Automatic Racing Disappointed with New Jersey Results MILLVILLE, N.J. -- Automatic Racing's first KONI Challenge race at the recently-completed New Jersey Motorsports Park was a heartbreaker: all three of the team's BMW M3s were taken out ...
Automatic Racing Disappointed with New Jersey Results
MILLVILLE, N.J. -- Automatic Racing's first KONI Challenge race at the recently-completed New Jersey Motorsports Park was a heartbreaker: all three of the team's BMW M3s were taken out of competition in on-track incidents, and co-drivers Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal saw their championship points lead disappear.
Disaster struck early for Thornton in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Rogue Engineering/LandAir/Engine Music Studios M3. Just 13 laps into the race, Thornton was trying to set up a pass in turn one when he was spun around by the No. 46 car. Before Thornton could restart his stalled car, he was hit by a competitor entering the corner at full speed.
"It's very disappointing that the corner workers didn't throw a waving yellow flag after my spin; I was a target sitting there in a blind spot of the turn and everyone coming into the corner was still racing. The entire experience was horrible, and it was the worst race weekend in my career," said Thornton.
Still, Thornton is optimistic about the next two rounds as well as the championship since he and Segal are only six points out of the lead. "Although this happened, I'm going to enjoy the last two races and fighting with the drivers of the 55, 37 and 83 cars, all of whom are good friends of mine," he said.
The race started well for Charlie Putman in the No. 91 Automatic Racing M3, and he had a satisfying stint before handing the car over to Charles Espenlaub during a caution period. On the first lap of the restart, though, Espenlaub spun after he was tapped by another car. With no chance for evasive action, two cars hit the No. 91, and half a dozen entries got caught up in the incident.
Unfortunately, one of those cars was the No. 99 Mobile-Shop.com M3 of Rob Finlay. Steve Cameron started the race in the entry, and the team opted to pit during an early-race caution to put Finlay behind the wheel. The strategy appeared to be playing out perfectly: although the gamble put Finlay at the back of the field, he made up positions with each lap and the team was poised for a solid finish until Finlay found himself involved in the carnage that took out so many of the top Grand Sport entries.
"That's racing," said a disappointed Putman. "It happens, and we knew going in that survival would be key because the track design doesn't lend itself well to passing and there was so much dust. Now the team has a lot of work to do to get us ready for Miller in three weeks."
"We were in good shape before the incident," said Finlay. "After the second round of pit stops we were right where we wanted to be and had enough fuel to get us to the end. It was a fun track to drive, but we knew there would be a lot of crashing. Now we're just ready to see what happens at Miller."