General Stores Grand-Am KONI Challenge Race Sunday at Iowa Speedway
TRG duo wins from pole; Holtom claims third ST victory of season with co-driver Aschenbach
NEWTON, Iowa (Aug. 10, 2008) - Andy Lally withstood several challenges from Craig Stanton late in the Casey's General Stores KONI Challenge race in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) competition Sunday to give himself and co-driver/polesitter, Scott Schroeder, their first victory of the season.
Driving the No. 41 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Cohen Financial Porsche 997, Lally led three times for 61 laps, including the final 11, and held off a hard-charging Craig Stanton. Stanton led for three laps in the final half hour of the race before Lally returned to the point for good on Lap 147.
Stanton tried to get by several times at the end, but was starving for fuel during the last handful of laps and instead cruised to second, 3.063 seconds behind. It was the best finish for Stanton and the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997 since their victory in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway and the best finish of his career for Jon Miller.
Lally and Stanton weren't the only drivers entrenched in a battle for the lead. On Lap 93, Lally earned his first lead of the day by passing Joe Foster in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT in Turn 4. Bill Auberlen was also part of the lead mix, and ended up taking third in the race with Matthew Alhadeff in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
Rounding out the top five were defending series co-champions and current point co-leaders Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3. They now lead Foster and Scott Maxwell, who finished seventh, by 22 points (171-149) with four races remaining.
After earning a track record in qualifying Sunday morning and starting on the pole for the first time in his career, Schroeder led the opening 49 laps before the first caution period - when ST driver Derek Whitis spun into the gravel trap in Turn 3 - and the first round of pit stops occurred. Schroeder handed the car off to Lally on Lap 51, and Lally returned to the track in seventh. However, Lally took fifth on Lap 65 and was in second by Lap 80, then passed Foster on Lap 93 and led 22 laps before Auberlen led a lap.
Lally returned to the point on Lap 116 and stayed atop before Stanton surged ahead on Lap 144 with a bold move in Turns 6 and 7. Lally then retook the lead at the start/finish line on Lap 147 and never let Stanton back by, despite a series of challenges to the last two laps.
It marked the second victory for Lally and TRG at Iowa Speedway, as Lally took a TRG Porsche GT3 car to victory in last year's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GT race.
For Stanton and Miller, it was a positive end to a long day. The car suffered problems throughout the morning practice session, and the team was about to run the sister No. 38 Porsche 997 before diagnosing a wiring problem moments before qualifying.
Holtom, Aschenbach Win KONI ST Race
In their first race together, Jamie Holtom and Lawson Aschenbach took the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS to the ST victory, as they held a lap advantage over second-place finishers Matthew Bell and VJ Mirzayan in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i.
Holtom led the final 42 laps after taking the point from polesitter Steven Ott when Ott pitted and handed the No. 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Mazda RX-8 off to his co-driver Tony Rivera on Lap 115. Rivera returned to the track in third, and with enough fuel to go to the end, Holtom put a lap between himself and the rest of the ST field for his third ST victory of the season. He also is now within five points (160-155) of point co-leaders Chuck Hemmingson, the local favorite out of West Des Moines, Iowa, and Kristian Skavnes. Hemmingson and Skavnes finished 10th in the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy.
The victory was the first for Aschenbach in Grand-Am competition, and the first time he had ever competed in a front-wheel drive car. Aschenbach was substituting for Eric Curran, who had other obligations Sunday.
Jeremy Willard and Ken Wilden - in their first season together in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Pure Hair and Body Care/Skunk 2 Acura TSX - finished third, while Ott and Rivera finished fourth. Ott started on the pole for the first time in his KONI Challenge Series career and led the opening 114 laps before the only ST lead change of the race.
Andrew Carbonell, who started second, and co-driver Tom Long rounded out the top five in the No. 146 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5.
The Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series returns to action next Saturday and Sunday for the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. Saturday's race will feature the ST class while Sunday's event features the GS contingent.
TOP-THREE FINISHING DRIVER QUOTES (GS AND ST)
Andy Lally (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997): "We had a good run and we had a great car. When you roll off here with a good car, you don't have to make too many changes. You can concentrate on where you want to make your passes and find those spots instead of worrying about just the speed. Once we got out there, I had a good feeling about where we were strong. I just had to wait to see the weakness of the guys we were racing. You have to be patient here. If you just start charging, charging, charging, you'll, one, just slow you and the guy you're racing down and, two, it's never going to be a surprise when you are coming. If you hang out, jump when you find a weak point, that's the way to do it.
"I have to give (No. 83) Craig (Stanton) a lot of credit because he made the race possible. We both could have crashed the heck out of each other. We both just raced each other really clean. He was a gentleman out there and super fast, and a total pain in the butt. It was fun to do."
Scott Schroeder (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997): "We really always had the pace. I'm not saying qualifying was easy, but we did have our pace all along. With the race, I knew we had to be patient especially getting through the ST cars. I guess I just managed to get through the ST cars faster than the other guys behind me. I handed the car over to Andy and he brought it home from there."
Craig Stanton (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "It was close. What happened is that we were running out of fuel. We didn't duck in the pits (earlier), so we were conserving. I knew Andy and I were both really close and that we might run out at the end, so I wanted to fight really hard after that restart and get ahead of him and then conserve the rest of the way. We went back and forth and side-by-side for about three laps. It was pretty fun. We had a struggle with an electrical problem this weekend that we finally got sorted out this afternoon. The car ran flawless the whole time. He handed over just a perfect car. We could go fast on the fast stuff and turn well in the slow stuff. I want to thank all the fans in Iowa. We can't wait to come back."
Jon Miller (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "It was down to the 11th hour; we almost gave up on the No. 83 (car). Last minute, the crew found what was wrong. It had been plaguing us all weekend. They fixed it and we just went out there. I didn't have the best qualifying session, but I knew we had a great race car. We just worked our way up and settled in. I wanted to give Craig a good car. It was a great feeling to get out of the car in fourth after all these problems over the weekend. We had a car that could have won, but we were so close on fuel at the end, so it just didn't quite happen. This feels great, though."
Bill Auberlen (No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3): "Everybody's very heads-up racing here. You've got a lot of experienced drivers with Lally, Stanton, Scotty, Joe Foster, these guys are the best. I was just playing it to the next pit stop, which we took, but nobody else did. They didn't do the ST wave-by so we got caught back and had to pass all the cars to get to the overall leaders. It was close."
Matthew Alhadeff (No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3): "The car was great. It was a lot of fun. We had a little scare at the beginning. I got a little greedy and was trying to make a pass on the outside and we lost some ground. We had to make up a little bit there, but we had a great car. Turner gave us a great car so it was easy to get back up towards the top. I handed it over to Bill. We were looking really good. Maybe we decided to come in for fuel at the wrong time when no one else did. We were stuck behind a train of about 12 ST cars when we should have been right behind (Craig) Stanton in third place. That was a little disappointing but we got a podium. We're happy. On to the next one at Three Rivers."
Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "At the last race at Watkins Glen, we were looking pretty good there and then luck didn't go our way. We didn't finish. We got redemption today. We were able to run a smart race with a great strategy. Lawson was in for only one race, and then he wins it which is awesome. To be able to fight our way back into (the championship points) is great. It feels like a new season."
Lawson Aschenbach (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "To be totally honest with you, this is my first time racing a front-wheel drive car. I didn't know I was doing this until a couple of days ago. Obviously, it's great to be in a great car like the Cobalt. The Georgia Bay guys do such a great job. All the sponsors and everyone who is involved with the program are first-class. It is an honor to drive with them.
"It was eye-opening to drive a car like this, but it was a blast. The field is so tight. If you make one little mistake, you go back a few position. It's great racing for sure."
Matthew Bell (No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i): "It was a lot of fun. I haven't been racing very long, but this is the most fun I've had racing. This is definitely a highlight, but it is also bittersweet. If we had gotten that point by, to at least fight for first, then we might have won it. Maybe next time."
VJ Mirzayan (No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i): "At the beginning of the race, it seemed the track had a lot of rubber from the previous race. Our car had a lot of understeer. We dropped back a little bit, but as the cars started coming, we drove back up. Matt drove a really consistent race. I'm really happy for Matt, with his first podium. We look forward to many more. I want to thank Turner Motorsport for a great car and thank Grand-Am for a great race here in Iowa."
Jeremy Willard (No. 75 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX): "It was our first time qualifying in the top 10, which has been our goal all year. We've had some unfortunate circumstances up until this race. Kenny did a great job bringing the car to the front. We just keep consistently clicking off the times, so through attrition we ended up on the podium. It was a great run. It was a lot of fun."
Ken Wilden (No. 75 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX): "The amazing story is that this is Jeremy's sixth race ever. His first race was in Daytona this year and he's just done an awesome job. We're working great together. I'm really happy for Jeremy because he's putting a huge effort in and this like the reward."