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Lepper Wins USTCC at Thunderhill Raceway

by Ali Arsham
Friday, May 09, 2008

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Tom Lepper driving the Cobalt California/Red Line Oil Chevrolet Cobalt SS took the win at the Thunderhill Raceway round of the Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC).  David Bongiovanni took second place in the GoodSport Racing Mitsubishi Evo and along with it the driver's points championship.  Getting his first podium in only his third USTCC race was rookie Jerry Bradbury in the Mini Mania Mini Cooper S, who finished third.  The race was not without controversy as Curt Simmons' Sunnyvale Dodge SRT-4 took the win on the track but was disqualified due to a body contact incident on the last lap of the race.  Simmons and Bongiovanni were in a tie going into this round.
USTCC at Thunderhill
 

MBO Racing/Red Zone Performance Honda Civic driver, Pete Bovenberg, started from pole position scoring the first pole for the red Civic.  Bovenberg did not get a great launch and was beaten to the first turn by Bongiovanni’s Evo.  Chasing the Mitsubishi were Bovenberg, Simmons and Lepper.  The four cars were bumper to bumper at the end of the first lap.  Bovenberg kept the pressure on Bongiovanni but was forced to retire on lap two due to a broken suspension piece.  With Bovenberg out of the picture, that left Simmons and Lepper to try to beat Bongiovanni.  Simmons looked very strong as he closed the two second gap that Bongiovanni had managed to build.  Simmons made his move at Turn 15 on lap five and passed Bongiovanni.  After passing the Mitsubishi, Simmons started to pull away and it looked like the race was over.  But Bongiovanni was not giving up easily as he drove a brilliant race and used slower traffic to his advantage and two laps later he not only closed the gap but repassed Simmons at Turn One.  Simmons kept the pressure on and on the last lap tried to make a pass on Bongiovanni.  Unfortunately, the move resulted in body contact with a lapped car which in turn resulted in a flat tire on the Mitsubishi. 

While all of this was going on, Lepper was sitting back quietly and watching the two battle it out.  He never quit and just sat back patiently waiting for the right moment.  Along the way it was Lepper that set the fast lap of the race in the Chevy Cobalt SS.  The incident involving Simmons and Bongiovanni was what Lepper was waiting for.  He easily passed the pair and went on to take the checkered flag.  Lepper became the third different winner in three races.  Simmons finished second on the track but was disqualified for the incident.  That was a big blow to his championship hopes as the reigning champion was tied for the points lead going into this race.  Bongiovanni became the points leader, by a very slim margin, and the Lepper/Rojas team now become the major threat to Bongiovanni’s goal of winning the 2008 Driver’s Championship.

Lepper was fastest at Thunderhill
By scoring the win, Lepper was awarded the Go Pro HERO Quick-release vehicle camera kit. It is a shockproof camera designed for street and track cars and motorcycles and can also mount to any motorsports helmet. 

Michael McColligan won the Molecule Race Smart, Keep it Clean Move of the Race Award.  McColligan, who drove the Mazdatrix/Racing Beat Mazda RX8, did a great job making a great move at the start and gained the most positions at the start.

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