SCC: Mid-Ohio: Round seven preview

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Teams Back In The U.S.A. For Round 7 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2007) -- Less than a week after their first race of the season in Canada, Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS)...

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Teams Back In The U.S.A. For Round 7 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2007) -- Less than a week after their first race of the season in Canada, Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) competitors are back in the U.S. for round seven of the 12-race schedule at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The KONI Challenge Series shares the weekend's card with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, with the GS race Saturday, June 23 and the ST race Sunday, June 24.

Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell, co-drivers of the No. 55 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang GT, accomplished one of their most important goals of the season in last weekend's race at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, where they won their first race together. The victory marked not only Foster's first career series triumph, but it helped extend his championship points lead after a string of consistent finishes this year. Two-time series champion Maxwell, in turn, garnered his sixth career overall victory and returns this weekend, currently seventh in points.

Foster now leads the championship standings by 18 (171-153) over another pair of drivers still looking for its first 2007 triumph. Co-drivers Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton scored their second podium finish of 2007 in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Fresh From Florida/Imported Car Store/Engine Studios BMW M3 to move into a second-place tie in points, and the pair will look for another strong performance this weekend. Segal drove the pole-winning car last season at Mid-Ohio.

Three other Automatic Racing BMW M3s are also entered -- the No. 90 (Jon Miller and Owen Trinkler), No. 91 (Tim George Jr. and Conrad Grunewald) and No. 99 (Tom Long and David Russell). The No. 54 Hyper Sport Supercuts Ford Mustang team, in turn, will be piloted by Rick Skelton and Charles Espenlaub.

After a strong start to the season, No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT co-driver Tom Nastasi has dropped to fourth in the point standings. With co-pilot Ian James set to compete with him this weekend, Nastasi is hoping to return to victory lane after winning the first three races of the season. He landed a fourth at Mosport.

James Gue and Bret Seafuse in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg ShurSave Mustang Cobra GT have quietly driven to a sixth-place tie in points and are looking for their first 2007 triumph as well. The pair has four top 10s in six GS starts this season.

While Maxwell holds a comfortable cushion for seventh in points, the next four drivers are separated by only four points, and two of those know what it takes to win at the 2.258-mile, 10-turn track. With one more start than his co-driver, Chris Gleason is entered in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 with Bill Auberlen. The pair won last year's two-and-a-half hour Mid-Ohio race after starting 10th on the grid, and also set the race's fast lap.

Gleason's 108 points (ninth in points) leads Auberlen's 105 (11th in the standings), as Auberlen did not compete in round three at Iowa Speedway. However, solid finishes by the duo -- including their only victory of 2007 last month at Lime Rock Park and two other podium results -- could give them momentum heading into the race.

One point ahead of Gleason and eighth in points is Craig Stanton, the 2004 GS champion who finished second last year at Mid-Ohio. Stanton returns to the BGB Motorsports stable this weekend to drive the No. 38 Performance Drink Porsche 997. Stanton, who has also competed in several Grand-Am Rolex Series GT races this season, notched a season-best fifth at Mosport, and will return to Mid-Ohio with Hugh Plumb.

Quietly sitting in 10th after his first top five at Mosport is Dean Martin, co-driver of the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Piloti Ford Mustang GT. Martin and Ken Wilden brought the Mustang home in second last weekend, and Martin will welcome fellow Michigan driver and team owner Larry Rehagen to try and duplicate that effort again at Mid-Ohio. Their team car -- the No. 154 Jim Click Racing/Columbus Truck & Equipment -- will be co-piloted by one of four Ohio natives entered in the GS race, Ray Mason of Columbus. Jamie Slone is also entered to drive the car this weekend.

Among other drivers calling Mid-Ohio their home track -- or at least considering Ohio their home -- is Kasey Kuhlman of Cincinnati, piloting the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports MAH Property Management/Auriemma Consulting Group Porsche 997. Kuhlman's co-driver Spencer Pumpelly took the Porsche to victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and drove the car to second at Lime Rock.

BJ Zacharias of Cincinnati is in the No. 16 Champion Motorsports/Modular Depot Ford Mustang GT with Trinkler, who is also entered in the No. 90 Automatic Racing BMW, while Zach Arnold of Tiffin is sharing the No. 43 ASC Motorsports Arnold Machine Inc. Porsche 996 with Tanner Baker.

ST Class:

The ST points battle could not be any closer between two teams -- one who has yet to win, and the team that has won the most this season. No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i co-drivers Trevor Hopwood and Adam Burrows own a scant one-point championship lead (164-163) and have been as close as possible to victory without actually winning. Hopwood led the Mosport race as late as the final lap before being passed for the lead and the victory, marking the second runner-up finish by the pair this season.

Billy Johnson and Karl Thomson, driving the No. 76 Kensai Racing Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX, shaved the point advantage to one with their series-leading third victory of the season at Mosport. Johnson and Thomson, who also won the season-opening Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway and the fourth round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, have struggled with consistency, but know another victory will vault them back to the top of the charts. Johnson and Thomson have also led the point standings on two separate occasions earlier this year.

With consistent top-10 finishes, Jose Armengol and Dan Allen hold tight to fifth in points after claiming four top 10s in six starts. While their best finish of 2007 was a fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the co-drivers of the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding/Freedom Harley-Davidson Mazda RX-8 have shown that car is definitely a contender in a season dominated thus far by BMWs and Acuras.

Guy Cosmo holds sole possession of seventh, and he is again entered in the No. 127 Fountain Motorsports BMW 330i with David Tuaty. The pair ran among the top three at Mosport before claiming sixth. It was the fourth-straight top-six finish for Cosmo, who won with Tuaty at Iowa Speedway and placed second behind Johnson and Thomson at Laguna Seca. Tuaty, meanwhile, is 10th in the standings, co-driving with Cosmo in five of the six races.

Magnus Karlsson and Justin Hall, tied for eighth in the standings, will co-drive one of two BSI Racing MOMO/Joe Gibbs Mazda MX-5s. Like Armengol and Allen, Karlsson and Hall are yet to win a race this season, but the duo's three top 10s in six starts -- including a 10th at Mosport -- should give them some momentum heading into Mid-Ohio.

Like GS, the ST class has four drivers from Ohio set to do battle. John Schmitt of Sunbury is entered in the No. 22 HART Red Line Oil/Honda of America Honda Accord with Shane Lewis, who will also drive a Daytona Prototype car this weekend. Together, the pair won the second round of the season at Homestead, and drove from the back of last weekend's grid at Mosport to third in their "parts car" -- the No. 92 Honda Accord -- after their primary car suffered transmission problems following qualifying. Another Rolex Series participant this weekend, Will Nonnamaker of North Canton, teams with car owner Joe Sahlen in the No. 03 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Dodge SRT4.

Chad Gilsinger of Marysville will pilot the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S with Bob Beede, and Dave Roush is scheduled to drive the No. 92 HART Red Line Oil/Honda of America Honda Accord that Schmitt and Lewis drove last weekend. SPEED TV commentator Brian Till will co-pilot the Accord.

Also not to be overlooked is the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt driven by Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran. The car has won two of the last three ST poles, and together Holtom and Curran won the Mid-Ohio ST race last season.

Practice for the GS and ST divisions begins Thursday during the promoter practice day, with qualifying for GS scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday and for ST at 12:10 p.m. Saturday. The GS race is set to start at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, while the ST race is scheduled to begin at 2:45 p.m. Sunday.

Mid-Ohio Fast Facts

What: Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) divisions

Who: KONI Challenge competitors from across the United States and Canada

Where: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course -- Lexington, Ohio

When: Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 2:15 p.m. (GS); Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 2:45 a.m. (ST)

-credit: garra

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Bill Auberlen , Guy Cosmo , Bob Beede , Scott Maxwell , Will Nonnamaker , Ian James , James Gue , Tom Nastasi , Eric Curran , Charles Espenlaub , Chris Gleason , Ken Wilden , Spencer Pumpelly , Tom Long , Hugh Plumb , Craig Stanton , BJ Zacharias , David Tuaty , Bret Seafuse , Chad Gilsinger , Jep Thornton , Owen Trinkler , Bill Fenton , Jeff Segal , Zach Arnold , Karl Thomson , Jose Armengol , Billy Johnson , Joe Sahlen , Joe Foster , Justin Hall , Jim Click , Magnus Karlsson , Trevor Hopwood , Adam Burrows , Tanner Baker , Tim George Jr. , Dan Allen , Jamie Slone , Kasey Kuhlman , Jon Miller , David Russell
Teams Rehagen Racing , Turner Motorsport , Team Sahlen , Automatic Racing , HART , SpeedSource