THOMSON AND JOHNSON RE-TAKE KONI ST-CLASS LEAD Watkins Glen, NY -- Billy Johnson re-took the lead of the ST-class field with a dramatic last-lap pass of Shane Lewis in the ...
THOMSON AND JOHNSON RE-TAKE KONI ST-CLASS LEAD
Watkins Glen, NY -- Billy Johnson re-took the lead of the ST-class field with a dramatic last-lap pass of Shane Lewis in the #22 HART Accord and held on to finish first at last weekend's KONI Challenge race at the famed Watkins Glen circuit. It was Johnson's second last- lap win of the season, the other being at Mosport a month earlier, and the fourth first-place finish for the duo so far this year.
"The Kensai/Compass360 #76 Acura TSX was just awesome," enthused Johnson. "We got the set-up right, and Karl did his usual great job in the first stint, handing me a car in perfect shape with lots of brakes. That's what made the difference today!"
Co-driver Karl Thomson was equally effusive. "Billy did an astonishing job -- he's such a great talent. We don't have quite as much power as some of the other ST cars, and our brakes are our weak spot, but we do our best to manage around it. Balance is key, and not using up the car in the early going, which is easier said than done."
"I had a great battle with the #95 Turner BMW of Adam Burrows," Thomson continued. "After the disaster of Mid-Ohio, with both me and Turner being taken out on the second lap, it was a real treat to run nose-to-tail with Adam, swapping the position back and forth. That was really great fun, with both of us leaving just enough room for each other but making the other work hard!"
Johnson's late-race battle with Lewis was similar: "I could see toward the end of the race that Shane's brakes were finally giving out," reflected Billy. "Going into the laces of the boot on the last lap, he braked early and I was able to get into the corner deeper. I had to keep a defensive line because that Accord is so fast on the straights, but it was clean racing right until the last corner."
The win moves Thomson and Johnson back into the ST-class lead, narrowly ahead of Burrows and Hopwood. The #76 TSX is just two points ahead of the #95 BMW, and with four races still to go on the schedule the race for the championship is very close indeed.
TUATY AND PRITIKO FINISH A SOLID NINTH
Matt Pritiko continued to impress in his rookie year of touring car racing in the KONI Challenge, qualifying the #74 Acura RSX-S in ninth position. During his stint, he stayed with the leaders, just behind the fourth-place battle between Thomson and Burrows, and ahead of the #27 Fenton Acura. He managed to bring his car up to fourth place before pitting at the second caution period and handing the car to David Tuaty. Although it was Tuaty's first race with the team, he's no stranger to the Grand Am KONI Challenge, having competed in the series since 2001.
Unfortunately, shortly into Tuaty's stint, the #74 began to lose power, and David valiantly fought to hold his position. It was a tough battle, and the #74 ended the race in ninth position. Although still a sold top-ten result (moving both Tuaty and Pritiko forward in the driver championship), it wasn't the result the team and drivers were hoping for. "As soon as I got into the car I could tell something was off," said Tuaty. "The RSX had been so good all weekend, but it was so short of power I knew something was wrong right away. And it got worse during the race."
Post-race analysis showed that one of the injectors had given out during the race, meaning that by the time Tuaty got in the car, it was running on three cylinders. Which means that both Pritiko and Tuaty did remarkable work behind the wheel to bring the car home in the top ten.
Still, the finish puts Tuaty in ninth place in the driver's championship, with Pritiko just two points behind in 11th.
BUISSON AND POVOLEDO SUCCUMB TO MECHANICAL WOES
The #75 Kensai/Compass360 Acura TSX, despite a solid outside-pole qualifying position by Aaron Povoledo, finished a disappointed 18th, a victim of uncharacteristic mechanical failure.
"Aaron did a great job in qualifying, putting the #75 in second place," noted Crew Chief Ray Lee. "Part-way into his stint we noticed some smoke coming from the car on the long straights." That turned out to be a terminal problem for the #75's engine and the team elected to pull the car rather than risk catastrophic failure on track. It was especially frustrating because both Buisson and Povoledo were able to run at the top of the charts throughout every session of the weekend, and seemed certain for a podium result.
"We proved that all of our cars have what it takes to win this weekend," remarked Thomson. "This is the first time that all three cars have qualified in the top-ten, which in itself is pretty amazing. To win, and have our RSX finish 9th, is a result I'm happy with! But really I'm hoping we'll see all three cars finish together in the top-ten before the year is out."
The Kensai/Compass360 team is busy repairing and preparing their three Acuras for the next race, at the stunning Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on July 20-22nd, which promises to be another exciting, nail-biting event that's well-attended by the fans.