July 11, 2011

Race Recap: Continental Tire Sports Car Festival at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

John Edwards takes the checkered flag for
his second consecutive Grand Sport victory.
Turner Motorsports Extends Points Lead, Welcomes New Driver

Saturday, July 9, 2011 - John Edwards and Matt Bell combined to lead 51 of Saturday's 79-lap Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, giving them their second consecutive victory in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport class.

Edwards led the final 31 laps after passing Charles Espenlaub. Edwards' lead never grew to more than three seconds, and he stretched it to 2.711 seconds on the final lap in the No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro.

With their victory, Edwards and Bell moved into a tie for third-place in the GS standings, with Matt Plumb. Edwards and Bell - who started from the pole position and set the race's fastest lap time - have finished in the top five in five of the last six races.

Espenlaub and Putman finished a season-best second in the No. 48 HRE Wheels/Fall-Line BMW M3, after Espenlaub led twice for 13 laps. Third went to Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi in the No. 13 RumBum.com BMW M3.

It was a rough day for the top three competitors in the standings. Championship leader Paul Dalla Lana made his first start without points co-leader Bill Auberlen, finishing 11th with new co-driver Raphael Matos. Dalla Lana also served a stop-and-go penalty after jumping an early restart. Despite registering the worst finish of the season, the team still managed to extend its points lead after its main rivals succeumbed to even more serious problems. IndyCar driver Rafael Matos, meanwhile, struggled a bit in his closed car debut, gradually building his confidence and speed over the course of the weekend. The team has high hopes for Matos in the future.

Second-place drivers Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. finished 22nd - 15 laps down - after a flat tire forced a lengthy pit stop for the No. 61 Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang Boss 302R. Third-place drivers Scott Maxwell and Joe Foster ran in the top 10 throughout the day in the No. 15 Ford Racing/Multimatic Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R, but Maxwell was involved in an accident also involving Mikel Miller late in the race and crashed into a tire barrier. Maxwell and Foster fell to fifth in the standings after finishing 24th.

In the Street Tuner class, Andrew Carbonell emerged from a late battle with Gregory Liefooghe to post his second career class victory and the first for co-driver Rhett O'Doski in the No. 26 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5. Carbonell took the lead for the final time on Lap 66.

Teammate Tom Long finished second - also passing Liefooghe late - after co-driver Derek Whitis won the pole position for the No. 25 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5. Liefooghe - a resident of San Francisco - and John Capestro-Dubets - of nearby Carmel Valley, Calif. - finished third in the No. 81 CRC Industries/Johnstone Supply BMW 328i.

The Surprises:
Ben Clucas and Jade Buford, who finished eighth in the No. 33 BMW M3 in the Grand Sport class. It marked only Clucas' second career race in the series. Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr., whose consecutive six-race podium streak was snapped after a flat tire forced them to pit. They finished 22nd, only the third race in the last 20 races the pair hadn't finished in the top five. Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O'Doski, who have only finished in the top 10 four times this season. The pair have finishes of 26th or worse in their three other races. Gregory Liefooghe and John Capestro-Dubets, who got their second Street Tuner podium finish of the season and first since the season opener at Daytona.


The Podium:
GS 1st: John Edwards and Matt Bell, No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro
GS 2nd: Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman, No. 48 HRE Wheels/Fall-Line BMW M3
GS 3rd: Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb, No. 13 Rum Bum Racing BMW M3

ST 1st: Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O'Doski, No. 26 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5
ST 2nd: Tom Long and Derek Whitis, No. 25 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5
ST 3rd: Gregory Liefooghe and John Capestro-Dubets, No. 81 CRC Industries/Johnstone Supply BMW 328i

Margin of Victory: 2.711 seconds
Average Speed: 70.450 mph
Cautions: 6 for 17 laps

The Points:
GS: Paul Dalla Lana 226, Auberlen 206, M. Plumb; M. Bell/J. Edwards 201.
ST: Nic J├Ânsson 204, Ryan Eversley 186, Ian Baas/Ryan Ellis 184.


The Numbers:
17 - Number of positions Ashley McCalmont and Eric Curran improved from start (23rd) to finish (sixth) position.
25 - Grand Sport points lead for Paul Dalla Lana over Bill Auberlen.
22 - Cars that completed all 79 laps on the 2.238-mile circuit.
51 - Number of laps led by Grand Sport winners John Edwards (31) and Matt Bell (20).
83.928 mph - Fastest lap of the race, turned in by winning Stevenson Camaro.

The Quotes:
"We knew we could contend for the win, but we were really short on fuel, so those cautions helped us and I was doing a lot of fuel saving. I was saving a lot of fuel and then finally the cautions came out and we knew we were good to go. We got the result we needed as opposed to having to pit for a splash at the end. Two in a row, I can't say enough about the Stevenson team." - John Edwards, No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro

"It was just a combination of a number of things. I've got a lot of time here. It's probably the only time, in a GRAND-AM season, where I have a track that I know this well, and I'm in a car that's perfectly balanced, so I'm hoping we've learned a lot from this. I know we've learned a lot from this. We're going to go to the next race and really do our best and follow that same setup." - Matt Bell, No. 9 Stevenson Automotive Group Chevrolet Camaro

"For the race itself, the Mazda MX-5 couldn't have been better. The car was just on point every single lap. I had no option but to win this race. I can't thank the team, Freedom Autosport enough. The reason why we do this is to serve the memories the people who have served our country for the past 200 years." - Andrew Carbonell, No. 26 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5

"All I had to do was just give the car to Andrew and he does what he always does, which is race his butt off. He races a clean race and there's no place we'd rather double podium than here at Mazda Raceway with two Mazda MX-5s. They're incredible cars and that's what zoom-zoom is all about." - Rhett O'Doski, No. 26 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5

"It's a very good thing for me to get this experience. Racing the Honda Civic was very different from what I'm used to racing. I'm not used to being in the back and racing in so much traffic. Today will be very useful for my future." - Simon Pagenaud, No. 75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si.

The Next Race:
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge holds its ninth of 10 races at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday, July 23, with the running of the B+ Foundation Heroes 200.

Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson took overall and Grand Sport honors in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang GT in last year's race on the 2.25-mile, 12-turn circuit, while Owen Trinkler and Randy Smalley led the Street Tuner class in the No. 198 RSM Motorsports Mini Cooper S.

Following the event, the only race remaining on the 2011 schedule is the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio