Competitors to Go Short-Track Racing Sunday at 1.3-Mile Iowa Speedway
Sunday’s race is first of three KONI Challenge race weekends in August
Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) competitors will compete on the shortest track on the schedule at 5 p.m. CT Sunday when they take the green flag for the two-and-a-half hour or 250-mile race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.
Forty-four cars are expected to compete in the combined race, the first time both classes will compete simultaneously since July 5 at Watkins Glen International. Drivers will also look to keep out of trouble on the smallest track - 1.3 miles - on the circuit, as this is the first of three race weekends in August.
Defending series co-champions Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal - driving the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 - lead the GS class to Iowa and are the only competitors to start the season with five top-five finishes. Their 20-point advantage (145-125) over Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell includes a victory at another small track - Connecticut's Lime Rock Park (1.53 miles) - in May. Automatic Racing's No. 91 Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 of Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman and No. 99 Mobil-Shop/Make-A-Wish BMW M3 of Steve Cameron and Rob Finlay are also entered.
Meanwhile Foster and Maxwell have pulled out two victories of their own in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT, including the most recent Barber 250 at Barber Motorsports Park. They'll look to last year's race at Iowa as motivation, as the winning GS car was also a Mustang.
Bret Seafuse and James Gue sit only 25 points in arrears of Thornton and Segal after taking the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT to second at Barber. The Rehagen Racing team will bring four Mustangs, highlighted by the No. 60 Sunset Hills Vineyard of Mike Canney and Hugh Plumb and No. 59 of Dean Martin and Jack Roush Jr. Team owner Larry Rehagen and Ray Mason will share the No. 52 Columbus Truck and Equipment Ford Mustang GT.
Craig Stanton, the Fresh From Florida 200 co-winner, will share the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Weeden Consultants/Performance Drink Porsche 997 with Jon Miller. TRG, which won here in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GT competition in 2007, brings two cars to the track. Andy Lally, who won with TRG last season at Iowa, will pair with Scott Schroeder in the No. 41 Carlsen Porsche/DigiTrust Group Porsche 997. The team's sister car, the No. 39 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Fox River Coffee Porsche 997, will see Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende behind the wheel.
The two-car Maxwell Paper Racing team features the No. 77 Porsche 996 with drivers Bryan Sellers and Ross Smith, and the No. 78 Porsche 997 with Andrew Davis and Kendall Smith.
Turner Motorsport and Playboy Racing/Fall-Line Motorsports will field the remaining four cars, all BMW M3s. Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff will share the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, while Don Salama and Bryan Ortiz will drive the No. 97 BMW M3. Mark Boden and Steve Jenkins will drive the No. 28 Playboy/Verve BMW M3 and Mike Borkowski and Tommy Constantine will drive the No. 46 Playboy/Taser BMW M3.
West Des Moines driver Hemmingson leads ST class to Iowa
ST point co-leader Chuck Hemmingson won't have to travel far for this weekend's race at Iowa Speedway. Hemmingson lives in West Des Moines, less than an hour's drive from the track. He shares the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy with Kristian Skavnes, and the pair hold a nine-point advantage (139-130) over Kuno Wittmer. Hemmingson and Skavnes won their third race together at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The team is also fielding the No. 141 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy for team co-owner David Rosenblum and rookie Andrew Aquilante.
Wittmer is running the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Broadband Solutions/Alpine Star Acura TSX with Rookie of the Year leading candidate Peter Cunningham, who has 125 points. The team's No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation Broadband Solutions/Alpine Star Acura TSX will be driven by Nick Wittmer and team owner Glenn Bocchino, who won at Daytona in January.
Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom are also part of a two-car team, as they drive the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS. The pair has two race victories this season and are 19 points out of the lead after axle problems at Watkins Glen resulted in a 37th-place finish and kept them from scoring any points. Their teammates are No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS drivers Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer.
Despite missing the season opener, Bob Beede has three podiums in four starts and looks for his first victory of the season in the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civic Si.
Defending series champions Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood won their first career KONI Challenge race at Watkins Glen and lead a three-car Compass360 Racing team to Iowa in their No. 74 Skunk2/Sunday Group Management Acura TSX. Canadians Ken Wilden and Jeremy Willard share the No. 75 Pure Hair and Body Care/Skunk2 Acura TSX, while Christian Miller and Benoit Theetge will drive the No. 76 Skunk2/K&N Acura RSX.
Several other three-car teams will see action in ST. Freedom Autosport, which earned a podium at Watkins Glen with Tom Long and Rhett O'Doski, is bringing three Mazda MX-5s, while APR Motorsport has three Volkswagen GTIs ready to race. Both teams had cars start on the front row at The Glen in June.
Defending team race winner Fountain Motorsports and driver Guy Cosmo reunite, with Cosmo sharing the No. 128 Hawk Brakes/Marren Fuel Injection BMW 330i with Shane Lewis. Kevin York and Marko Radisic will drive the No. 127 Hawk Brakes/Rogue Engineering BMW 330i. Classic BMW-Plano's Toby Grahovec and Pierre Kleinubing, sharing the No. 86 BMW Z4, own a one-point advantage over teammates Al Lamb and Leo Maia, in the No. 85 BMW Z4.
Single car efforts will come from V-Pack Motorsport, Brass Mitchell Racing (which earned a podium at Mid-Ohio), Predator Auto Sport, Turner Motorsport, Istook's Motorsports and GS Motorsports.
The two-and-a-half hour Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series race will start at 5 p.m. CT Sunday.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)
- Saturday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (10:15-11:15 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m.); KONI Challenge Combined Practice (1:30-2:30 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (2:40-3:10 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (3:20-3:50 p.m.); KONI Challenge Combined Practice (4-5 p.m.)
- Sunday: KONI Challenge Final Practice (7-8 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Qualifying (8:20-8:35 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Qualifying (8:45-9 a.m.); KONI Challenge Race (5 p.m.; 250 miles/193 laps/two-and-a-half hour time limit).
2008 IN REVIEW
Through the first four races of the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season, different driving pairs and manufacturers have won races in one of the most diversified forms of racing in North America. And with that comes a tight point battle that is sure to stay that way until the final checkered flag falls in October.
Craig Stanton, the 2004 Grand Sport champion, and Tim Traver started the season off right with an overall and GS victory in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway in January, as Stanton moved from fourth to first in the waning laps after the top three cars ahead of him suffered from mechanical problems. The pair drove to victory in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997. In the Street Tuner class, Quebec native Nick Wittmer and Glenn Bocchino notched the first victory for the i-MOTO Racing team, guiding the No. 31 Acura RSX to victory for a one-two team finish. However, the top two cars were docked five points for non-compliant fuel tanks.
The second round at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut was split into two class races, with Canadian Jamie Holtom and Yankee Eric Curran taking the victory in the ST race and in the process the point lead in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Defending GS driver champions Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton earned Automatic Racing's first-ever victory in the No. 09 BMW M3.
At Mosport International Raceway, Scott Maxwell raced through the field to give himself and Joe Foster a come-from-behind victory in GS in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. A fifth-place finish put Segal and Thornton - tied with 89 points - up by 12. Meanwhile, the Curran-Holtom pair backed up their Lime Rock victory with another at Mosport.
Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes won at Mid-Ohio in their No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy, an ST-only race, as rain fell for most of the event. The No. 196 Mini Cooper S won its first pole with Owen Trinkler behind the wheel.
Traver and David Murry won at Watkins Glen International in the No. 38 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997, beating Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff to the line in a race that was full of scrapping and paint swapping. Meanwhile, Segal and Thornton's lead ballooned to 14 in the championship. In ST, defending series champs Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood won their first career race in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX, holding off Bob Beede and Bob Endicott at the stripe. Hemmingson and Skavnes picked up the point lead with a fifth-place finish in their secondary car, as their primary car was involved in a practice incident. Curran and Holtom did not score any points as a broken rear axle forced them to retire early and without earning points.
Maxwell and Foster added their second victory of the season at the GS-only race at Barber Motorsports Park, the most recent race on the schedule. Maxwell passed James Gue with three laps remaining to lead a 1-2-3 Ford Mustang GT sweep at what is considered more of a Porsche track.
So far this season, 116 drivers have been credited with points in GS and 118 drivers with points in ST.
NEWS & NOTES
- Hemmingson at Home in Iowa: West Des Moines native Chuck Hemmingson is the lone Iowan in this weekend's field for the two-and-a-half hour race at Iowa Speedway. Hemmingson co-leads the ST standings with co-driver Kristian Skavnes. The pair won at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June. Leading Rookie of the Year candidate Peter Cunningham (Saukville) of i-MOTO Racing and Mark White (Madison) of APR Motorsport are from Wisconsin, while Fall-Line Motorsports drivers Mark Boden and Steve Jenkins and Classic-BMW Plano driver Toby Grahovec are from the Chicagoland area in Illinois.
- Busy Stretch Over Next Four Weeks: The 2008 KONI Challenge Series is busier this month than any other. Iowa Speedway's race is this weekend, and separate GS and ST races are scheduled for next weekend on the streets of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. Competitors will then race two weeks later at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J., the track's debut weekend.
- Four Drivers Pulling Double Duty at Two Tracks: Four drivers will compete in two Grand-Am races this weekend. After they compete in Friday's Rolex Series Daytona Prototype race at Watkins Glen International, Andy Lally, Bill Auberlen, Guy Cosmo and Shane Lewis will fly to Iowa to compete in the KONI Challenge Series race. Lally won last year's Rolex Series GT race at Iowa and will drive one of two TRG Porsche 997s. Auberlen is in one of two Turner Motorsport BMW M3s, and Lewis and Cosmo are in the Fountain Motorsports BMW 330i. Cosmo and Fountain co-won the ST race at Iowa last season, and Cosmo is the only driver looking to defend a KONI victory this weekend.
- APR Motorsport Signs Queen of Nurburgring: The "Queen of the Ring," Sabine Schmitz, will compete in her first KONI Challenge Series race Sunday, driving for APR Motorsport. Schmitz, who was born and lives in Germany, will drive with Mark White in the No. 181 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI. Schmitz has several endurance victories and estimates she has logged over 23,000 lifetime laps on the 14-mile circuit.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POINT STANDINGS
- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Jep Thornton, Jeff Segal (145); 3. (tie) Joe Foster, Scott Maxwell (125); 5. Bret Seafuse, James Gue (120); 7. Hugh Plumb, Mike Canney (105); 9. Duncan Ende, Spencer Pumpelly (99).
- Street Tuner: 1. (tie) Chuck Hemmingson, Kristian Skavnes (139); 3. Kuno Wittmer (130); 4. Peter Cunningham (1235); 5. (tie) Eric Curran, Jamie Holtom (120); 7. Bob Beede (114); 8. (tie) Adam Burrows, Trevor Hopwood (109); 10. Christian Miller (108).
- MESCO Building for the Feature Rookie of the Year: 1. Peter Cunningham (125); 2. Andrew Aquilante (99); 3. (tie) Leo Maia, Al Lamb (92); 5. Rhett O'Doski (81).
SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES
Ashley McCalmont (No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt): "I am really excited about Iowa; it should be a competitive and busy race. I will be focused on keeping our nose clean so we will be ready for the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres. I hope all of the other teams have the same idea! I have never been to Iowa before, so I will have to make the small amount of practice count so I can get up to pace quickly. I am not worried though; I am up for the challenge."
Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt): "I'm very excited to be going back racing at Iowa Speedway. Last year we couldn't have had a better reception from the fans and track workers who came out to watch the racing action. This year we'll be looking to give them another great show, hopefully bringing our (No.) 01 Chevy Cobalt another victory. It's going to be a tough race, with both classes racing at the same time, it should be very exciting."
Jep Thornton (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "We've managed to stay consistent so far this year, and it's important to maintain that consistency with three races in four weeks this month. We extended our points lead at Barber, but we still have a long way to go before the season is over and we'll have to work just as hard in the second half of the season as we did in the first. We're looking forward to Iowa: the fans there last year were so enthusiastic."
Spencer Pumpelly (No. 39 TRG Porsche 997): "Iowa will be a challenging race with 50 cars on the track. We will need to be very conservative right until the end to make sure we can race the closing laps. TRG has been giving us great cars so hopefully Duncan (Ende) and I can ease through the ST traffic and on to a win."
Mike Canney (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "I'm looking forward to re-visiting the area. During my college years, I rode a bicycle across Iowa four times as a part of RAGRAI (the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), and I am sure we passed through Newton.
"Our last race at Barber produced a disappointing result for us, but we are only midway through the season, and we have a great team to get us back on track and into the points. As a driver, I'm looking forward to racing the next two weekends and we should be back in contention for the championship. I am ready to produce a strong finish at Iowa."
Hugh Plumb (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "The biggest thing will be for us to just stay out of trouble and get into a good pace early on. Iowa and then next week at Trois-Rivieres are two tracks where you have a lot of concrete around you so that doesn't leave any room for errors like we were victims of recently. Quinn Conda (crew chief) has both the No. 58 and No. 60 cars ready to go, and everyone on the team is ready for this fast weekend."
Trevor Hopwood (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX): "This place is a bit of a bullring and hopefully the guys are smart out there. We led there in the middle stages of the race last year and we'd like to do that at the end this time out. Going for and getting a win at The Glen felt pretty awesome, and it'd be great to back that up by getting on the podium again this week in Iowa."
Adam Burrows (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX): "One good thing about Iowa is that it is very smooth and that should suit our Acura TSX in terms of our setup. The laps here click off really quickly, and it's going to be another busy race with so many cars entered. Staying on the lead lap is going to be vital, particularly in terms of making good calls with pit stops. We've got Ray (Lee) on our side, though, so we're not worried about that. Winning at The Glen felt fantastic, and hopefully we can spray the champagne again this weekend. We aren't giving up on the championship but we certainly don't plan on playing things conservatively moving forward."
Charlie Putman (No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "We've had good cars this season, but we've just had some bad luck. But I feel that we're capable of being there at the front with everyone else, which is what we hope to do at Iowa this weekend."
Chuck Hemmingson (No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy): "I've not had the privilege of sleeping in my own bed on a race weekend since the days of the downtown street races in Des Moines - which I won in 1989 with the Racetrucks, and in 1994 in the World Challenge series. We may need our own grandstand since, between family and friends plus tickets for our local sponsor, Ramsey Subaru of Urbandale, I'm picking up over 50 tickets.
"Our team has really extracted a great deal of performance from cars that are closely based on factory stock Subaru Legacy 2.5GT spec.B cars. I did a few laps on the track last year. I think our Subaru cars should perform competitively based on reasons of the Legacy's basic mechanical design.
"The Subaru has good high-speed balance and stability which will help on the high-speed portion of the oval track, and the Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system will give us a good jump out of the tight infield turns."
Sabine Schmitz (No. 181 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI): "I am really excited to get the chance to race in KONI Challenge, in a German car with Mark White and APR Motorsport. I have spent a lot of time with the APR Motorsport Team, as well as Mark over the years, including spending some time this past spring on the Nordschleife in a GTI race car. We all developed a great amount of respect and friendship for one another and I hope to do a good job for team, as filling Randy Pobst's seat is not easy!"