Drivers Skavnes, Hemmingson Garner Second Straight Mid-Ohio Victory
Skavnes leads the final 30 laps to win by 5.697 seconds over Kuno Wittmer
Kristian Skavnes and Chuck Hemmingson defended their Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner race Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, only this time the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru of America Subaru Legacy drivers did so in wet conditions.
Skavnes led the final 30 laps of the two-and-a-half hour, 78-lap race at the 2.258-mile track, beating No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Solutions/Alpinestar Acura TSX of Kuno Wittmer and his co-driver Peter Cunningham by 5.697 seconds. It marked the pair’s third career KONI Challenge victories and their first this season, and Skavnes and Hemmingson pulled to within seven points of Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran.
Skavnes took over from BJ Zacharias when the Ohio native slipped off course in Turn 1 in the No. 196 RSR Motorsports Cruise America/CaseTech Inc. Mini Cooper S. With Wittmer battling drivers Steven Ott, Leo Maia and brother Nick Wittmer, Skavnes pushed his lead to over 14 seconds before settling for single digits at the checkered flag. Skavnes had also led three laps before pitting and giving way to Zacharias for three laps.
Zacharias, who took over from polesitter and co-driver Owen Trinkler, gambled when they decided to stay on slicks rather than wet tires. The gamble didn’t go their way, however, as the track didn’t dry quick enough, and Zacharias fell back to 13th, one lap down. Trinkler led the opening 33 laps before giving way to point co-leader Jamie Holtom on Lap 34.
Kuno and Nick Wittmer ran second and third for multiple laps, but Nick Wittmer slid to fourth behind Ott when he slid off the back side of the course. Ott and Tony Rivera, who drove the No. 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Hal Joy Renewable Fuels Mazda RX-8, finished a season-best third.
Maia and co-driver Al Lamb finished fourth in the No. 85 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4, while Nick Wittmer and team owner Glenn Bocchino earned fifth in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Solutions/Alpinestar Acura TSX.
Holtom, who led midway through the race, and Eric Curran saw their two-race winning streak snapped in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Holtom led nine laps before pitting and turning the car over to Curran. That gave the lead to Skavnes, but he pitted only three laps later for rain tires. With the track drying, Curran gambled to pit for dry tires with 30 minutes remaining, falling from seventh to 13th. Curran worked his way back to finish seventh, allowing he and Holtom to retain a seven-point lead over Skavnes and Hemmingson (120-113). Kuno Wittmer leaves the track 10 points in arrears.
Christian Miller scored his fourth consecutive sixth-place finish in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Acura RSX-S co-driven with Billy Johnson. He remains sixth in the standings, 20 points behind the Cobalt drivers.
Craig Stanton managed to take the lead in the professional road racing debut of the Scion, although he pitted before officially leading a lap. He teamed with Dan Gardner to finish 14th in the No. 72 BGB Motorsports Scion tC.
The next action for the KONI Challenge will be July 5 at Watkins Glen International, when both the GS and ST classes race in conjunction with the IndyCar Series.
Tough Day for Compass360 Racing: The Compass360 Racing team had a tough day in the office Sunday as Adam Burrows and Kevin York were both victims of excruciating circumstances. York’s day ended during the second of two pace laps, as a drive train failure caused the team to retire the No. 75. Burrows, on the other hand, ran second throughout his stint before pitting and handing the car off to Trevor Hopwood. However, the entire hub broke off the left rear assembly, causing the entire wheel separate from the car at speed. “I felt a vibration and so I had to bring it in early,” Burrows said. “The team thought that the problem was with the wheel studs, but it turns out to have been a bigger problem with the wheel hub, so when Trevor went out, the entire hub assembly came apart. It’s a good thing Trevor is God’s gift to car control because he did an excellent job to keep it on the track and back in for repairs. I have to thank Ivan for the job he did getting the entire left rear fixed and getting us out in time to get some points. Disappointing day today, but we’ll look forward to The Glen.” The team’s No. 76 Acura RSX-S fared best, with Christian Miller and Billy Johnson taking sixth.
RSR Motorsports’ Day Up and Down: While Owen Trinkler and BJ Zacharias led 36 laps in the No. 196 RSR Motorsports Cruise America Inc./CaseTech Mini Cooper S, the three cars fell short of top 10 finishes. The No. 196 was 13th, the No. 197 with Trinkler and Mark Congleton was 19th and the No. 198 with Trinkler, Randy Smalley and Joe Toussaint in the 27th.
Tough Ending For No. 00 Chevrolet Cobalt: Ancaster, Ontario native Ashley McCalmont spent most of her stint in the top five in the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports T.T.L. Chevrolet Cobalt SS before contact with the No. 02 Maxwell Paper Racing Mazda RX-8. McCalmont pitted twice before the car was retired after 26 laps completed.
Kristian Skavnes (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): “When I started it had just started to rain. There was a lot of traffic and we worked our way around and caught the leaders. Then it started raining harder and a full-course caution came out. We were talking back and forth with the pit crew, wondering if we should put rain tires on or not. But it got to the point where we were having a hard time even keeping up with the pace car, so our decision was made for us. When I came in, I watched everybody behind us come in and take on rains. It came down to just beating Kuno out of the pits – I saw him on the inside of me but I managed to come out ahead of him, fortunately – and I was able to pick up a little bit of a lead as it rained harder. I was pushing as hard as I could, but not too hard were I could make a mistake. At that point, it was my race to lose. When it started drying out, we knew what our intervals were, so we just ran the clock out without burning the tires up.”
Chuck Hemmingson (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): “We were fast, but not fast enough to be the leader. We knew at the end of the day we’d put Kristian in the car and it might rain, and it all worked out. I had a scare when we had a little bit of a sprinkle before it went to yellow, a car spun out in front of me when I was on the inside of a Cobalt. We spun together and did a little damage to the car. The crew did an awesome job getting that fender banged out. We put Kristian in the car and put dry tires back on. We were in real good shape, but later in the day the rain made it a different race.”
Kuno Wittmer (No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Solutions/Alpinestar Acura TSX): “Peter handed over the car in tip-top shape. I was able to get a good start. I was chasing down Kristian a little bit. It was kind of raining, but we were going through the field really quick. Eventually, we opted to go to the rain tires. Peter was giving me real good information on the radio, and we were slowly catching Kristian. But it’s a timed race, and there are only so many laps you can complete.”
Peter Cunningham (No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Solutions/Alpinestar Acura TSX): “I didn’t do such a good job in qualifying so I had a little work to do. I managed to keep it clean and bang out the laps. I actually got up to third when the yellow came out, and I turned it over to Kuno knowing he was going to do a fantastic job. We didn’t know it was going to start pouring down rain, but we’ve seen Kuno drive in the rain before, and I knew that he’d do a great job.”
Steven Ott (No. 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Hal Joy Renewable Fuels): “When we came in and did our driver change, we didn’t put our wets on. I went out and cruised around for awhile, but I could barely hold on to it behind the pace car so we brought it in again. I came back out in 20th or 21st. The car was great in the wet, and I could get the power down early and it really handled. I worked my through the field. At the end, I was just trying to find some water and hold on for the finish. There was nobody behind us, and there was no way I could catch the cars in front of us, so I hung on until the end.”
Tony Rivera (No. 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Hal Joy Renewable Fuels): “The whole object is for me was to be consistent. Steve has been quicker than me all week. I finally got it together and qualified the car well and ran a strong race. I told Steve before the race, ‘I’ll bring it in the top five and you can go for the win.’ Of course, rain came through and the conditions were worse.”