Automatic Racing's Thornton and Segal Third in KONI Challenge at Iowa Newton, IOWA -- Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal gave Automatic Racing their first KONI Challenge podium of the season in a flawless race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday. The No. 09...
Automatic Racing's Thornton and Segal Third in KONI Challenge at Iowa
Newton, IOWA -- Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal gave Automatic Racing their first KONI Challenge podium of the season in a flawless race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday. The No. 09 Fresh from Florida BMW M3 was ideal for the short Iowa circuit, and smooth pit stops partnered with expert driving gave the team third in the Grand Sport race.
Automatic Racing had an excellent showing at Iowa. Tim George, Jr. and Conrad Grunewald sailed to a sixth-place finish, the best showing for the No. 91 Gleukos-sponsored BMW this year.
David Russell and Tom Long fought their way from last on the starting grid to fifth before late-race contact resulted in a finish of 11th for the No. 99 Fresh from Florida BMW M3. Jon Miller and Owen Trinkler put on a show for the fans at Iowa, remaining in the top five until late in the race, when contact from another car relegated them to a 24th-place finish in the No. 90 BMW.
Russell set the quickest time in qualifying, but a broken piece on the exhaust caused the No. 99 BMW to be too low in post-qualifying technical inspection, and the fast time was disallowed. While Russell had to start from the back of the pack, Thornton earned a second-row starting position in the No. 09 BMW after qualifying fourth.
For the first 17 laps, Thornton and Miller in the No. 90 BMW traded for second place. Thornton handed the No. 99 car to Segal during a caution, and the 21-year-old found himself in a podium battle.
"Our Fresh from Florida BMW was awesome today, and I've really got to thank Joe Varde and the rest of the team for their hard work," said Thornton. "Iowa is really fun -- the track suited our car and the fans were great."
"The last 15 minutes were especially close," said Segal. "It was just the two Mustangs and me. They were fast where they needed to be, and wide where they needed to be, but we're glad to leave here with points and a podium."
Meanwhile, George in the No. 91 BMW was working his way up from a starting position of 13th, and Grunewald continued the chase. This season is George's debut in sports car racing, and Iowa was his first race with Grunewald. "I really liked working with Conrad, and have done a lot of computer car and data acquisition at Skip Barber with him," said George. "I earned my first win with his help at Watkins Glen. We had a great day and this gives us a lot of momentum heading into round four."
After Russell made up 20 positions to take over tenth, he pitted and handed the No. 99 BMW to Long, who then joined the action in the top five. Late-race contact from another car resulted in a punctured tire. After a quick tire change, Long went on to cross the finish line 11th.
"All four of our cars were competitive this weekend," remarked Russell. "I'm really happy with all of the positions that we made up, but we just didn't have anything for the Mustangs."
"Iowa was a lot of fun. We had a lot of challenges in the race, but the car performed really well and the team did an outstanding job," said Long. "The fans were really enthusiastic, too. We had a great turnout."
Miller and Trinkler had their best race of the season until lap 117, when another car made contact with the No. 90 BMW. Trinkler was running fourth at the time. A punctured radiator put the car out of the race. "Our car was a rocket, and I think we could have won the race," said Miller. "Our setup was perfect, and this weekend is the best I've ever felt in a race car. It's a shame we didn't have the finish to show it."
Automatic Racing will have a month to prepare for round four at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, May 17-20.