Courtney start the car. Maxwell was sixth late in the race but, with impressive moves inside and out, threaded through the field. He and Courtney shared the car with Joe Foster, who also ran among the top five during his stint.

"It was pretty hectic the last few laps. I was making a lot of mistakes out there," Maxwell said. "I went off once. But the Hyper Sport Mustang was so good; we just ran out of time running down the Porsche. I had a lot of fun. These KONI Challenge races are always a blast, and I love Daytona. I've won here, and almost won again last year, but I guess we're second best again. It's a good start to the year, something to build on. We're after a championship, and you have to put the points on the board."

Foster was also part of the runner-up team in the 2007 Fresh From Florida 200. Foster used that strong start to remain in championship contention throughout 2008.

"It was a great race," Foster said. "This first race of the year is a dual-class race and it's three hours long, so we had an opportunity to use some strategy. Jeff Courtney did a great opening stint, I did an hour, 20 minutes in the middle and Scott batted cleanup and did a great job. We're all happy. I'm happy for Patrick (Dempsey) and Rick (Skelton), the team owners, and for Hyper Sport and for Ford. We had a great time."

Terry Borcheller pitted late but managed to weave through the field and gave himself and co-driver Scott Tucker third in the No. 3 Blackforest Motorsports US Army/Turner Law Firm Ford Mustang GT. He took third in the final handful of laps, passing No. 09 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3 co-champion Jeff Segal after being forced wide on a pass for second by Maxwell just a few laps earlier.

"It was just good, clean racing," Borcheller said. "I really had a lot of fun. I know Scott (Maxwell) well, I've run with him a lot. I trust him. And Jeff Segal was in the BMW and I know him pretty well and I trust him. I had my hands full with him in the infield. But our Mustang had a little power on the top over him. It was a good race. Great fun, great series."

Segal and fellow driving titlist Jep Thornton garnered fourth, one spot ahead of teammates Jon Miller and David Russell. Miller led the opening and a race-high 28 laps after passing polesitter Tommy Constantine in Turn 1, and turned the No. 99 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store BMW M3.

Other Mustangs dominated the middle stages of the race, as Rehagen Racing teammates Hugh Plumb and Dean Martin ran 1-2 for several laps in the race's closest battle for the lead all afternoon. However, pit stops during a late-race yellow dropped the pair from winning competition.

Nick Wittmer gave i-MOTO Racing a season-opening Street Tuner (ST) victory and second win in four races by taking the No. 31 Cobalt Friction Acura TSX to the checkered flag. The win also marked the first KONI Challenge win of any kind for co-driver and team owner Glenn Bocchino, whose team swept the top two positions.

The team dominated the race, as Wittmer's brother Kuno led the opening stages of the event after the team swept the front row. But a different pit strategy put the team one lap ahead of the remaining ST field, one which kept them from being challenged at the end.

"I was fourth when I got in. Glenn Bocchino held up the car perfectly throughout his stint, an hour and a half," Nick Wittmer said. "We did not want to come in before an hour and a half. Because of that, we did one pit stop. Everybody else did two, I believe, and we were one lap ahead because of that one pit stop. From there we just maintained and brought it home. The Cobalt Friction Brakes were amazing. They held up 110 percent all the way and that's what brought us home. Big brother won the pole, but I took down the race."

Bocchino was thrilled with the initial victory, which came in his 22nd start after competing fulltime for only the first time last season.

"It was a great race," Bocchino said. "The car was fantastic, the crew was fantastic, everything was fantastic. Everything worked perfectly. You couldn't ask for a better race. We got a lot of luck on our pit strategy, and that's what put us ahead of the 32 car."

Kuno Wittmer and Peter Cunningham in the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cobalt Friction Acura TSX took second, while defending race winner Karl Thomson watched as co-driver Travis Walker finished out the race in third. Both drivers ran among the top five during their stints in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing 2/K&N Acura TSX.

"We did it the hard way," Cunningham said. "We had a good strategy, not a great strategy, because we went a lap down. We had a chance to stay on the lead lap with our other car, but it didn't work out that way, because we didn't get enough of a gap. We knew at that point we were racing with the one-lap down crowd, and the best we could do was second. We didn't think that would happen, but we kept the pressure on and went, went, went. I had some real great racing all the way to the end. I'm proud of this whole team."

The news was not all positive for the i-MOTO team. Each car was docked 10 team points and all four drivers lost five points after a post-race technical inspection revealed an illegal fuel cell in both team cars.

David Thilenius and Todd Lamb gave the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Southern Auto Auction Acura RSX-S team a solid fourth-place finish and third Acura machine in the top five. Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran rounded out the top five in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt.

-credit: garra

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