Eleven Drivers Vie for at Least Share of Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series GS Point Lead at Miller Motorsports Park
Top seven separated by only six points; ST championship still up for grabs
Consistency has kept several drivers near the front of the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) point standings in 2008, while others have rested on victories to keep them in the championship hunt. The answer to "Which has been the most beneficial?" will become more clear Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park, where 11 drivers look to leave the 4.486-mile, 24-turn track with at least a share of the point lead.
A tight Street Tuner (ST) battle is also coming down to the wire, with four drivers within 21 points. The two-and-a-half hour race, the penultimate race for both classes, will start at 11:20 a.m. MT. (SPEED, at 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 27).
Consistency has rewarded James Gue (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Bret Seafuse (Trumansburg, N.Y.) with the series point lead, as the pair has six top 10s in eight starts. Gue and Seafuse drive the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shursave Ford Mustang GT. Their streak of six straight ended at New Jersey Motorsports Park with a 15th-place finish. While winless this season, the duo has come close. Gue led as late as four laps remaining at Barber Motorsports Park only to finish second. He also pressured Andy Lally (Dacula, Ga.) in the final laps at Trois-Rivieres but he and Seafuse settled for another runner-up finish.
While consistency has been the biggest beneficiary for Gue and Seafuse, others have teamed) steadiness with victories to stay in the hunt. Scott Maxwell (Toronto, Ontario) and Joe Foster (Atlanta, Ga.) currently head that category, as their two victories have them only two points (196-194) behind Gue and Seafuse. Maxwell and Foster have victories at Barber and Mosport International Raceway in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT.
Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.) is the only other driver, aside from Maxwell and Foster, with two victories. Stanton, who moved to fourth on the all-time KONI Challenge overall victory list after winning at New Jersey, is within five points of the lead in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink Porsche 997. Also a victor in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, Stanton - with 191 points - is fifth in the standings. He will co-drive with Jon Miller (Orlando, Fla.), who is eighth in points; Miller joined BGB after the season-opening round at DIS.
Sandwiched in between are defending series champions Jep Thornton (Miami, Fla.) and Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla.), who look to shake off an early race crash that ended their day early in New Jersey and forced the duo to leave the weekend without taking any championship points. But with just six points to make up, the lime rock park race winners shouldn't be counted out as they hope to close out the year with a strong KONI Challenge title defense on a track that was similarly unkind to them last year -here at MMP.
Thornton and Segal led the standings heading into New Jersey, but Thornton spun early in the race in the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 and was hit by Mike Canney (McLean, Va.) in the No. 60 Rehagen Racing Sunset Hills Vineyard Ford Mustang GT, forcing both cars to retire. Neither Thornton nor Segal scored points at New Jersey, leaving with 190 points, six out of the lead. The team also looks for better fortunes at Miller after problems last year.
Billy Johnson looked to be headed to victory lane at New Jersey before a last-lap pass by Stanton saw him coming home second. Johnson will return to the cockpit of the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT with Ray Mason (Columbus, Ohio) this weekend. Johnson has competed in several cars this season, and with three podiums and five top 10s in his last six GS starts, is ninth in points.
Lally, who has two KONI Challenge victories with two different teams and with two different manufacturers, is 10th in the standings. He returns to TRG, with whom he won most recently at Iowa, in the No. 41 Porsche 997 with Scott Schroeder (Atherton, Calif.). Dean Martin (Westland, Mich.), in the No. 59 Roush Racing Valvoline/Roush Performance Parts Ford Mustang GT, is the last of 11 drivers who, with a victory, could take the GS driver point lead. Martin co-drives the Mustang with Jack Roush Jr. (Livonia, Mich.).
Holtom, Skavnes still close in ST points with two races remaining
The ST championship isn't quite as close as that of the GS class, but Jamie Holtom (Ottawa, Ontario) and Kristian Skavnes (Sparta, N.J.) are still locked in a strong battle. Neither has led the other by more than five points over the last three races, with Holtom taking the lead after finishing third at Trois-Rivieres. The lead stands at four (217-213).
Holtom has more victories - three - than any other KONI Challenge driver in 2008, and with the return of regular co-driver Eric Curran (Springfield, Mass.), looks to make it two straight at Miller. They drive the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
However, Skavnes' first full season on the KONI Challenge circuit includes a victory, seven top 10s in eight starts, and no finish worse than 11th. Skavnes competed with Chuck Hemmingson (West Des Moines, Iowa) for the first seven races, and the two were poised at their first KONI Challenge titles before Hemmingson, currently sixth in points, dropped out of contention (birth of son) when he missed New Jersey. Skavnes is entered with Andrew Aquilante in the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy at Miller.
Kuno Wittmer (Hudson, Quebec) is the only driver in the top four without a victory, but consistency has him only 17 points behind Holtom. Wittmer drives the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX with Peter Cunningham (Saukville, Wis.), who is fifth in the standings. Wittmer has two runner-up finishes in 2008 and seven top 10s in eight starts. With solid finishes and the point lead after 10 races, Wittmer would join defending series champions Adam Burrows (Canton, Conn.) and Trevor Hopwood (Lee, N.H.) as an ST champion without a victory.
Bob Beede (Greenwich, Conn.) quietly sits fourth in points, only 21 behind Holtom. Beede, who did not race at Daytona after his car was involved in an early accident, has a victory, four podiums and finishes of ninth or better in seven races. Beede and Matt Plumb (Newport, R.I.), who were successful in New Jersey with their race win together, will drive the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Certified Used Cars/Southern Auto Auction Honda Civic Si.
Four drivers from three teams round out the top 10 in the standings. Burrows is seventh in the standings, and he and Hopwood will drive the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Skunk 2/Sunday Group Management Acura TSX. Teammate Christian Miller (Newark, Calif.) is ninth in the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Skunk 2/K&N Honda Civic Si; he'll drive with team owner Karl Thomson (Toronto, Ontario).
Eighth in points is Pierre Kleinubing (Coconut Creek, Fla.), who drives the No. 86 Classic BMW-Plano BMW Z4 with Toby Grahovec (Chicago); the pair was second at Trois-Rivieres. Tony Rivera (Missouri City, Texas), the top-ranked rookie in ST, is entered to drive two cars - the Nos. 49 and 51 Brass Mitchell Racing Haljoy Renewable Fuels, LLC Mazda RX-8s.
Practice for KONI Challenge Series competitors begins at 9:10 a.m. Friday, with qualifying at 8 a.m. Saturday and the two-and-a-half hour race at 11:20 a.m. Sunday.
- This is Round 10 of 11 for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season. The KONI Challenge race is two-and-a-half hours or 250 miles, whichever comes first.
- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 11:20 a.m. MT Sunday. The race will air on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 27 (Brian Till - Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder - Analyst; Calvin Fish, Chris Neville - Pit Reporters).
- All cars, in both series, must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective championships.
KONI CHALLENGE SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES MOUNTAIN)
- Friday: KONI Challenge Practice (9:10-9:40 a.m.); KONI Challenge Practice (1:55-2:45 p.m.)
- Saturday: KONI Challenge Qualifying (8-8:45 a.m.)
- Sunday: KONI Challenge Race (11:20 a.m.; 250 miles/56 laps/two-and-a-half hour time limit).