KONI Challenge Series GS Point Lead at New Jersey
Only 10 points separate top four drivers in GS, and seven separate top four in ST
The closer competitors come to the end of the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season, the closer Bret Seafuse and James Gue have been getting to the series championship point lead. With two second-place finishes in their last three races, Seafuse and Gue have closed the sizable advantage held by leaders and defending champions Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal to 10 points (190-180). Their next chance to close in begins at 8:53 a.m. Sunday at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, N.J., with a 250-mile (112-lap) or two-and-a-half hour race.
Gue nearly ran down the pair's first-ever series victory together in the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec, but a late-race caution kept him close to another Ford Mustang driver, Billy Johnson, with whom he battled for nearly an hour of the 100-minute race. It marked the third straight race Seafuse and Gue finished ahead of Thornton and Segal (12th at Trois-Rivieres), who won in May at Lime Rock Park.
It wasn't the first time this season Gue and the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shursave Ford Mustang GT have been in contention for a KONI Challenge victory. In the Grand Sport (GS) only race last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., Gue led 40 laps before he heeded to Scott Maxwell while running low on fuel. It was a podium sweep for the Mustangs, and one of two Mustang victories this season.
"So far we have had a great season," Gue said. "It got off to a rough start at Daytona with a 19th place after cutting a tire, but ever since then we haven't finished outside the top 10, including three podiums. We still have three races remaining so anything can happen with the points situation. Honestly I'm not too focused on points, I think if we continue doing what we have always done and take it one race at a time we should be in good shape. Coming into this season we set the goal of winning a race this year, and that's what we are focused on doing. We've come in second twice now and are so close to getting that first win for the team."
While JBS Motorsports' advantage is momentum, Segal's advantage is knowledge. The Philadelphia native, driving the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3, is an instructor at New Jersey and has already put together several laps. He is also expected to share his knowledge with the rest of the Automatic Racing stable, which has three cars entered, including the Nos. 91 and 99 BMW M3s.
Maxwell and Joe Foster are also still in the championship hunt with 170 points. The two-time 2008 race winners will compete in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT. Craig Stanton, seventh in the point standings thanks in part to a victory at Daytona International Speedway, will share the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink/Weeden Consultants Porsche 997 with Jon Miller, tied for eighth in points with Andy Lally. Franklin Lakes, N.J. driver Joe Masessa will team with Nick Longhi in the No. 38 Performance Drink/Monticello Motor Club Porsche 997.
Kinetic Motorsports is coming off its first victory at Trois-Rivieres, and Nic Jonsson and Russell Smith's team features two cars, including the No. 80 Molloy Interiors BMW M3 for Trois-Rivieres co-winner Lally and Todd Lamb. Jonsson will share the No. 79 with New Jersey-born Kevin Molloy.
Rehagen Racing's four-car stable features Hugh Plumb and Mike Canney, who will drive the No. 60 Sunset Hills Vineyard Ford Mustang GT. The two are tied for 10th in points and are looking to their first victory of 2008.
New Jersey native Skavnes, co-driver Hemmingson look to regain ST lead from Holtom
Three weeks ago, Chuck Hemmingson competed at his home track - Iowa Speedway. This weekend, Hemmingson's teammate Kristian Skavnes, driving the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy, will get to do the same. Both drivers hope for a solid run and, with a little luck, a return to the top of the point standings.
An eighth-place finish at Iowa, followed by a season-worst 12th at Trois-Rivieres, has Hemmingson and Skavnes down two points (185-183) to Jamie Holtom with three races remaining. Holtom won at Iowa Speedway and finished third at Trois-Rivieres with two different co-drivers; his Iowa co-winner Lawson Aschenbach joins him in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS. Hemmingson and Skavnes won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Both cars have six top 10s in seven starts and are part of two-car efforts.
The sleeper of the leaders, however, is Kuno Wittmer, who despite not winning has finished no worse than 11th this season. Four top fives have the Hudson, Quebec, driver - who co-pilots the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation/Alpinestar Acura TSX - fourth in points, only eight points out of the lead. Wittmer is sharing the No. 32, part of another two-car team, with MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year point leader Peter Cunningham.
Defending series champions Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood have also recently joined the mix, and are only 18 points behind Holtom. The pair hopes to become the first series three-time winners this season in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Skunk2/K&N Acura TSX, part of a four-car effort by Toronto's Karl Thomson.
Bob Beede is eighth in points, 24 behind Holtom, and will look to co-driver Matt Plumb and his experience as an instructor at NJMP. They are entered in one of two Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Sis, the No. 29 Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civic Si with Fenton. Rookie Tony Rivera is ninth in points, and is entered in the Nos. 49 and 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Hal Joy Renewable Fuels, LLC Mazda RX-8s. Rivera's No. 51 co-driver Steven Ott led 114 laps at Iowa before the pair finished fourth.
Rounding out the top 10 are Toby Grahovec and Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 86 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4, who finished a career-best second at Trois-Rivieres. The team also fields the No. 85 BMW Z4.
Practice for KONI Challenge Series competitors begins at 1 p.m. Friday, with qualifying at 10:25 a.m. Saturday and the two-and-a-half hour race at 8:53 a.m. Sunday.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)
- Friday: KONI Challenge Practice (1-1:45 p.m.); KONI Challenge Practice (4:10-4:45 p.m.)
- Saturday: KONI Challenge ST Qualifying (10:25-10:40 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Qualifying (10:50-11:05 a.m.)
- Sunday: KONI Challenge GS Race (8:53 a.m.; 250 miles/112 laps/two-and-a-half hour time limit).
2008 IN REVIEW
Through the first seven 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.
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 ST win 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 at Mid-Ohio with Owen Trinkler behind the wheel.
Traver and David Murry won in overall and GS 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 points. 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. 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. Andy Lally and Scott Schroeder recorded their first victories of the season from the pole at Iowa Speedway, while Holtom topped the podium yet again with co-driver Lawson Aschenbach.
Lally won the following week in GS at Trois-Rivieres in a different make - BMW - with Marc-Antoine Camirand for the first-ever victory for Kinetic Motorsports. Hopwood and Burrows prevailed in ST action at Trois-Rivieres. So far this season, 120 drivers have been credited with points in GS and 133 drivers with points in ST.
NEWS & NOTES
- Home Sweet Home: Several drivers and teams are calling this weekend's race at New Jersey Motorsports Park home. GS point co-leader Jeff Segal was born and raised in Philadelphia, while former ST leader Kristian Skavnes is from Sparta, N.J. His team, ICY/Phoenix Racing, is based in Phoenixville, Pa., with teammates Dave Rosenblum from Langhorne, Pa., and Andrew Aquilante from Chester Springs, Pa. Matt and Hugh Plumb were born in Delaware, and Hugh maintains a home in Chadds Ford, Pa. T Giovanis Motorsport and drivers Ted Giovanis and Paul Moorcones reside in Highland, Md., and Fountain Motorsports driver Marko Radisic calls Mahwah, N.J. home. BGB Motorsports team principal John Tecce is also from the Philadelphia area, and one of the team's drivers, Joe Masessa, is from Franklin Lakes, N.J. Kinetic Motorsports' Kevin Molloy was born in New Jersey.
- Three Races in Four Weeks: August is the busiest month on the KONI Challenge Series calendar. In addition to this weekend's race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, the series competed three weeks at Iowa Speedway and two weeks ago at Trois-Rivieres.
- TRG Expands to Three-Car Effort at NJMP: TRG is expanding its driver lineup for this weekend at New Jersey. Regulars Duncan Ende and Spencer Pumpelly (No. 39 Porsche 997) and Scott Schroeder (No. 41 Porsche 997) remain with their respective cars, and Schroeder welcomes Peter Ludwig back as a co-driver. Tim George Jr. and Bryan Silas will drive the No. 40 Porsche 997. "It's got a great track surface and it gets a little skinny in places - it should be an interesting and fun race!" said team manager Jason Myers after testing at the track. "After our bad luck at Trois-Rivieres, everyone is ready to bounce back and have an Iowa repeat, but this time with a 1-2-3 finish!"
- Pulling Double Duty: Several drivers will be running both the KONI Challenge Series race and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 races Sunday. In GS, those drivers include Jeff Segal, Andrew Davis, Darren Law, Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Joe Foster, Nic Jonsson, Andy Lally, Craig Stanton and Bill Auberlen. In ST, Matt Plumb, Will Nonnamaker, Joe Sahlen, Shane Lewis, Dion von Moltke, Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski are poised for double duty.
- New Jersey Born Kevin Molloy Beats Disease, Back in Race Car: Kinetic Motorsports driver Kevin Molloy has a good reason to be thankful this weekend. The 37-year-old will compete in his first KONI Challenge Series race with the team this weekend, just six months after finding out he had contracted Small Cell Carcinoma. In February, he was told his body was covered with tumors, which were attacking his lungs and liver. He was told his chances for survival were 10 percent. But Molloy, who started racing in 2004, fought the disease. His wife Erin was seven months pregnant with their son when Kevin was diagnosed. He has endured aggressive chemo therapy, sometimes six hours straight, three times a week. He returned to racing in an enduro race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Father's Day. "Racing is where I can put on my helmet and block out everything else; I can just be in that moment and focus solely on racing." Molloy said. "My intention is to finish out the rest of the season and I am really excited about the six-hour endurance race at VIR - that is my cup of tea. If I could race the entire six hours myself I would!" Molloy will be competing with Nic Jonsson in the No. 79 BMW M3, the same car that Andy Lally and Marc-Antoine Camirand took to victory two weeks ago at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.
- Schmitz Returns to KONI Challenge: Sabine Schmitz, the "Queen of the Nurburgring" in Nurburg, Germany, returns to the KONI Challenge Series this weekend to drive with Mark White in the No. 181 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI. The car is one of three entered by the Alabama-based team. Schmitz debuted in KONI Challenge competition earlier this month at Iowa Speedway, finishing 14th in the ST class.
- Turner Motorsport Ready to Win Again: Turner Motorsport team principal Will Turner doesn't want to settle for just another top-five finish this weekend or the rest of the season. "We can and will repeat," Turner said in a Q&A earlier this week. "We have the driver talent, the equipment and the team - although the other KONI teams have really turned it up this year - it's more competitive than ever." His GS lineup includes Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff in the No. 96 BMW M3 and Don Salama and Bryan Ortiz in the No. 97 BMW M3, and Matt Bell and VJ Mirzayan in the No. 95 BMW 330i in ST.
- Strength in Numbers?: In each race BGB Motorsports has fielded two cars this season, the team has put one car in the top five at the checkered flag...Of the 29 GS entries, 26 come from multi-car outfits. JBS Motorsports, CMA Motorsports and Maxwell Paper Racing are the one-car teams. The GS multi-car teams are Automatic Racing, Motorsport Technology Group, C-MAX/Unitech Racing, Playboy Racing/Fall-Line Motorsports, BGB Motorsports, TRG, Rehagen Racing, Kinetic Motorsports, Turner Motorsport and Hyper Sport, which is prepping the two Jim Click Racing Ford Mustang GTs...In ST, the multi-car teams include Georgian Bay Motorsports, Bill Fenton Motorsports, i-MOTO Racing, Brass Mitchell Racing, Compass360 Racing, Classic BMW-Plano, ICY/Phoenix Racing, Fountain Motorsports, GS Motorsports, Freedom Autosport, APR Motorsport and RSR Motorsports. The single-car efforts come from Flatout Motorsports, Meyer Motorsports, V-Pack Motorsport, Kinetic Motorsports, Team Sahlen, Predator Autosport, T Giovanis Motorsport, Riley Racing, HART, Turner Motorsport, GSM Motorsports, Kiton Racing and LRT Racing. All seven GS and ST victories have come from multi-car teams.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES DRIVER POINT STANDINGS
- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Jep Thornton, Jeff Segal (190); 3. (tie) Bret Seafuse, James Gue (180); 5. (tie) Joe Foster, Scott Maxwell (170); 7. Craig Stanton (156); 8. (tie) Andy Lally, Jon Miller (147);10. (tie) Hugh Plumb, Mike Canney (141).
- Street Tuner: 1. Jamie Holtom (185); 2. (tie) Chuck Hemmingson, Kristian Skavnes (183); 4. Kuno Wittmer (178); 5. (tie) Adam Burrows, Trevor Hopwood (167); 7. Peter Cunningham (164); 8. Bob Beede (161); 9. Tony Rivera (154); 10. Pierre Kleinubing, Toby Grahovec (138).
- MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Peter Cunningham (164); 2. Tony Rivera (154); 3. Charles Putman (119); 4. (tie) Andrew Aquilante, Steven Ott (118).
SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES
Jamie Holtom (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS): "I'm very excited to race this weekend at the new Thunderbolt Raceway track. The KONI Challenge puts on a great show at every track we attend, so I'm sure New Jersey will be no exception. The track is an unknown, but Georgian Bay Motorsports has been busy preparing, and I'm sure that we'll be up to speed quickly. Unfortunately, Eric [Curran] won't be able to make it to this event either, so I'll be paired with Lawson [Aschenbach] and we'll be looking to keep our perfect winning record as co-drivers. The points race is extremely close this season and we're looking for consistent good finishes to solidify our lead in the championship."
Jeff Segal (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "I've instructed at New Jersey, and I think that the track's layout will be a good match for the M3. Now we really have to race going into New Jersey. It will keep things exciting, but we would have liked a healthier lead. Hopefully we'll get on the podium and be back on track."
Hugh Plumb (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "Mike (Canney) did a great job at Trois-Rivieres, but unfortunately the result was really disappointing after we had to stop early, so we have to make some ground up this weekend in New Jersey. We know that the track will be new for everyone, so hopefully that will level the playing field a little bit. There are a lot of cars in this field and I think that traffic is going to play a big role. We've been studying what we can of the track map and the like, but there is no substitute for track time so everyone is anxious to get up there and hit the track."
Trevor Hopwood (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Acura TSX): "This track is going to be new for everyone, and that gives us even more confidence because we know that Compass will have the Fischer Skis Acura TSX all sorted, and we both have a lot of experience learning new tracks quickly, so this should be another good weekend for us. We switched it up for Trois-Rivieres with me qualifying and Adam (Burrows) finishing the race and that obviously worked out well, so we will see what strategy Ray Lee has us on this weekend."
Nic Jonsson (No. 79 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3): "We can't wait to hit the track in Jersey with all of our clients and this will be an especially emotional and exciting one for Kevin. We are honored to be a part of his return to racing and his start in GS. We plan to give him a great, competitive (car) and we're thrilled to have him on our team."
Jon Miller (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "I'm looking forward to going to a new track, it's always fun to come to a new facility and I enjoy the challenge of learning a new track. I know a handful of KONI teams have already been there for testing and from what I hear, it's a fun track that will make for great racing and a great event. The season is winding down, but the championship is still up for grabs. Unfortunately, we are not at the top of the points chart and we have no room to relax or conserve, so Craig, myself and the entire BGB squad are as focused as ever on winning races and letting the chips fall where they may."