Georgian Bay Team Dominate ST Race
October 4, 2008 | 3:58 P.M. EST
Aschenbach - who led three times for a race-high 36 laps after making up 37 positions after starting at the back of the field - passed outgoing series champion Adam Burrows on Lap 139 of the 147-lap race, then distanced himself from the rest of the field over the final five laps or 15 minutes.
In the meantime, Aschenbach's teammate, Jamie Holtom in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS, claimed the ST championship by 43 points (282-239) over Adam Burrows. At age 21 years, four days, Holtom becomes the youngest Grand-Am champion in the sanctioning body's nine-year history. He shared the car with Eric Curran, who had previously won at VIR in KONI Challenge competition three times.
Holtom led as late as Lap 132 before losing two positions. In an effort to keep the car out of trouble, he kept close to Burrows and challenged him for second, concluding the season with five consecutive podium finishes and nine top 10s in 10 starts. Holtom's only DNF came at Watkins Glen International in July.
Throughout the afternoon and evening, Georgian Bay ran up front. Aschenbach, who has the Formula Ford 2000 track qualifying record, qualified 38th, yeah wasted no time going toward the front. After making the winning pass, he was still forced to hold off Burrows and Holtom, who ran a combined one second behind at times before fading in the final laps. Burrows, who moved to second in the point standings after entering the event sixth, followed by 1.436 seconds in the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Skunk2/Sunday Group Management Acura TSX, while Holtom was 1.777 seconds behind Aschenbach, with whom he shared the ST victory at Iowa Speedway in August.
The opening laps appeared to be like what many expected to be see in the closing laps. Five drivers led in the opening 10 laps, attributing to 21 lead changes among 14 drivers and 11 cars. No driver led more than five laps in the first hour.
Aschenbach, who made his return to racing after a recent illness from overtraining, stayed out front for the longest periods of time. He led for the first time on Lap 24, taking the point for seven laps, then again on Lap 48 for 20 laps, the longest any driver ran out front. He then led the final nine laps, driving Georgian Bay's third entry fielded solely to help garner Chevrolet the manufacturer championship. Dobson led 11 laps, only to be passed by Curran on Lap 100. Curran led the second-highest number of laps, 23. Burrows also led 23 laps. Overall, Georgian Bay led 84 laps, and at one point had all three of its cars in the top five. Kirk Spencer and Ashley McCalmont ended the season in the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS in 11th.
Matthew Bell and VJ Mirzayan finished fourth - their second-best finish of the season - in the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i after running in the top five for most of the event. Owen Trinkler and BJ Zacharias rounded out the top five in the No. 196 RSR Motorsports CaseTech/Cruise America Mini Cooper S.
Seven cautions for 22 laps, most for cars which spun off course, slowed the race to an average speed of 80.048 mph. The only accident involved Bryan Ortiz and Juan Leroux, as Ortiz, in the No. 127 Next Generation/Fountain Motorsports BMW 330i, ran into the back of Leroux's No. 174 LRT Racing Mobil 1/Presidente Beer Acura TSX. Both drivers, however, escaped without serious injury.
Holtom and Curran's third-place finish wrapped up the championship for Georgian Bay's No. 01 car, and Aschenbach and Dobson's victory was enough to give Chevrolet its first KONI ST crown by nine points (310-301) over Acura, which had previously won five titles in six seasons.
Kuno Wittmer, who led three laps before his No. 32 i-MOTO Racing Cybernation/Alpinestar Acura TSX suffered mechanical problems, still managed to stay in third in the driver point standings. The No. 32 also ran out front for 16 laps. Bob Beede, who missed the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway when his car was involved in an early incident, finished fourth.
Kristian Skavnes dropped to fifthin the final rundown after co-driver Chuck Hemmingson brought the No. 111 ICY/Phoenix Racing Subaru Legacy into the pits with a cut left-front tire, less than a handful of laps after Hemmingson took the controls from Andrew Aquilante. Unfortunately, the team's stop included repairs to the left-front of the car, forcing the team several laps down. Together, Skavnes, Hemmingson and Aquilante were credited with 19th.
In total, Burrows, Wittmer, Beede and Skavnes were separated by only four points (239 for Burrows, 237 for Wittmer, 236 for Beede, 235 for Skavnes). Beede's No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports car finished second in the team points, while Wittmer's No. 29 i-MOTO Racing machine was third.
The top ST drivers, teams and manufacturers will be honored in Monday's season-ending banquet at the Sheraton in Greensboro, N.C. The Grand Sport (GS) six-hour race will start at 11 a.m. Sunday, with seven drivers within nine points of the driving championship lead.