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Portland: Touring Car round 8 preview

SPEED TOURING CARS TO PORTLAND, POBST HAS MOMENTUM PORTLAND, Ore. (July 28, 2005) -- While the record book won't show it, for all intents and purposes relating to the 2005 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car Championship, Randy Pobst came out...

SPEED TOURING CARS TO PORTLAND, POBST HAS MOMENTUM

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 28, 2005) -- While the record book won't show it, for all intents and purposes relating to the 2005 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car Championship, Randy Pobst came out of the sixth and seventh rounds the winner, even though he finished second in each race.

Factor in that Lime Rock and Infineon Raceway winner Bill Auberlen was making what amounts to a pair of cameo appearances, leading each race flag-to-flag in dominating fashion, and Randy Pobst scored as many points as anyone fighting for the 2005 SCCA SPEED Touring Car Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships could, in second place.

His finishes, coupled with lower finishes by the REWARDS-laden RealTime Racing duo of point leader Peter Cunningham (174) and second-place Pierre Kleinubing (168) allowed Pobst and his Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6 to close and move into third place in the standings, albeit 26 points behind the leader. More importantly, it allowed Mazda to close what was a 12-point lead in the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine heading into Lime Rock down to just four points two races later.

The first part of 2005 is likely one that Pobst would just assume forget. Often the fastest car on the weekend (three Air Force Reserve poles, six front row starting spots and three UrbanRacer.com Race Hot Laps in seven races), the Gainesville, Ga. driver has had an uncharacteristic series of unforced errors, coupled with a few doses of bad luck.

At the season opener at Sebring, he was well in command when he went off course, damaging his exhaust that may have led to the car's retirement with just a few laps to go. After a win at St. Petersburg from the pole, he had a likely podium finish at Atlanta ended by mechanical gremlins. At Mid-Ohio, Pobst was on the pole, but jumped the start, necessitating a stop-and-go penalty and a run through the field to salvage eighth. At Cleveland, he was the fastest car during the race, but hooked a cone early, which dislodged his bumper and necessitated a pit stop, meaning another drive through the pack just to finish 10th.

There to capitalize in each instance were the orange and white A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSXs of Cunningham (Sebring) and Kleinubing (Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio and Cleveland). Not that the Acuras have been uncompetitive and waiting for a mistake, displayed by Cunningham's consistent five-straight podiums and Kleinubing's dominant Road Atlanta performance and two fastest race laps. But Pobst has been the one most drivers have chased on the time sheets for the majority of the season.

The Auberlen anomaly (many believe the two time, defending series champ simply held all the right cards in his two-race return) means it is back to the series regulars at Portland. Pobst's success has meant the addition of 120lbs of REWARDS weight the last two rounds from his previous, unweighted state. Meanwhile, the Acura duo continues to carry at least 100lbs more than Pobst, with Cunningham at 220lbs and Kleinubing maxed out at 250lbs over the base weight.

The guy feeling the best about his chances at Portland could well be Jeff Altenburg, teammate to Pobst, who comes off a mechanical DNF at Infineon that also removed 60lbs from his Mazda. For the first time this year, Altenburg is lighter than his teammate and he was very fast early at Portland in 2004 before a fuel leak sidelined him. The third Tri-Point Mazda of Dino Crescentini comes off a career-best third-place finish at Infineon, and was strong in a BMW at Portland, qualifying fifth. Additional Mazda support comes from the Oakley/Sparco sponsored car from the Tindol Motorsports camp driven by Charles Espenlaub, who was on pole and finished second at Cleveland, but has had disappointing race weekends since.

That all said, one might figure Portland to be a Mazda weekend. However, it was RealTime TSXs that swept the front row and the first two spots in 2004, with Kleinubing winning. Additionally, The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year Brandon Davis had a stellar drive from the back of the pack to seventh at Infineon, and Eric Curran has been threatening of late in his RSX.

Right behind the Acuras in 2004 was Bob Stretch in his Wheels America BMW 325Ci, meaning that any of the top 2005 BMWs, including Stretch and the BimmerWorld team of James Clay, Matt Richmond and Seth Thomas could factor into the final podium.

In addition to the Acuras, BMWs and Mazdas, the Air Force Reserve Ford Focus of Chip Herr is due for some better luck and results. Additionally, the Autohaus Mercedes-Benz C-Coupes of former Portland SPEED GT winner Michael Galati and Peter Lockhart have been making strides and could be close to scoring their first podium finishes.

Saturday's SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Round Eight race is scheduled to make its standing start at 1:00 p.m. (PDT), with the race airing on SPEED Channel the following afternoon (Sunday) at 12 p.m. local, 3 p.m. (EDT).

To follow all the weekend action, please visit www.world-challenge.com.

-scca pro racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Randy Pobst , Michael Galati , Peter Cunningham , Eric Curran , Charles Espenlaub , James Clay , Peter Lockhart , Matt Richmond , Chip Herr , Bob Stretch , Dino Crescentini , Seth Thomas , Brandon Davis
Teams RealTime Racing