Justin Bell wins inaugural Tonka Series race by 0.012 seconds; Gunnar Jeannette claims second race New Albany, Ohio (Aug. 27, 2003) The sight and sound of dueling 10,000-pound Super Trucks amazed and delighted all who saw them at Road America...
Justin Bell wins inaugural Tonka Series race by 0.012 seconds; Gunnar Jeannette claims second race
New Albany, Ohio (Aug. 27, 2003) The sight and sound of dueling 10,000-pound Super Trucks amazed and delighted all who saw them at Road America last weekend, the Super Truck Racing Association of North America (STRANA) reports.
Four prototype Super Trucks competed in two Tonka 2003 Super Truck Celebrity Challenge races as part of the America Le Mans Series' Road America 500 weekend Aug. 23-24 at the 4- mile, 14-turn Elkhart Lake, Wisc. circuit.
"It was a successful weekend for the entire STRANA/Tonka Series team," said STRANA Executive Director Brian Till. "Our prototypes performed well and generated as much attention off the track as they did when they raced.
"Experienced ALMS Series drivers were impressed by the power and handling of these purpose-built Super Trucks," said Till. "Our sponsors want more. The drivers want more. The fans want more. American Le Mans and track officials want more. And that's exactly what we plan to give them as we look forward to our next race at Road Atlanta in October, and as we build toward full-field racing in 2004."
Winners of the Tonka Celebrity Challenge races at Road America included Trans Am Series driver Justin Bell (Derhaag Racing), who won Saturday, Aug. 23, and ALMS driver Gunnar Jeannette (JML Team Panoz), who won Sunday, Aug. 24.
In his race, Bell (driving the Tonka-sponsored Super Truck) made an aggressive inside-then- outside pass in the final straightaway to edge ALMS driver Olivier Beretta (JML Team Panoz) by 0.012 seconds for the win. Beretta was driving the FishFactory.com-sponsored Super Truck. Other trucks competing included the Haldex- and Panoz-sponsored Super Trucks.
"I can see why people are excited about this series," said Bell. "I was pleasantly surprised by how well the truck handled. You wouldn't believe it when you see how big they are. But I can see how the racing will be extremely exciting and extremely tight. I'm very interested in driving again."
The excitement of the races was vividly dramatized in the third lap of the race won by Bell. The West Palm Beach, Fla. resident, along with Beretta and Jeannette found themselves heading three wide into Road America's famed Carousel turn. In this instance, Bell backed off slightly but not before he and Jeannette rubbed, cracking the bumper of the Super Truck driven by Jeannette.
That particular four-lap race saw more than 12 lead changes alone. The race leader board included Guy Cosmo (Star Mazda/Toyota Atlantic driver) who was driving the Haldex- sponsored Super Truck.
In Sunday's race, Jeannette (driving the Panoz-sponsored Super Truck), Till (FishFactory.com-sponsored Super Truck) and Cosmo (Tonka-sponsored Super Truck) traded the lead several times before Jeannette claimed and held the lead with less than one-half mile left in the race. ALMS GT class driver Shane Lewis drove the Haldex-sponsored Super Truck in this race.
"For me, this fulfilled a childhood fantasy of driving my Tonka trucks, except these are very real," said Bell. "I think every kid wants to drive their Tonkas, and I can say I have."
Said Cosmo: "I've driven a lot of different vehicles in my career, from karts to open-wheel cars, but these trucks are a blast to drive. You'd never expect something with such size and mass to handle as well as they do.
"Where do I sign up to drive them again?" said Cosmo. "Super Truck racing is for real, it's serious and it's quite exciting."
George Bruggenthies, president and general manager of Road America, said he believes the Tonka Super Truck Racing Series will continue drawing the attention of fans, which is why he would like to see Super Trucks return to the venue.
"The interest was very strong from the moment we announced that the Super Trucks would be coming to Road America," Bruggenthies said. "This series has a lot of fan appeal and it will sell tickets."
The next Tonka Celebrity Challenge races are scheduled for Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., as part of Petit Le Mans (Oct. 15-18). All Celebrity Challenge races will be taped for broadcast on ESPN2 this fall.
STRANA Super Trucks feature Haldex water-cooled brakes, Alcoa wheels and rims, Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines, ZF Ecomat transmissions, ArvinMeritor axles and drivelines, Continental racing tires and ZF Sachs dampers. The transmissions and tires are the same ones featured in the European super truck series. Other features include Eibach springs, Optima batteries, Shields windscreens and windows, Fluidyne coolers, K&N air filters, ATL fuel cells and Sparco safety equipment. Other suppliers include Stand-21 Racewear and Racing Radios.
The prototypes are the first of those to be used in the Tonka Super Truck Racing Series, which is expected to begin in 2004.
Other STRANA sponsors include www.1800DRIVERS.com, Truckin' Bozo Radio Network and America Trucking On The Road magazine.
Based in suburban Columbus, Ohio, STRANA is the governing body for class-8 super truck racing in North America. Its mission is to promote super truck racing and the trucking and transportation industry.