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Hope puts Spoon Sports/Opak Racing Back in Winner Circle
(L to R) Curt Simmons, Andy Hope and David Bongiovanni
Ryan Cristobali
After almost a season long break from USTCC competition, the 2005 championship car and team returns to the winner circle at this past weekend’s second round of the 2008 NITTO Tire U.S. Touring Car Championship at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.  The very familiar yellow and blue clad JDM right hand drive Acura RSX-R of Spoons Sports/Opak Racing was driven to victory lane by Hope.  Not that kind of Hope, but by the form of Andy Hope of Sports Compact Car Magazine.

Behind the wheel of the #8 Acura RSX, Hope drove a hard charging race to make a last lap pass on the race leader and pole winner 2007 USTCC Champion Curt Simmons in the #49 Cornwell Tools/Sunnyvale Dodge/MBO Racing Dodge SRT-4 who finished in second place. 

Winner Andy Hope's blue and yellow Acura RSX-R on the right
Ryan Cristobali
For the second consecutive race in a row, Simmons qualified his SRT-4 on the pole and got a great launch off the standing start and easily pulled away from the rest of the field, but a race is never over until the fat lady sings and sang she did.  Hope in the RSX-R who started in  third position put his head down and picked his way through the field to get up front to gain ground on Simmons.  Finally when the white flag came out the two crossed the start-finish line neck and neck.  Hope was able to put a move on Simmons to take a small lead through turns four down through the carousel.  Simmons was able to take the lead back and tried to shut the door, but Hope was able to sneak his nose in one last time going into turn seven side by side but was able to squeeze by Simmons and pull away exiting the turn to take the checkered flag.

“This is the most fun race I’ve ever been part of.  The win is definitely the cherry on top and to win it in late last lap fashion is just awesome.  The car was awesome and Simmons was tough.  The Spoon Sports/Opak Racing team guys did an awesome job setting up the car,” said a very elated Andy Hope.

In third place was David Bongiovanni in the #88 Goodsport Racing Mitsubishi EVO, who placed on the podium for the second consecutive time after winning the opening round.  With the podium finish Bongiovanni is now tied in the Driver Championship points with Simmons and has a 10 point lead over Rod Rojas, driver of the #44 Molecule/Go Pro Camera Chevy Cobalt SS. 

For the second consecutive race in a row, the top three spots were comprised by two new comers vying for the top rookie standings after two rookies swept the top two steps on the opening round.  At the first round at Thunderhill, the top six finishers were comprised of six different manufacturers.  At Infineon, the top seven positions were different manufacturers with Acura taking the win followed by Dodge, Mitsubishi, BMW, Chevrolet, Honda, and Mini.

Be sure to watch all of the action of the Nitto Tire US Touring Car Championship on Final Drive TV available on selected cable TV networks as well as www.finaldrive.net.  The teams next return to Thunderhill on May 3-4 only to race the track in the opposite direction.

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