Turner Motorsport, Georgian Bay Motorsports Lead KONI Challenge to Round 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Both teams striving for two straight victories to start 2009 campaign
Turner Motorsport and Georgian Bay Motorsports have been among the top two teams throughout the history of the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge. In addition, dating back to last September at Miller Motorsports Park, the two teams are the only ones with multiple victories.With Bill Auberlen and Matthew Bell in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 and Lawson Aschenbach and Pat Iannucci in the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS landing respective Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) victories in January's Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona International Speedway, the two teams look to continue their dominance in this weekend's Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.The ST race is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, while the green flag for the GS race is scheduled to fly at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15. Both races will be two-and-a-half hours, and the weekend will also feature the Grand-Am sanctioned Ford Racing Mustang Challenge, the first of five companion weekends between the series and Grand-Am. Auberlen, who has a series-leading 12 career KONI overall victories, and Bell helped give Turner Motorsport a team-leading 14th overall victory at Daytona, and the pair lead the point standings by three (35-32) over Hugh Plumb and Jack Roush Jr., who drive the No. 61 Horsepower Ranch ROUSH/Valvoline Ford Mustang GT. Auberlen has a strong past at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as he charged from 15th to the win in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race in 2007. He also won at Miller Motorsports Park in September, giving the Turner team two wins in the last three races. The team's No. 97 BMW M3 will be piloted by Joey Hand and Chris Gleason.Meanwhile, Aschenbach has been on a tear since debuting in KONI competition last season. In four career starts - all in ST - Aschenbach has three victories and four podiums. He has won the last two races, including the 2008 season finale at Virginia International Raceway, and partnered to win his first start at Iowa Speedway last August. Teaming with Iannucci, who debuted in auto racing at Daytona, the two Fresh From Florida 200 victors should have local support - Aschenbach is from West Palm Beach, Fla., and Iannucci is from Boca Raton, Fla. They lead the ST points by three (35-32) over Andrew Aquilante and Kristian Skavnes, drivers of the No. 111 Subaru Road Racing Team Subaru Legacy.The No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt, which led all KONI ST cars in victories in 2008, will be piloted by Kirk Spencer and Ashley McCalmont. The two are fourth in points, seven behind the teammates. Georgian Bay is second all-time in ST victories, tied with Bill Fenton Motorsports with 15.
Team depth and experience does not automatically mean victory, however. Several Rolex Series regulars, including two whom won their respective classes in January's Rolex 24, are entered this weekend, all in the GS class, with the hopes of ending both the streaks. Darren Law, a regular in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, won the Daytona Prototype portion of the Rolex 24, and this Sunday, he'll shoot for his first KONI Challenge victory with Ross Smith in the No. 77 Maxwell Paper Racing Porsche 997.Andy Lally, who co-won the GT portion of the Rolex 24, will campaign the No. 41 TRG Magnus Racing Porsche 997 with John Potter on Sunday. Lally also won the Rolex Series GT race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2007. His teammate, Spencer Pumpelly, is also a TRG regular in the Rolex Series, and he'll pilot the No. 39 TRG DigiTrust Group/Adam's Polishes Porsche 997 with Duncan Ende. Miami native Ozz Negri, the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona polesitter and Michael Shank Racing competitor, will drive the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT with Ken Wilden.In addition to Negri, Aschenbach and Iannucci, many other local drivers will be vying for victories. Barry Ellis (No. 88 Ranger Sport Racing Porsche 997, GS) is from Fort Lauderdale; Glenn Bocchino (No. 32 Kinetic Motorsports BMW M3, GS) and Andrew Charbonneau (No. 135 Runwhatyabrung Racing Dodge SRT4) are from Delray Beach; Ricky Diaz (No. 89 Ranger Sport Racing Porsche 997, GS; No. 13 Pipelayer Racing Mazda RX-8), Manuel Vicente (No. 13 Pipelayer Racing Mazda RX-8) and Andrew Carbonell (No. 146 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5) are from Miami; and Josh Hurley (No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI) is from Cooper City.Other former KONI winners at the track entered this weekend include Bob Beede (No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Honda Civic Si, driving with Rich Cullen) and Randy Pobst (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si, driving with Christian Miller). Twenty-eight GS cars and 31 ST cars are entered for the Grand-Am Fan Appreciation Weekend, the first KONI Challenge race event at Homestead-Miami Speedway since 2007.RACE SPECS- This is Round 2 of 11 for the 2009 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge season. Both KONI Sports Car Challenge races are scheduled for two-and-a-half hours. The green flag for the ST race is scheduled to fly at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The green flag for the GS race is scheduled to fly at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday.- All drivers must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective championships.KONI SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)- Thursday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (1:10-1:50 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (2-2:40 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (3:30-4:10 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (4:20-5 p.m.)- Friday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (9:40-10:40 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (10:55 a.m.-12 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (1:40-2:30 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (2:40-3:30 p.m.); KONI Challenge ST Qualifying (4:05-4:20 p.m.); KONI Challenge GS Qualifying (4:40-4:55 p.m.)- Saturday: KONI Challenge ST Practice (9:45-10:10 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Practice (10:20-10:50 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Practice (11-11:20 a.m.); KONI Challenge ST Race (2:30 p.m.; two-and-a-half hours)- Sunday: KONI Challenge GS Practice (10:05-10:50 a.m.); KONI Challenge GS Race (2:30 p.m.; two-and-a-half hours)KONI SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE DRIVER POINT STANDINGS- Grand Sport: 1. (tie) Bill Auberlen, Matthew Bell (35); 2. (tie) Hugh Plumb, Jack Roush Jr. (32); 3. (tie) Dean Martin, Ken Wilden (30); 4. (tie) Billy Johnson, Tony Buffomante (28); 5. James Gue, Bret Seafuse (26). - Street Tuner: 1. (tie) Lawson Aschenbach, Pat Iannucci (35); 2. (tie) Andrew Aquilante, Kristian Skavnes (32); 3. (tie) Matt Pritiko, Travis Walker (30); 4. (tie) Kirk Spencer, Ashley McCalmont (28); 5. (tie) David Thilenius, Bret Spaude (26).SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTESLawson Aschenbach (No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt): "It was great starting the year off with a win for the Georgian Bay team at Daytona, continuing our success from the season finale last year at VIR. Pat (Iannucci) and I both really started to gel at the first race and we are definitely looking forward to Homestead. It's going to be tight race and we are going to be pushing 110 percent for another win. I think the fans are going to get a great show."Pat Iannucci (No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt): "I am looking forward to this weekend being that it is my home race. I have been at HMS once before in a Porsche so I am familiar with the circuit. I have been doing a lot of karting since the last race in Daytona, so I am excited to get back behind the wheel of a car. Georgian Bay Motorsports is a great team and my co-driver Lawson Aschenbach is a great driver, so as long as everything goes according to plan we should be pretty quick and competing for the victory. This will be my second career car race along with the second race of the season, so we will see if we can make it two for two on the season this upcoming weekend."Andy Lally (No. 39 TRG Porsche 997): "I've won at Homestead before, and I can't wait to getting back there again in the sunshine. I like being back in the car anytime I can get strapped in. I can't wait to get back out there racing. I enjoy the KONI Challenge Series, being able to race against so many different cars in the same class. That makes it a lot of fun."Ozz Negri (No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT): "I watched the KONI Challenge race from Daytona on TV, and it was amazing. 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. I'm looking forward to racing the Ford Mustang at Homestead-Miami Speedway; that will be pretty cool."Darren Law (No. 77 Maxwell Paper Racing Porsche 997): "Coming to the KONI Challenge Series is like stepping from a powerful Daytona Prototype to what's basically a street car. But I've been doing this for nine years now, so I'm comfortable with it. It's a change of pace, but it's not something I'm not used to. These cars are pretty darn close to the ones we drive on the street."Matthew Bell (No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3): "It's like going back to last year, having to learn the track for the first time before racing on it, but I'm really optimistic about the weekend. I've developed a good strategy I think for learning new tracks, and of course having Bill (Auberlen) helping me pick up some of the subtleties of the place will really help as well."Andrew Carbonell (No. 146 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5): "It's exciting to be racing in the KONI Challenge at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I set the track record there in Spec Miata, so I'm excited to see what I can do in the Grand-Am race and see how we compete. I feel we have a little disadvantage on power, but I feel confident I have an advantage. I've raced the Miatas so often at Homestead I have my rhythm down."Josh Hurley (No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI): "After such a promising run at Daytona, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of the Gunther VW APR GTI. I'm especially excited that it is a home race for Gunther and me, and because of that, I have a lot of friends and family coming to Homestead that have never seen me race."