SCC: Iowa: GT race notes

Nastasi, James and No. 5 Blackforest Mustang GT Stay Perfect with Win at Speedway NEWTON, Iowa (April 21, 2007) -- Co-drivers Tom Nastasi and Ian James and the Blackforest Motorsports team maintained their perfect record in the first-ever...

Nastasi, James and No. 5 Blackforest Mustang GT Stay Perfect with Win at Speedway

NEWTON, Iowa (April 21, 2007) -- Co-drivers Tom Nastasi and Ian James and the Blackforest Motorsports team maintained their perfect record in the first-ever Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series visit to Iowa Speedway with another victory in Saturday's Grand Sport (GS) race.

Co-driving the No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Mustang with Nastasi, James took the lead from Charles Espenlaub on the oval portion of the 1.3-mile road course with 13 laps remaining and held off late challenges from both Espenlaub and Jeff Segal to win by 2.551 seconds over Espenlaub in the No. 55 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. It was James' second consecutive KONI Challenge victory and the third straight for Nastasi, the Blackforest team and the Ford Mustang.

"Obviously, when we first came here in the first session, we didn't think it would potentially be a Mustang track," said James, who led twice for 21 laps. "But a lot of times, the actual time sheet is misleading. Although we may not be the fastest car at the start, it's a very good race car. It's very good in traffic. You don't have to be quite as precise in some of the other cars like the BMWs and the Porsches. They can get really fast laps, but as soon as they have a little hiccup or the tires start to go away, they can't really use that great potential so much. We just worked on our setup. That was our strategy.

"We decided to go and practice on old tires, and we did the whole race on one set of tires. The car was good at the end. We had a few minor problems, but no more than anybody else. The battle at the end with Jeff and Charles was fun. It was a lot of fun. These guys were clean and we managed to get by. I'm just really happy for Tom and his three-in-a-row, and two-in-a-row for me."

By virtue of his third victory in as many races in 2007--Nastasi also won with James last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway and with David Empringham in January's season-opener at Daytona--Nastasi retook the GS points lead with a total of 90 points. He is five points ahead of Joe Foster, with whom Espenlaub co-drove to the second-place result today.

"It hasn't been easy," Nastasi said. "Last week, having to start 30th and work my way up to the front and then today spinning on the second lap, and I had to do it all over again. I told everybody, 'I'm giving up qualifying. I'm just starting dead last.' That seems to be the only way I can do it. I drove the car hard, and I really put my head down and drove the wheels off it. We did not change tires, and the car just kept getting better and better and better. We won our first race together without changing tires. We learned fast this weekend and we figured, 'Let's keep the same tires on it, and see what happens.' It worked. Thumbs up to Hoosier Tires for lasting as long as they did, and to be able to go to the front. My partner here did the rest. He did the hard part. I just saved myself."

Foster started 11th in the No. 55 machine and drove the first stint in the race before turning the car over to Espenlaub, who led 38 laps before James' late pass. It was Foster's second runner-up result in three races, as he also finished second in the Fresh From Florida 200 season opener at Daytona co-driving with Scott Maxwell.

"It was obviously a great run for Hyper Sport and the Supercuts No. 55," Foster said. "To be honest, we struggled at the beginning of the weekend, setup-wise, and it was a bit of a comeback for us to get the car fast for the race. It took us a couple days to figure out in this case that the older the tires got, the better the car was for us. Also, the (No.) 5 car figured that out as well. It was a great race. Certainly, up front, it was clean. It was hard racing with these guys and I enjoyed watching it."

"It makes me realize why I do this, because it was a lot of fun," said Espenlaub of his late-race battles. "I've got to thank Joe Foster for bringing me in to do this. Joe left me with a great car, and we ran as hard as we could. We were a little bit conservative the setup. It was an interesting last couple of laps. These guys are professionals, and we had a good battle out there. I really respect them for that. You don't want to see a BMW going into a hard braking zone on the last lap, and I made it a little wide for him."

Automatic Racing co-drivers Segal and Jep Thornton completed the podium in the No. 09 Fresh From Florida BMW M3. It was the first podium result for the Segal and the Automatic team since a second-place performance in the 2006 season finale at Virginia International Raceway and was Thornton's best result since a third-place outing at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2004.

"It's been awhile for Automatic Racing," Thornton said. "We're just really happy to be on the podium. The Fresh From Florida/GlycoMax M3 was awesome. It was really great. It was a good track for us. This track was all about saving tires, and I'll tell you, after they go away, this place is diabolical. It's a beautiful track, and a beautiful facility. We haven't spent much time in Iowa, but we've learned to love it. We're really happy about P3. I do want to thank Jeff, he did a killer stint. I also want to say a special thanks to Joe Varde, our team manager. He just built a great car, sorted it out for this weekend and I was very, very pleased. I just want a big shout out for him."

"It's pretty nice," Segal added. "We had a pretty conservative race. We just wanted to get away from here with some points. The cars were quick, and we had probably the car to win the race today, but we took it nice and easy and let those guys go. When things were getting rough, we just played it safe and left here with some points in the pocket. We'll be better next time."

Bret Seafuse and James Gue took their second consecutive fourth-place result in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT and moved to within 14 points of Nastasi's lead in the GS driver standings. Dave Riddle and Kris Wilson rounded out the top five in the No. 25 Fiorano/C-MAX Racing Porsche 997 for their second straight top-seven result.

Road racing star Boris Said also led six laps in the No. 80 Said Head Performance/Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3 he shared with Bryan Ortiz before fading to 14th at the finish. Hugh Plumb led a race-high 93 laps in the No. 20 Horsepower Ranch Porsche 997 he shared with Ross Thompson, but Thompson was later involved in an incident with Romeo Kapudija in the No. 54 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT, relegating the No. 20 machine to 15th in the final standings and Kapudija and co-driver Patrick Dempsey to 22nd.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Boris Said , Scott Maxwell , Ian James , James Gue , Tom Nastasi , Charles Espenlaub , Hugh Plumb , Bret Seafuse , Jep Thornton , Romeo Kapudija , Jeff Segal , Joe Varde , Dave Riddle , Joe Foster , Kris Wilson , Patrick Dempsey , Ross Thompson , Bryan Ortiz
Teams Kinetic Motorsports , Automatic Racing