KONI Challenge Grand Sport Race of 2008 at Barber Motorsports Park
No. 55 Hyper Sport team leads podium sweep for Ford Mustangs
Scott Maxwell passed James Gue on Lap 86 of the 89-lap Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) race Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, and cruised to a 20.530-second victory on the 2.3-mile track for a podium sweep for the Ford Mustangs. The victory also came in fuel conservation mode, as Maxwell and co-driver Joe Foster had about a lap-and-a-half left of fuel in the tank of the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT in the caution-free race.
Stopping for the one and only time on Lap 44 - or just short of the race's halfway point - Maxwell consistently cut into Gue's lead until making the winning pass with an inside move on the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT. Moments later, Gue made the hard left onto pit road, where he stopped for a splash of fuel. He returned to the track in second, and was never challenged by Dean Martin in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing ROUSH Performance/Valvoline Ford Mustang GT, who finished third.
Maxwell's co-driver Joe Foster led the opening 43 laps from the pole and was slowly pulling away from Gue's teammate Bret Seafuse before Seafuse pitted for the first time on Lap 41. But four laps later - when Foster pitted and turned the car over to the Canadian - Maxwell was more than 12 seconds behind Gue. He started charging shortly after, albeit the benefit of a yellow flag, and caught Gue with about 15 minutes to go. He closed more when Gue bobbled on the track, as both drivers were suffering from a lack of grip in the 90 degree heat.
For Maxwell and co-driver Joe Foster, who combined to lead a race-high 47 laps, it was their second victory of the season, as the pair earned a home track victory for Toronto native Maxwell at Mosport International Raceway last month. Ironically, Saturday's race was Foster's home track victory, as he and the Hyper Sport team are based in Atlanta, about 140 miles to the east.
Gue - who led 40 laps - beat Martin by about eight seconds at the checkered flag. Martin ran in the top five for his entire stint, as co-driver Jack Roush Jr. moved from 11th to third during the first hour-and-a-half of the race. It marked the first time in GS history that Mustangs swept the top-three positions.
Another Atlanta-based team, Kinetic Motorsports, ran fourth, as Georgians Todd Lamb and Andy Lally ran as high as second each in the No. 87 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3. Lamb led a lap and Lally ran third, but a short and second pit stop kept the duo from earning a podium finish.
Successfully improving their point lead were Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton, who extended their top-five finishing streak to five after Segal passed Billy Johnson following a strong duel on Lap 82. The pair drew side-by-side multiple times before Segal earned the position for good. The duo left the track with a 20-point lead in the standings (145-125) over Foster and Maxwell), and five GS races still remaining.
It was a tough weekend for KONI Challenge championship contenders. Mike Canney and Hugh Plumb, running third in the driver standings, had differential problems in their No. 60 Rehagen Racing Sunset Hills Vineyard Ford Mustang GT and had to switch to the team's No. 58 Ford Mustang GT. The car didn't last a lap, as Canney spun after contact with another car and blasted into the guardrail on the straightaway between Turns 4 and 5. Suffering a broken left front suspension, the car made it back to the pits for repairs. Plumb returned to the race and completed 45 laps, finishing 29th.
Craig Stanton, the Fresh From Florida 200 co-winner and co-driver of the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997, finished 25th with co-driver Jon Miller after the No. 83 suffered a blown muffler and melted idler pulley, which forced a water leak during the first half hour of the race.
The KONI Challenge Series resumes action Aug. 10 in a Grand Sport/Street Tuner combined race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
NEWS & NOTES
- This was the second GS victory of the season for Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. It also marked the eighth overall KONI Challenge Series victory for Maxwell, moving him into sole possession of third on the all-time list. Foster now has three overall KONI Challenge victories.
- This is the second GS victory of the season for a Ford Mustang GT, tying the manufacturer with the Porsche 997.
- This is the second GS victory for a Ford Mustang GT at Barber Motorsports Park. Michael McDowell and Rob Finlay won for Finlay Motorsports in 2006.
- This is the best career KONI Challenge Series finish for Bret Seafuse, and the best finish of the season for him and James Gue in the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT.
- His third-place finish is the highest career finish for Jack Roush Jr. in the KONI Challenge Series. His co-driver Dean Martin owns one career victory (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, June 2007).
- Turner Motorsport's Don Salama and Bryan Ortiz finished seventh in their No. 97 BMW M3, after Salama and Will Turner finished second last year. Their No. 96 Turner Motorsport counterparts, co-driven by Matthew Alhadeff and Bill Auberlen, suffered from clutch problems in a 28th-place finish. Alhadeff was the only non-Mustang driver to lead laps (led from Laps 44-45).
- Gary Grigsby Jr. and Terry Heath finished 15th after starting 31st in the No. 07 Cardiosport Euro Motorsports/Porsche of Lexington Porsche 997. Health ran as high as 12th in the car.
- Saturday's race marked the first without a caution in a Grand Sport only race since May 13, 2006 at Phoenix International Raceway, when Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly took the victory.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES
Scott Maxwell (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "I thought I was going to catch him in a half an hour. I didn't think it would take an hour-and-a-half. I wasn't sure if he had to pit, so I just assumed he didn't have to pit. I knew it was going to be close but he didn't make a mistake. I was running out of time. This place is so easy to make a mistake with your tires going away but he just did not make any mistakes at all. It was a great race and congratulations to the other two cars.
"I was hoping to get a top five here, but whatever the Mustangs did right here today, we're going to keep in quiet."
Joe Foster (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "It was a hard-fought race - something to do with heat or fuel or tires or gear boxes. We were managing some engine temperature stuff. Its not normal that we would lead in the beginning but we decided to just try and race it clean. We were strong in the beginning, but I could tell the tires weren't going to last us. It felt a little like we were driving in the rain in terms of trying to find grip and keep the car pointed in the right direction. We just tried to manage the car and not do anything stupid. It turned out to be the right call."
James Gue (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "We knew when we came into the pits, it was two laps too early. We were pretty sure we were going to run out of fuel there. I had a 15-second lead over Scott so I just went into saving fuel. I'm pretty sure we had the car to win, but just ran out of fuel at the end."
Bret Seafuse (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "We knew we had a good car. I just took my time, made my way up to othe front. The car was great in the long haul. I just wanted to give James a good car to get to the end with. We had a little problem with the fuel. We came in a little earlier than we wanted to, which shorted us in the end. Imagine that-we go from one race that's full of cautions to one with none.
"I think we had the car to do it. We just didn't have the fuel to do it. We're happy - but a little disappointed. We'll get to the top real soon."
Dean Martin (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "It was great. I was just relaxing, clicking off lap times. They were quick lap times, because I was putting Porsches and BMWs behind me, which I think surprised them with the Mustang. It was about 190 degrees in the car and I couldn't reach my drink bottle."
Jack Roush Jr. (No. 37 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "It was hot out there. It was an intense beginning of the race - a lot of traffic and I lost a few spots. Luckily, I got a rhythm and caught a few spots. I was able to get a good position and hand it over to my co-driver."