Johnson, Ludwig "Big Dogs" in KONI Challenge Grand Sport Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway; Winning pair makes no bones about it as they share in Porsche's fourth KONI victory at track HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 15, 2009) - Just when one thought it...
Johnson, Ludwig "Big Dogs" in KONI Challenge Grand Sport Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway; Winning pair makes no bones about it as they share in Porsche's fourth KONI victory at track
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 15, 2009) - Just when one thought it couldn't get any closer than Saturday's Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner (ST) race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Billy Johnson and Andy Lally nearly did so in Sunday's Grand Sport (GS) race, the second of two KONI Challenge races in the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend.
Johnson and co-driver Peter Ludwig's No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997 edged Lally and John Potter's No. 41 TRG Porsche 997 by only 0.133 seconds - compared to Saturday's 0.129-second victory by Randy Pobst and Christian Miller - to give Porsche a 1-2 sweep and Johnson's first career GS victory. For Ludwig and Motorsport Technology Group, it was both driver and team's second career victories.
The San Clemente, Calif., native Johnson, who split his time in 2008 running for MTG and Rehagen Racing, put together a nine-second advantage after Lally pitted on Lap 79, with just under 30 minutes remaining in the 92-lap, two-and-a-half hour race. Without any caution periods thereafter, it was up to Lally and his fresher Hoosier tires to gain on Johnson, who had pitted with 62 minutes left in the race.
Lally cut into Johnson's lead over the following 15 laps, but it was wasn't until the final four laps that Lally really started making it close. With four laps remaining, the gap was 4.1 seconds. On the next lap, Lally was 3.05 seconds behind, and only 1.9 seconds behind with two laps to go. At the white flag, the advantage was down to 1.1 seconds, and by then, it was up to Lally to drive it the deepest he had all weekend.
He nearly accomplished the feat. Around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn track, Lally shaved off tenths of a second, and by the backstretch was only three car lengths in arrears. As the duo inched around the Turns 10 and 11 banking, Lally drafted Johnson nose-to-tail before making a final move.
Lally pulled out from the draft and tried to drive alongside Johnson, but came up 0.133 seconds short, making the finish the third closest in KONI Challenge history. Saturday's race, which was only four thousandths fastest than Sunday's, was 0.129 seconds. Combined, the two races offered margins of victories of 0.262 seconds.
For Johnson, Ludwig and the entire Motorsport Technology Group, the victory was an added benefit. The team was sponsored by Eukanuba and Morris Animal Foundation, which were two of the weekend's biggest sponsors. Additionally, MTG's team owner, Steve Marcus, was a major force in attracting the race weekend's Grand Marshal, Deuce, a K-9 from the Glades County (Fla.) Sheriff's Department. Marcus is a major promoter of canine health and research.
Overall, Johnson - the new KONI Challenge GS point leader by three points (63-60) over podium runner Ken Wilden - led a race-high 38 laps, including the final 19, while Ludwig led 10 laps. Ludwig qualified the No. 18 Porsche 997 second on the grid, and took control when polesitter Matt Bell's No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 began smoking on the fourth lap.
Lally totaled 12 laps out front, pitting on Lap 79. He took control from Potter during the race's first pit top, and was aiming to give TRG its first KONI Challenge victory since last August's race at Iowa Speedway. Lally was one of several Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 regulars entered during the weekend.
Another of those regulars, Ozz Negri, rounded out the podium with Wilden in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT. It was the team's third straight podium finish and second straight third-place result, after Wilden and team principal Dean Martin finished third in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway. Negri, who led 19 laps, was also the race's top finishing driver from South Florida.
Finishing fourth were James Gue and Bret Seafuse, drivers of the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT. Despite an engine change following Friday's qualifications, the team improved a race-high 19 positions from a 23rd-place starting position. Gue led 11 laps, taking the point when Johnson pitted for the final time.
Rounding out the top five were Glenn Bocchino and Todd Lamb in the No. 32 Kinetic Motorsports Cybernation/Cobalt Friction BMW M3. Lamb spent a majority of his stint in the top five.
As superior a day as it was for Lally and Negri, it was completely opposite for another Rolex Series regular, Darren Law. During Sunday's warm-up, Law - driving the No. 8 Maxwell Paper Racing Porsche 997 - ran into the stalled No. 80 Kinetic Motorsport BMW M3. Both cars sustained structural damage, and neither car started the race.
Only one caution, for the stalled No. 91 Automatic Racing Sparco/Imported Car Store BMW M3, for two laps slowed the average speed to 89.762 mph.
The next event for the KONI Sports Car Challenge is May 2 at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
NEWS & NOTES
- The KONI Sports Car Challenge victory was the fifth career by Billy Johnson but the Californian's first in Grand Sport competition. The victory was the second for Peter Ludwig, who last won a GS race in 2007 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
- The victory was Motorsport Technology Group's first victory since Ludwig and Spencer Pumpelly took the GS win in 2007 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
- This is the first victory of the season for a Porsche 997 and first KONI GS victory for the car since BGB Motorsports put its No. 83 Porsche 997 into victory lane at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- This is the fourth victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Porsche, giving the manufacturer the overall lead in class victories in KONI Challenge. On Saturday, Honda tied Porsche with a third victory. The last
time a Porsche won at the track in KONI Challenge action was in 2004. - The victory was Porsche's series-leading 54th victory for the manufacturer.
- TRG earned a runner-up finish by Andy Lally and John Potter, who drove the No. 41 Porsche 997. It was Potter's best career finish.
- The third-place finish by Ozz Negri and Ken Wilden was the second straight third-place finish for the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, and the highest finishing Mustang in the race. The race was the first KONI Challenge race for Negri, and Wilden's sixth podium in seven races driving for the team.
- The fourth-place finish by Bret Seafuse and James Gue in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT was the duo and car's second straight top-five finish. At Daytona, the pair finished fifth.
- The fifth-place finish by Glenn Bocchino and Todd Lamb were the duo's best career finishes in GS competition in only their second race together. They drove the No. 32 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3.
- Finishing sixth were Steve Jenkins and Mark Boden in the No. 28 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. It matched the pair's best finish wince placing third at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2007.
- Scott Panzer and Todd Snyder earned a season-best finish of seventh in the No. 17 CMA Motorsports Ford Mustang GT, while Roberto Bengoa and Bryan Ortiz earned a season best of eighth in the No. 57 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT. Another Rehagen Racing car, the No. 52 Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT, finished 10th with co-drivers Ray Mason and Phil Lasco. That gave the team three cars in the top 10.
- Barry Ellis and Fraser Wellon finished eighth, their first top-10 finish since 2007 at Iowa Speedway. Ellis and the No. 88 Ranger Sports Racing Porsche 997 are based in Ft. Lauderdale.
- Only four of the 27 starters finished on the lead lap.
- The race's single caution and two caution laps were both race records in KONI Challenge competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- South Florida drivers and teams had mixed results. In addition to Negri and Ellis, another South Florida driver was Miami's Ricky Diaz, who finished 13th in the second Ranger Sports Racing machine, the No. 89 Porsche 997, with Frank Rossi.
POST-RACE QUOTES (PODIUM FINISHING DRIVERS)
Peter Ludwig (No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997; GS race co-winner): "It was a great reunion, and I've got to thank Stephen Marcus and Motorsports Technology Group. They've put a great package together, just like they did two years ago (when they won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca). It was dejà vu, and we had a great time. I had to do my job, qualify the car good, keep it clean and in the front, and turn it over to Billy. Chasing Ozz (Negri) down during my shift was quite an honor, it was a great time."
Billy Johnson (No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997; GS race co-winner): "I have a great crew, everyone at the team built a great car and it was handling great. Every laps they were telling me exactly what Andy was doing. I was trying to match that. As the laps went down, they were telling me how many laps were remaining and how much he was catching me by. I was trying to keep it at the minimum margin, and it turned out that way. I can't thank Motorsports Technology Group enough and all of their sponsors, Eukanuba, Morris Animal Foundation, Pendragon. Peter did an excellent job, and I can't ask more from a co-driver. I also have to thank all the fans for coming out and supporting the 'dog car.' Yesterday's race was awesome, and I've got to congratulate my old team, Compass360, and I'm proud of them and Motorsports Technology Group."
John Potter (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997; GS race runner-up): "It was close. We've got a great crew, and Andy is an amazing competitor. The first thing he said when he got out of the car was an apology to the crew for not bringing it home first. I said, 'What are you talking about?' I think it's great."
Andy Lally (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997; GS race runner-up): "I knew we had a chance. TRG builds a real good car. TRG puts one of the best cars out there right now in motorsports. I was fortunate to be behind the wheel. Billy had some bad luck getting caught behind some lapped cars, a couple of them were my friends. It was a good deal. It was a lot of fun. It ran real strong through my run. John (Potter) did a great job this entire weekend, and the whole crew hustled and had great pit stops. We're going to try to keep it up the entire season and maybe run for the championship."
Ozz Negri (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT; GS third place): "I'm glad I tried it, and I'm very happy to have been part of the Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang team. It did really well, and I'm very glad to be a part of the podium, in front of many of my friends and family."
Ken Wilden (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT; GS third place): "The Rehagen Ford Mustang was solid all day. We elected not to take on tires on that first step, and I was worried because we were falling back. But it was the right call, and I would like to thank Rehagen for giving me this opportunity. Also, I would like to thank Ozz, because he came here for the first time in this car and finished third."