The Grand-Am Road Racing season resumes this Saturday and Sunday with the KONI Sports Car Challenge at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Free Admission for This Weekend's Grand-Am Fan Appreciation WeekendGrand-Am Road Racing and Homestead-Miami Speedway have teamed to reward race fans by offering free ticket vouchers for the March 14-15 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend will feature a pair of KONI Challenge races, with the Street Tuner class racing on Saturday and the Grand Sport class competing on Sunday in a pair of two and a half-hour races. Each day will also include a Ford Mustang Challenge race.Ticket vouchers are available by visiting grand-am.com/konitickets/ and following the instructions to receive a free ticket voucher for both days. In addition, the ticket voucher may be reproduced as many times as needed to take the entire family and friends to the event.The KONI Sports Car Challenge is Grand-Am's showcase for the latest in international and American-made high-performance sports cars, coupes and sedans, straight from the showroom with only safety and limited performance modifications. This will be the second round of the 2009 season, which opened Jan. 23 at Daytona International Speedway.The weekend will also feature full access to the garage and paddock areas, interaction with drivers and teams, access to the grid prior to the KONI Challenge races, and a cavalcade of special events and activities all weekend long, including talks and garage tours, tire and shock absorber presentations, pit-stop demonstrations and a whole section of the facility set up for car clubs and exotic car displays.Turner Motorsport, Georgian Bay Shooting for Two Straight in 2009Turner Motorsport and Georgian Bay Motorsports are the only two teams that can stay perfect coming out of this weekend.Turner Motorsport won the GS portion of the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway in January in a three-car fight to the checkered flag. The race ended under caution, with Bill Auberlen earning his series-leading 12th overall victory and co-driver Matthew Bell his first ever KONI Challenge triumph. Auberlen is a former winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, capturing the 2007 edition of the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype race. He and Bell will be back in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.Georgian Bay is also shooting for its second straight victory to start the season and fourth straight in the ST class. At Daytona, Lawson Aschenbach passed Kristian Skavnes just before the final caution period and took the checkered flag in the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt. It was the third career KONI victory for Aschenbach, who hails from West Palm Beach, Fla., and first for Boca Raton native Pat Iannucci, who was making his first ever start in any type of race car.Both teams also won last year's penultimate race at Miller Motorsports Park, and Georgian Bay earned the six-hour race victory last October at Virginia International Raceway.Rolex Series Veteran Ozz Negri to Make KONI Challenge DebutGrand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 veteran Ozz Negri has been added to the list of Rolex Series regulars entered for the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend. Negri will drive the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT with co-driver and Oakville, Ontario, native Ken Wilden in the Grand Sport (GS) race Sunday. Negri competes regularly in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes with Michael Shank Racing, co-driving the No. 60 Ford Riley with Mark Patterson.
The race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the first in KONI Challenge competition for Negri, a native Brazilian who now lives in Miami. But he'll already know the fast way around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn course, having scored a podium finish in his first Daytona Prototype start with Michael Shank Racing in 2004. Overall, he has three top fives.In addition, the Negri-Wilden lineup is a reunion of sorts, as the two were teammates at Michael Shank Racing during part of the 2006 season."I watched the KONI Challenge race from Daytona on TV, and it was amazing," said Negri, whose popularity is expected to draw well among Latin Americans in the South Florida area. "I thought it was so cool, I would like to try it. Then the right opportunity came along, so let's do it. I'm good friends with Kenny Wilden and we've got a great relationship, so working with him will cut down my learning curve with that kind of car."Area Drivers Looking to Run at Home TrackSeveral drivers competing in this weekend's Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend have ties to the South Florida area or Florida in general. Barry Ellis is from Fort Lauderdale, Pat Iannucci from Boca Raton, Lawson Aschenbach from West Palm Beach and Glenn Bocchino from Delray Beach represents a fraction of drivers and teams from South Florida, and for that matter all of Florida.Ellis is the only one of the four aforementioned drivers without a KONI Sports Car Challenge victory. However, he's also done the best of the four in KONI competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the runner-up finish in 2004. Two years ago, Ellis formed Ranger Sport Racing with the assistance of co-owners and co-drivers Frank Rossi and Fraser Wellon. Iannucci and Aschenbach are coming off a victory at Daytona in ST, while Bocchino was the 2008 ST winner at Daytona.Bocchino's teammate, Lee Davis, adds to the South Florida list. Davis, who ran fulltime in the ST class last season before making the step to GS fulltime this year, now resides in Fisher Island, just east of downtown Miami. He'll drive the No. 33 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3 with Bermudan Russell Smith.Ozz Negri, a regular in the Rolex Series, will make his KONI Challenge debut in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT; Negri is from Miami. Also from Miami is Florida International University freshman Andrew Carbonell, who spent two summers working with the HMS operations crew. Carbonell will drive with Tallahassee driver Rhett O'Doski in the No. 146 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. Another Tallahassee native will be Derek Whitis, co-piloting the team's No. 145 Mazda MX-5 with Tom Long.Cooper City driver and Florida Atlantic University graduate Josh Hurley will drive the No. 171 APR Motorsport APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI with Ian Baas. Hurley is the defending VDI Jetta Cup champion.Miami-based Pipelayer Racing will debut in the series with drivers Ricky Diaz and Manuel Vicente, both of Miami. Andrew Charbonneau will pilot the Runwhatyabrung Racing Central Florida Dodge SRT4 with Winter Park, Fla., driver Kip Vansteenburg.The list of drivers and teams from Florida doesn't stop in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. The three-car Automatic Racing stable will seek its first victory at HMS. Among the team's drivers is Charles Espenlaub from Lutz.Scott Turner (Merritt Island) will drive the No. 2 CMA Motorsports Ford Mustang GT; Bret Spaude (Bushnell) will drive the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Southern Auto Auction/Honda of Keene Honda Civic Si; and Squeak Kennedy (Port Orange) and Peter London (Orlando) will share the No. 128 Next Generation Motorsports Hawk Brakes/Marren Fuel Injection BMW 330.Weekend's Races First for KONI Challenge at Homestead-Miami Since 2007The KONI Sports Car Challenge will be running its first races at Homestead-Miami Speedway since 2007, and its first of several split-class races on the season.The last time the series raced at HMS, Tom Nastasi and Ian James won in GS driving for Blackforest Motorsports. In ST, Shane Lewis and John Schmitt triumphed for HART Racing. James is the one of two drivers to win more than once in KONI Challenge competition, as he also claimed victory in the ST I class in 2002.This will be the fifth time the series has contested HMS.Mayor of Lima, Peru to Attend Homestead-Miami RacesThe Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend is attracting an international flavor, with drivers from Europe, North and South America and cars from Europe, Asia and North America scheduled to compete at HMS. But it doesn't stop there.The mayor of Lima, Peru, Luis Castaneda, will be in attendance with his son Dario and secretary German Velazco. The three are guests of Automundo senior editor Jorge Koechlin, who is responsible for content on the MSN Latino website as well as transmitting Grand-Am feeds from SPEED to Latin America.From Latin America, drivers include Puerto Ricans Bryan Ortiz and Roberto Bengoa in the No. 57 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, while Jose Leroux in the No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.Odds and EndsSeveral drivers will suit up for the first time this season in KONI Sports Car Challenge competition. Aaron Povoledo will return to the series in the No. 181 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI. Peter Ludwig will compete with Billy Johnson in the No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997. Steve Cameron and Rob Finlay return to KONI action, this time in the No. 58 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT. After a few years away from the series, Frank Selldorff returns to Turner Motorsport, and will drive in the ST class in the No. 95 BMW 328i with team owner Will Turner. Peter London will also make his first ST start of the season, driving the No. 128 Next Generation Motorsports BMW 330i.Jay Andrew will make his first start of 2009 with No. 30 Meyer Motorsports Mazda RX-8 co-driver Eric Meyer, while his teammate, SCCA veteran Alex Ratcliffe, will debut in KONI in the No. 16 Meyer Motorsports Mazda RX-8, driving with Brian Flint.Dan DiLeo is the only driver expected to contest both ST and GS races. He will drive the No. 8 Porsche 997 in the GS class and the No. 02 Mazda RX-8 in ST, both for Maxwell Paper Racing.