Grand-Am KONI Challenge Class Point Leaders Wilden, Miller Seek To Wrap Up Respective Titles Friday In Utah Series Competitors Head To Penultimate Race At Miller Motorsports Park DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2009) - Ken Wilden and Christian...
Grand-Am KONI Challenge Class Point Leaders Wilden, Miller Seek To Wrap Up Respective Titles Friday In Utah
Series Competitors Head To Penultimate Race At Miller Motorsports Park
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2009) - Ken Wilden and Christian Miller have led their respective Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) point standings nearly all season long, and Friday at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, they have the opportunity to earn their titles.
The two-and-a-half hour Salt Lake City 200, 10th round of the 2009 season, features both classes simultaneously for the first time since June's TheGlen.com 200 at Watkins Glen International, will commence at 6 p.m. MT (SPEED, 1:30 p.m. ET, Oct. 3).
Consistency is the hallmark of any championship run, which makes it even more impressive as to why Wilden, of Toronto, has a 20-point lead (266-246) over James Gue and Bret Seafuse. All three have finished in the top 10 in every race this season, but Wilden's No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT has broke through with two victories (to Gue and Seafuse's one) and six podiums (to Gue and Seafuse's two). An eighth-place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park serves as Wilden's lowest finish in 2009. With a victory at Miller, Wilden can eliminate five championship contenders.
While not challenging for the driving championship, co-driver Dean Martin, who preps the No. 59, has helped keep the Mustang in the top 10 in 15 straight races. Martin finished sixth in last season's standings after earning six consecutive top 10s.
Gue and Seafuse, drivers of the No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT, finished second in the standings last season. While they remain 20 points behind, Gue said he is not ready to give up.
"Obviously, I'm pleased with the way the season has gone, but we still have a little ways to go, and it will be difficult for us to make up that distance," Gue said. "We don't wish anyone bad luck, and the No. 59 hasn't had much of that. We have two races (left) and should have good results at both; we're just going to have to go for wins."
Turner Motorsport has won all three KONI Challenge races at Miller Motorsports Park, and with that streak, the team holds hope its championship contenders - Matt Bell and Chris Gleason - will keep their title aspirations alive until the final round Oct. 4 at Virginia International Raceway. However, both drivers have to finish ahead of Wilden if they want to challenge at VIR. Bell, coming off a victory last month in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, will run the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 with defending race winner Bill Auberlen, while Chris Gleason teams up with 2007 race winner Joey Hand in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
Also still in championship contention are Duncan Ende and Spencer Pumpelly, co-drivers of the No. 39 TheDigiTrust Group/Adam's Polishes Porsche 997, and Jack Roush Jr., co-driving the No. 61 Roush/Valvoline Ford Mustang GT with Homestead-Miami Speedway race winner Billy Johnson. Ende and Pumpelly's TRG teammate, John Potter, is a native of Salt Lake City and will co-pilot the No. 41 Magnus Racing Porsche 997 with Andy Lally. Gunnar Jeannette, of Sandy, Utah, will compete in the No. 79 Bayshore Recycling BMW M3 - one of three Kinetic Motorsports cars entered - with rookie Frankie Montecalvo.
Miller Owns 25-Point Lead In Street Tuner
Christian Miller, after two early season victories, has proven consistent as well, despite sharing his No. 74 Skunk2/034 Motorsport Honda Civic Si with three different co-drivers in nine races. This weekend, with the return of regular co-driver Randy Pobst, he hopes to sew up the championship.
With victories at New Jersey and Homestead-Miami Speedway, Miller has blossomed his lead to 25 points (256-231) over Kristian Skavnes and Andrew Aquilante in the No. 111 Subaru of America Subaru Legacy. Skavnes and Aquilante are looking to avenge a disappointing finish a season ago at the 4.486-mile, 24-turn track, when an extra pit stop essentially ended Skavnes' title hopes.
"Bottom line, we need to have some good luck in our direction, and they need bad luck," Skavnes said. "It's their championship to lose. I've been in this situation before, where I was in second with a couple of races to go. Hopefully we can make this a championship kind of race, and have a lucky break."
In addition to Skavnes and Aquilante, Ian Baas and Josh Hurley are within 31 points of the lead. The Barber race winners have closed the championship gap considerably, with three podiums in the last five races. They drive the No. 171 APR/Gunther VW Volkswagen GTI, the car Baas took to second at the track last season.
Also still in championship contention are Pobst and Trois-Rivières ST winner Andrew Carbonell, who has three consecutive top fives in the No. 146 Mazda/Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. Pobst's chances will be eliminated, however, when Miller completes 30 minutes in the car.
Other 2009 race-winning cars entered are a second APR car, the No. 181 APR/BBS Volkswagen of Mike Sweeney and Dion von Moltke; the No. 75 Skunk2/Hondata Honda Civic Si of Beau Buisson and MESCO Building For The Future Rookie of the Year candidate Bret Spaude; and the No. 95 BMW 328i of Paul Dalla Lana and 2006 ST race winner Will Turner.
Salt Lake City drivers Vesko Kozarov and Lara Tallman, who have competed in select KONI Challenge races this season, will drive the No. 67 Citydeals.com Honda Civic Si.