Plumbs, Canney Win Grand-Am KONI Challenge Grand Sport Season Finale at VIR; Maxwell, Foster Win Title
Driving and team titlists, as well as race winners, give Ford Mustangs a huge day at VIR
ALTON, Va. (Oct. 5, 2008) - Hugh and Matt Plumb dominated the middle and final stages of Sunday's Bosch Engineering Twin Six Hours, the season finale for the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) class, giving themselves and Mike Canney a victory in the six-hour classic at Virginia International Raceway.
Hugh Plumb passed fellow Rehagen Racing and Ford Mustang GT driver Dean Martin on Lap 144, then led Martin and TRG's Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly in a nose-to-tail battle to the checkered flag in a two-lap shootout. The leading quartet was separated by only 1.081 seconds, and the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Valvoline/ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT of Martin, Jack Roush Jr. and Ryan Phinny finished 0.208 seconds behind in the second closest finish in KONI Challenge Series history.
Like the race itself, the championship race came down to the final hour-and-a-half, with seven drivers fighting for the title. In the end, Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster finished fifth in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT, giving Maxwell his second GS title (2002 GSI) and Foster his first. They won the driving and owner titles by six points (248-242) over Bret Seafuse and James Gue and JBS Motorsports, and the top seven drivers were separated by only 19 points (248-229).
Maxwell and Foster went without mechanical problems - though they encountered cosmetic damage from an early spin and were running two laps shy on fuel before the final caution - and all seven drivers were in the top 10 heading into the final pit stop. But mechanical woes plagued three of the four championship cars during the final hour.
Seafuse and Gue entered the race one point (222-221) behind Maxwell and Foster, but the team had to change brake pads and rotors on the No. 37 JBS Motorsports Trumansburg Shur Save Ford Mustang GT and start from the tail after finding problems on the recon laps. The team, which also served a 60-second stop-and-go penalty for running over pit equipment, managed to stay on the lead lap, and Gue battled Maxwell for a top-five finish. However, he faded in the final 45 minutes from a lost cylinder. They finished 10th, the final car on the lead lap.
Fuel delivery problems forced Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton to lose one lap for repairs, but they and another co-driver, Terry Borcheller, regained the lap and made their way back into the top five. However, the car slowed on Lap 138 and Borcheller brought the car into the paddock for repairs. He took the No. 09 Automatic Racing Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3 back on the track a lap down, and finished 11th.
Craig Stanton led for the only time on Lap 125, but was passed by Maxwell on the restart on the outside of Turn 1 and quickly fell to fourth two laps later. On Lap 150, the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Performance Drink/Weeden Consultants Porsche 997 slowed due to engine failure, and Stanton and co-driver Jon Miller retired in 15th.
Though Maxwell passed Stanton on Lap 126 and led 12 laps, his fuel situation forced him to into conservation mode. Martin took the point on Lap 138, then held it until Lap 144, when Hugh Plumb surged ahead. Hugh Plumb, Martin and Lally ran within a second before the final caution - which occurred due to dropped oil from Stanton's engine. Pumpelly joined the lead trio, but no one was able to get by Hugh Plumb, who gave Canney and Matt Plumb their first career GS victories. Matt Plumb - who last won in KONI Challenge with Hugh Plumb two years ago at VIR in the ST race - led a race-high 44 laps and the No. 60 Ford Mustang GT led 67 laps.
Overall, 13 drivers in eight cars combined for 19 lead changes, and seven cautions for 22 laps slowed the average speed of 84.184 mph.
Martin, Roush and Phinny, combined to lead 18 laps in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Valvoline/ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT in earning their best finish and second podium of the season. Their previous best third was in July's race at Barber Motorsports Park.
TRG's two cars also finished strong. Lally led a lap in the No. 41 TRG Carlsen Porsche/Cohen Financial Porsche 997 he shared with Scott Schroeder and Peter Ludwig. Outside front row starter Pumpelly, meanwhile, stormed through the field in the final 10 laps in the No. 39 TRG Carlsen Porsche/TheDigiTrust Group Porsche 997 he shared with Duncan Ende.
Rehagen Racing's Ray Mason, Gene Martindale and Adam Pecorari also slipped into sixth near the end of the 155-lap race, driving the No. 52 Columbus Truck & Equipment Ford Mustang GT. Overall, four of the top six cars were Ford Mustang GTs, helping the marquee earn its first KONI Challenge Series championship. Ford bested Porsche by four points (313-309) and BMW - which entered the race leading the standings - by five (313-308).
Other notable drivers included polesitter Bill Auberlen - who led the first 22 laps and 24 overall - and Matthew Alhadeff, who finished 20th in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 after sustaining damage to the car's right side and mechanical problems late in the race. Andrew Davis, who flipped end-over-end multiple times in the No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Morris Animal Foundation/Meisha's Hope BMW Z4 when his brakes failed, was uninjured in the race's most spectacular incident of the day. Davis and Billy Johnson finished 24th.
The top GS and Street Tuner (ST) drivers, teams and manufacturers will be honored in Monday's season-ending banquet at the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons in Greensboro, N.C.
POST-PRACTICE DRIVER QUOTES
Hugh Plumb (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "This is an amazing day for the Sunset Hills Vineyard car, we've had a run of bad luck this season but we finally did it and got the win today. I thought that there was going to be a huge pile up with how slippery the track was on the last two laps. I had a really big battle with Dean (Martin) going, and it was great to come out of that on top and have Rehagen Racing finish 1-2. After I got hit on the first lap I had to take an extra pit stop to fix the damage and then I just had to put my head down, be consistent, and catch the field. But the car was great, and we just kept moving forward all day. This is a great result, and I'm happy to be able to share it with Mike and Matt."
Matt Plumb (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "I'm just happy the team waited until I got involved to win a race! A big thanks to (crew chief) Quinn Conda and to everyone at Rehagen Racing. The car was great today. Even though I was up front, I just tried to save the brakes as much as possible, and Hugh did the rest of the work to get back to the front and stay there to the finish. It was a nail biter to have the green-white-checker like that to finish the race, a lot more exciting than I was hoping for. But Hugh just stayed cool and did a great job."
Mike Canney (No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "This is my first win in this series, so it's really exciting, especially to do it like we did today. Our crew chief Quinn Conda had a great set-up on the Mustang and the car handled really well during my stint. I'm happy to get a 1-2 finish for Rehagen Racing. It's an exciting way to finish this season off and it's also a great way to get things going for next year. I've learned a lot this year, so I'm thrilled to end the season on a high note like this!"
Dean Martin (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "We were racing hard, and I knew Hugh was light on brakes. I had brakes, but I was being a little conservative, and Hugh came in just a little bit deep. I knew he was going too light on brakes at the end, and I knew that when he hit me. I got crossed up and he got by me. At that point, I was thinking, ‘don't let Andy by, he left me in the clutches of Andy Lally, I've got to get out of here.' I had some opportunities to get back around Hugh, but they were all going to be risky. The last thing I wanted to do was take my teammate out. We had a good finish, 1-2; I was more focused on getting away from Andy and bringing it home 1-2. Having a Rehagen car win was a team win. It was unfortunate that we got hit and turned sideways, because we might have won it. But Hugh was certainly fast, and that's the way it worked out. I'm not too upset about it, just disappointed. Jack and Ryan Phinny did an awesome job all day, we all took turns at the front of the field."
Jack Roush Jr. (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "I was very happy with the way the year went. We had some unfortunate problems early in the year that hurt our championship run, but we had a lot of good finishes. This is a nice way to finish, with our best finish of the season. The car felt very strong out there. At one point, it felt like I was taking positions at will. It got a little harder at the end, when the tires went away, but the No. 59 Roush/Valvoline Mustang was awesome all day."
Andy Lally (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997): "In the corners and under braking I had something for them at the end, but they've got way too much juice. Even if they make a mistake, they can get on the gas and drive away from us. They're both very good drivers, but I think with a little more juice on our side, we could have done it. It's a testament to the car and how good the TRG guys have been thrashing on it. We had the first and second place Porsches today, and I'm proud of that. This is a horsepower track, and we just got beat. I overdrove the heck out of it, I threw it off probably three or four times hustling it, but third was the best we could do today."
Scott Schroeder (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997): "This Porsche ran real strong all weekend. Peter did a great job. Andy did a great job. We just had to be there at the end. We didn't have any for those Mustangs, they just have too much straight-line speed. I'm looking forward to next year. I think this is a good way to end the year. I can't say enough about the team."
Peter Ludwig (No. 41 TRG Porsche 997): "I ran the middle shift, and it was a good experience. It's nice to finish strong in the last race of the year. I've had a lot of bad luck this year. In my stint, we had a shock go out. That was a little scary, I had a lot of rear end motion. But Andy was able to deal with it perfectly in his stint and brought the car home, so we're real happy."
Scott Maxwell (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "We were trying to save fuel near the end. We were two laps short on fuel with a half an hour to go, so I was a little concerned. I started short shifting. I knew the point scenario, so I started fading back to try to save enough fuel. The last caution was a Godsend. If we had to pit, I knew the championship was over. We needed to make up two laps of fuel, because we were two laps short. We had a great car the first two hours, then Joe got hit and got spun, and the front end got bent a half-hour into his stint. It was tracking sideways, so it was a bit of a handful the last four hours. It definitely wasn't as easy as it might have looked. For the first two hours, the car was great and I thought not only could we win the championship, we could win the race. At the end, it was just survival."
Joe Foster (No. 55 Hyper Sport Ford Mustang GT): "Obviously, it was a crazy race with a lot of excitement on the track. It was a good car in the beginning. Unfortunately, we had contact with a car that was not involved in the championship about the middle of the race, and that definitely affected the handling of the front end of the car. The steering wheel was pointed at nine o'clock instead of 12 o'clock. I can't thank Scott enough for driving the wheels off at the end to stay ahead. We had to play a conservation game at that point, because the car was not going to go to the front as it had early in the race, so we did the lap times we needed to get it to the end. Winning the championship was an amazing thing. It's something Hyper Sport hasn't done before, and team owner Patrick Dempsey and Rick Skelton, the partners in the team (haven't either). I know Patrick, on the set of Grey's Anatomy, was watching online all day. Personally, it's the culmination of a lot of hard work by about 100 people sharing in this."
Craig Stanton (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "I feel bad for the team, and I feel bad for Jon Miller, John Tecce, John and Patti Moore, the whole team. Each and every one of them put their whole heart and soul out all year long. This isn't just a one-race weekend. It showed in every race. It was a great year. They stepped up for every race, each and every time. It's a great place to race, there are a lot of fans here, and I can't wait for next year. It's one of them darn racing deals. We have three or four minutes to go, we were running for first or second in the championship, but heck, we'll move on for '09."
Jon Miller (No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997): "Not great. We made it to 10 minutes to go until the end of the season, and then we had our first mechanical issue that took us from being in the position to win the championship to finishing a couple of laps down. It's pretty gut-wrenching to make it to 10 minutes from the end of the season and have a mechanical problem take us out of it."
James Gue (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "We thought we had it there, but everything that could have gone wrong went wrong today. Right when we thought we had a chance to run them down, we lost a cylinder near the end. Very disappointing, actually."
Bret Seafuse (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "Good race for us. Second place (in the championship), we can't complain about that. But it was a rough weekend. Anything that could go wrong pretty much has. But we battled back and it came down to the end. We were running on seven cylinders, we'd been hit, and we had a rough race. We battled through it, and I can't complain about second. Too bad we lost a cylinder with 30 minutes left, we were running well. James was doing a real good job in his last stint, and we were actually quite a bit faster than a bunch of cars. I think potentially we could have gotten the 55, but congratulations to them, they did a good job."
Jeff Segal (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "Congratulations to the entire Hyper Sport team. They did a fantastic job, and they really deserve this. Their Mustang was really strong and our little M3 just didn't have anything for them. Our whole team worked unbelievably hard all weekend. Our championship last year and our third place points finish this year is all because of their efforts."
Jep Thornton (No. 09 Automatic Racing BMW M3): "Congratulations to Joe and Scott. You never know how things will turn out - we lost our chance for a championship in the last minutes of the last race. We all fight for this moment. We had our problems, but overall we had a great season." (referring to Monday night's KONI Challenge banquet in nearby Greensboro, N.C.) "Viva Greensboro!"