Quick Turnaround For KONI
April 19, 2007 | 9:26 A.M. EST
Not only will this be the first KONI Challenge Series race at Iowa Speedway, this weekend’s event will open an 11-race schedule of racing for the new facility east of the Iowa capitol city of Des Moines, and will be the first-ever event to be contested on the 1.3-mile road course. The course uses a substantial portion of the banked, 7/8-mile tri-oval before ducking into the speedway’s infield.
With podium results in each of the first two races, including a second-place outing last weekend in Homestead, No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason lead the Grand Sport (GS) driver standings heading into Iowa. Auberlen and Gleason are riding a three-race podium streak dating to a third-place run in the 2006 season finale at Virginia International Raceway and also finished third in January’s Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona.
While they share the points lead, however, Auberlen and Gleason are still looking for their first taste of victory champagne in the KONI Challenge Series this weekend. In both of the first two races, that distinction has gone to No. 5 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Ford Mustang GT car owner/driver Tom Nastasi.
Nastasi joined forces with 2005 GS champion David Empringham to win at Daytona this year, and co-drove to the Miami GS 400k victory on Sunday with Ian James. Owing to a technical infraction, however, Nastasi, James and the Blackforest Motorsports team were docked 15 points after the Homestead victory, enabling Auberlen and Gleason to leapfrog into the class points lead. Auberlen and Gleason have 62 points each, followed by Nastasi with 55 championship markers.
This weekend, Nastasi will once again be joined by James in the No. 5 Mustang, and will also share the No. 4 USG Sheetrock/Ramset Tools Mustang GT with Valerie Limoges, who last weekend became the first woman to win the pole position for a Grand-Am sanctioned race at Homestead. Limoges led a race-high total of 35 laps and should be among the favorites for the victory on Saturday at Iowa Speedway.
A host of other teams should also be contenders for the victory. While Auberlen and Gleason lead the GS points, their teammates in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3—Don Salama and team owner Will Turner—should also be front-runners. Last year, Turner and Salama co-drove to the Street Tuner (ST) class championship.
Atlanta-based Hyper Sport will be another team that will draw plenty of attention. The team’s No. 55 Supercuts Ford Mustang GT co-driven by Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell has been quick throughout the season, and Foster and Maxwell finished second in the Daytona season-opener and were 10th last weekend in South Florida. The team has entered two cars for this weekend, with Romeo Kapudija expected to share the No. 54 Supercuts Mustang GT with Patrick Dempsey, star of the ABC hit television series Grey’s Anatomy. Dempsey earned his best KONI Challenge Series result last weekend with a sixth-place run alongside co-driver Charles Espenlaub in the No. 156 Supercuts Mustang.
Kinetic Motorsports is another Atlanta-based team to be reckoned with on Saturday. Co-driving the team’s No. 80 Said Head Performance BMW M3 will be Puerto Rican youngster Bryan Ortiz and road racing great Boris Said, who owns two KONI Challenge Series victories. Said and Ortiz will be joined on the two-car team by Shawn Price and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve regular Nic Jönsson.
Locals will be rooting on Adel, Iowa’s Steve Pattee, who is sharing the No. 42 Carlsen Porsche 997 with Serge Glazunov Jr. from Larkspur, Calif. Pattee and Glazunov are part of a four-car team from California-based TRG, and will be joined by Duncan Ende and Grant Maiman in the No. 39 Carlsen Porsche/DigiTrust/Adam’s Polishes Porsche 997, John Bibbo and Scott Schroeder in the No. 40 Carlsen Porsche/CDI/Carrera Designs/Apex Graphics/Cohen Financial/Klinger Construction Porsche 997 and Ted Ballou and Andy Lally in the No. 41 Carlsen Porsche/Mitchell Global Porsche 997.
Other intriguing combinations include 1984 Olympic skiing medalists Phil and Steve Mahre in the No. 17 Centurion Boats Ford Mustang GT, Jack Roush Jr. and Dean Martin in the No. 59 Roush Performance Products/Piloti Mustang GT for Rehagen Racing and consistent KONI Challenge Series front-runners Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal in the No. 09 Fresh >From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3, David Russell and Tom Long in the No. 99 Fresh >From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW, Tim Traver and Mikel Miller in the No. 83 Simplenet.com/Performance Drink Porsche 997 and 2004 GS champion Craig Stanton with an unnamed co-driver in the No. 38 Performance Drink Porsche 997 for BGB Motorsports, and Dave Riddle and Kris Wilson, who are entered in a pair of Porsche 997s from Fiorano/C-MAX Racing. A total of 39 cars have been entered in the GS class.
The GS race will take the green flag at 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday for a 400-kilometer (249.6 miles, 192 laps) race around the 1.3-mile Iowa Speedway stadium road course, and the race is subject to a two-and-a-half hour time limit. Preceding the third round of the 12-race calendar for the GS class will be Round 3 of the 12-race KONI Challenge Series for the Street Tuner (ST) class.
ST points co-leaders Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson in the No. 76 Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX top a 25-car field heading to Iowa. Thomson and Johnson opened the season with a class victory in the Fresh From Florida 200 at Daytona in January and picked up a fourth-place result in Homestead last weekend. The No. 76 teammates are part of a three-car entry for Kensai Racing, and will be joined by Travis Walker and Beau Buisson in the No. 75 Acura TSX and Matt Pritko and Daniel Colembie in the team’s No. 74 Acura RSX-S.
Thomson and Johnson currently hold a seven-point lead, 63-56, over first-year KONI Challenge competitors Trevor Hopwood and Adam Burrows in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i. Hopwood and Burrows opened the year with a seventh-place class result in Daytona and earned their first podium result last weekend with a second-place run in Homestead.
Hopwood and Burrows came home second to Shane Lewis and John Schmitt, who picked up the victory in the No. 22 HART Honda Accord. Lewis and Schmitt will be reunited this weekend in Iowa Speedway looking to record a second-straight victory.
Iowa race fans will also have one of their own in the ST race, as West Des Moines’ Chuck Hemmingson—who started from the pole position for last weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway—will compete this week in the No. 51 Tom Mitchell Motorsports/Phoenix Development BMW Z4 alongside co-driver Al Mitchell. Last weekend, Hemmingson drove the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy, which is not entered for this event.
Other top contenders in the ST field include Bob Endicott and Ken Dobson in the No. 144 Davis Motorsports Acura RSX-S, Dan Allen and Jose Armengol in the No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 alongside two-time ST champion David Haskell and Scott Schlesinger in the No. 68 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, Nick Wittmer with an as-yet-unnamed co-driver in the No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX, Glenn Bocchino and Roger Foo in the No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX, and multiple-time ST race-winners Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom in the No. 01 Scada Pack/Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt.
Like the GS race, the ST class is also scheduled for a 400-kilometer (249.6 miles, 192 laps) race, which will also be subject to a two-hour and 30-minute time limit. The ST event takes the green flag at 12:00 Noon CT.