SCC: Laguna Seca: Round four preview

Points Leader Nastasi Trying to Stay Perfect in Grand-Am KONI Challenge This Weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 16, 2007) -- No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT car owner/driver Tom Nastasi will try to...

Points Leader Nastasi Trying to Stay Perfect in Grand-Am KONI Challenge This Weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 16, 2007) -- No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT car owner/driver Tom Nastasi will try to stay perfect in this weekend's U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the KONI Challenge Series, and in the process set new marks in the record books.

The Stamford, Conn.-based Nastasi, whose No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Mustang GT is among 43 Grand Sport (GS) entries this weekend, is three-for-three in competition this season, tying him for second all-time with four other drivers for consecutive overall race victories. Nastasi--entered this weekend with co-driver and 2005 GS champion David Empringham--won the season opening Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, as well as the succeeding Miami GS 400k at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Round 3 at Iowa Speedway.

However, Nastasi--whose three victories are already half of the single-season record of six owned by five different drivers--owns only a five-point cushion over No. 55 Supercuts/Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT driver Joe Foster (90-85), who has mustered a pair of second-place finishes and a 10th-place result. Nastasi's points lead was reduced after winning at Homestead, owing to a technical infraction which led to the docking of 15 points for him, co-driver Ian James and the Blackforest Motorsports team.

Although he's run the table this season, Nastasi hopes for better fortunes at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this season following a 27th-place result last year. Empringham scored fourth last year at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn track, for one of two top-five results for Blackforest Motorsports in 2006. Blackforest Motorsports has entered a total of three cars, with 2003 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller and co-driver Forest Barber, who finished fifth last season together, in the No. 6 Feeds The Need Racing Ford Mustang GT, and Valerie Limoges and Travis Walker in the No. 4 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT.

Like Nastasi, Foster didn't fare well in last year's race at Laguna Seca, placing 31st overall. Foster co-drove to a career-best second in the 2007 season-opener at Daytona with Scott Maxwell and equaled that performance in the last race at Iowa after starting 11th. Maxwell did not race at Laguna Seca last year, but does have five career KONI Challenge class victories to his credit. Hyper Sport has also entered the No. 54 Supercuts Ford Mustang GT, with Rick Skelton and Romeo Kapudija expected to be behind the wheel.

Teammates Bret Seafuse and James Gue, who co-drive the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT, jumped into a third-place tie in the point standings following their second straight fourth-place run at Iowa. Seafuse scored a 24th-place finish at Laguna Seca last year, while Gue did not compete.

Running in a tie for fifth in points are Florida teammates Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal, who share driving responsibilities in the No. 09 Fresh From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3. Thornton and Segal picked up a third-place finish at Iowa, and added to that a fifth-place result at Daytona. Segal finished third at Laguna Seca last year while Thornton was relegated to 22nd.

Bill Auberlen--third overall in KONI Challenge overall race victories--returns to the cockpit of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 in a double duty weekend at the track. Auberlen is scheduled to compete in the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley in the Rolex Series race for the Daytona Prototypes as well, but will get a good look at the track in the preceding GS race. Though he didn't compete at Iowa, Auberlen owns a share of 10th in the point standings, having finished second and third in his two 2007 starts.

Auberlen's No. 96 teammate, Chris Gleason, holds sole possession of seventh in the standings after finishing 28th at Iowa. The pair led the point standings prior to the Iowa race after the infraction with Nastasi's team at Homestead.

Holding a share of eighth in the driver standings are Don Salama and Will Turner in the other Turner Motorsport car. The pair has co-driven the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW3 to a pair of top-10 finishes, with a season-best eighth at Iowa.

The KONI Challenge Street Tuner (ST) class is also scheduled to compete this weekend in a separate event on Saturday, as opposed to the combined GS/ST race at Laguna Seca last year. Twenty-eight cars are entered, with Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood leading the standings after three top-10 finishes in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i to start the season. The co-drivers are tied with 86 points.

Three points in arrears, with 83 markers, are Billy Johnson and Karl Thomson, who took the ST class victory at Daytona. The pair lost its points lead after finishing 11th at Iowa, driving the No. 76 Kensai Racing Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX. Johnson and Thomson shared fourth in class last season at Laguna Seca driving the car.

Nick Wittmer holds sole possession of fifth after finishing third at Daytona and second at Iowa. He'll compete in the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cobalt Friction/Alpine Stars Acura TSX, sharing driving responsibilities with Californian Christian Miller.

With three finishes in the top nine this year and one fifth-place result, teammates Dan Allen and Jose Armengol of the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding/Freedom Harley-Davidson Mazda RX-8 resume action, enter the race sixth in the standings.

Holding sole possessions of eighth, ninth and 10th are Glenn Bocchino, Kuno Wittmer and Bob Endicott. Bocchino, driving the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing machine with Tracy, Calif. native Roger Foo, has a top finish of fifth to his 2007 credit. Wittmer drove to second and third with the aforementioned Nick Wittmer, though he was not on Wednesday's entry list. Endicott was second at Daytona and was also not pre-entered for the event.

Practice for the KONI Challenge Series gets underway at 8 a.m. Friday for the ST series, while the GS takes to the track at 9:50 a.m. Qualifying for the ST series is scheduled for 5:10 p.m., and the GS series qualifies at 10:40 a.m. Saturday. The 112-lap, two-and-a-half hour ST race kicks off at 12:20 p.m. Saturday, and the 112-lap, two-and-a-half hour GS race is slated for a 9:05 a.m. start Sunday.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Scott Maxwell , Ian James , Terry Borcheller , David Empringham , James Gue , Tom Nastasi , Roger Foo , Chris Gleason , Don Salama , Bret Seafuse , Kuno Wittmer , Jep Thornton , Rick Skelton , Valérie Limoges , Bob Endicott , Jeff Segal , Glenn Bocchino , Jose Armengol , Billy Johnson , Joe Foster , Travis Walker , Trevor Hopwood , Adam Burrows , Dan Allen , Nick Wittmer , Chris Miller
Teams Turner Motorsport , Automatic Racing , SpeedSource