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Road Atlanta: Touring Car race notes

Kleinubing Cruises to Victory in SCCA SPEED Touring Car Round Nine at Road Atlanta BMW Clinches Manufacturers' Championship BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2004) -- Three-time series Champion Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., made it look...

Kleinubing Cruises to Victory in SCCA SPEED Touring Car Round Nine at Road Atlanta
BMW Clinches Manufacturers' Championship

BRASELTON, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2004) -- Three-time series Champion Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., made it look easy when he captured his second victory of the season Friday in Round Nine of the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship at Road Atlanta, as part of the Chevy Presents Petit Le Mans weekend. Justin Marks, of San Francisco, and James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., recorded career-best finishes of second and third, respectively.

The skies were sunny, with temperatures in the low 70s, to start the penultimate round of the SPEED Touring Car season. Starting from the outside of row one, Kleinubing fell to third in his No. 42 A-SPEC/RealTime Acura TSX heading into the first corner on lap one, as SPEED Touring Car point leader Bill Auberlen grabbed the early lead. Polesitter Peter Cunningham and Kleinubing, who were running second and third at the time, respectively, both drove by Auberlen coming out of turn 10, thus dropping Auberlen to third on lap three. On lap nine, with Cunningham in the lead and Kleinubing right behind him, Kleinubing made his move on Cunningham in turn 10 to take the lead and never looked back.

En route to winning his second race of 2004 and the 21st of his career, Kleinubing won by 2.291 seconds, at a record average speed of 94.249 mph on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit.

"The car was pretty good, just the way I like it here at Road Atlanta," Kleinubing said of his win. "The car was awesome. My crew chief has been guiding this RealTime crew and making it stronger every weekend and we're working pretty well together now and I think it is showing on the track."

Marks, who was fastest after the combined practice sessions on Wednesday and who qualified ninth in his No. 2 Turner Motorsport/H&R Springs BMW 325i on Thursday, recorded a career-best second-place finish. Marks' accomplishment was result of having a fast car combined with driver attrition, as he made an impressive drive through the field. Marks' previous career-best SPEED Touring Car finish was a third at Infineon earlier this season.

"There are two ways to finish well in racing; attrition and speed and we had both today," Marks said commenting on his finish. "We got a little lucky, but the pace of the car was awesome and this one is for the Turner team because they worked hard all weekend.

"The car was great everywhere. Sometimes you have cars that are good in certain aspects and bad in other aspects. It might be good under the brakes, but it might not steer. The car was great everywhere. It didn't go off. It stayed very consistent. My car was handling very well, so I was able to get good runs down the straightaway and I was braking later than everybody that I saw out on the racetrack all weekend. I made a lot of my passes at the end of the back stretch, so it was a combination of having a great race car, some mistakes and attrition."

With Marks' finish, BMW clinched the SPEED Touring Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine.

Starting from sixth place and piloting the No. 36 Bimmerworld/Ground Control BMW 325i, Clay moved to third place by lap seven, but spent most of the race battling to keep that position. In fact, Clay and Auberlen battled back and forth for 11 laps before Auberlen came into the pits with overheating problems. After Auberlen came into the pits, Clay then had to battle Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., and Marks over the next couple of laps for third place. On lap 19, Clay dropped to fourth as his car appeared to have handling problems. But, on lap 22 Altenburg, who was second at the time, reported having gearbox problems, thus dropping him to fourth, while Clay moved up to third.

"It was about half way through the race, the rear end starting coming out from me," Clay said of his car's performance. "We thought that might have been a problem. But, when I saw other drivers dropping out, I figured we needed a podium finish this year and this was the one track we could do it. I just put it on auto pilot and got it done.

"To pick up a podium is pretty exciting. That's what we've been working toward. We're not in the top yet, but next year we will be."

Clay's third place performance was a career-best finish, beating his previous career-best of ninth, which he established earlier this year at Lime Rock Park.

Clay's Bimmerworld Racing teammates Seth Thomas, of Cumming, Ga., and Matt Richmond, of Mooresville, N.C., finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Thomas' finish was a career-best, while Richmond tied his career-best finish of fifth (finished fifth in Puerto Rico in 2003).

Thomas clearly showed his familiarity with his home track, as he set a new fast race lap record with a 1:35.712 (95.536 mph) en route to winning the UrbanRacer.com Hot Lap Award.

In his return to the SPEED World Challenge and his first appearance in SPEED Touring Car, Victor Contreras, of Puerto Rico, won the Sunoco Hard Charger of the Race award for advancing 16 positions throughout the race. Rookie of the Year hopeful Dino Crescentini won the B&M Holeshot award for advancing six positions on the first lap of the race.

Auberlen, who finished 12th, leads the SPEED Touring Car Drivers' Championship with 233 points, followed by Nic Jonsson (218), Matt Plumb (214), James Sofronas (176) and Marks (166).

BMW clinched the SPEED Touring Manufacturers' Championship Presented by Racer Magazine with 76 points, followed by Acura (51), Nissan (27) and Mazda (18).

Today's race will air at 12:00 p.m. (EDT), Sunday, Sept. 26 on SPEED Channel.

Round Ten of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Sept. 22-25, as part of Fry's Electronics Sports Car Championships.

For more information, visit www.world-challenge.com.

-scca pro racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Turner Motorsport