Randy Pobst and Christian Miller in GA Koni race A day after missing the pole position in Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge competition by only 0.003 seconds, Randy Pobst and Christian Miller took the No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si to victory in the Street Tuner (ST) class Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the second closest finish in KONI Challenge history.
Pobst fought Tom Long in a seesaw battle that saw both drivers lead multiple times over the final half hour of action on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn track, but a pass in Turn 11 on Lap 89 of 92 gave Pobst the lead for the final time. He held onto the point for the final four laps to earn his fifth career overall and class victories, while giving Miller his first win.
The margin of victory, which stood at 0.129 seconds, was the second closest finish in KONI Challenge history. Only the race at Watkins Glen International in 2004 was closest (0.050 seconds). The race's average speed was 84.418 mph, the second fastest KONI race at the track.
KONI Sports Car Challenge action continues Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, when Grand Sport (GS) class drivers will compete in a two-and-a-half hour race.
Pobst took the lead for the first time on Lap 60, when he passed Kirk Spencer between Turns 7 and 8 in the infield, and held on for 16 laps. Shortly after, Long made his way to second when Josh Hurley pitted during the green flag.
The final of two cautions occurred on Lap 72 for debris on the front straightaway, bunching up the field and giving Pobst and Long a chance to battle to the end.
And battle, back-and-forth, lap after lap, they did.
When the green flag was displayed on Lap 74, Long shadowed Pobst around the track for two laps before making the pass on Lap 76. Pobst regained the lead for three laps, then Long took the lead from Laps 80-85 before being edged to the line on Lap 86.
Each time Pobst tried to take the lead on the outside of Turn 1, he was denied, but on the outside of Turn 11 is where he was the strongest. He finally got by on Lap 89, leading by just a few car lengths at the line.
Long didn't quit though. He pushed his No. 145 Freedom Autosports Mazda MX-5 deeper each lap, and ran nose-to-tail behind Pobst until the final lap. Also Freedom's team manager, Long looked for a way around Pobst coming out of the final corner, but didn't have enough power to pull alongside and challenge. Instead, he and co-driver Derek Whitis became bridesmaids once again.
Between Pobst and Long were six lead changes over the final 17 laps. Overall, Miller - who started second after nearly taking the pole position Friday - led a race-high 37 laps, all in succession, after taking the lead from polesitter Andrew Aquilante on Lap 6. Miller held the lead until Lap 42, when he pitted during the first caution, which came out for debris between Turns 8 and 9.
Finishing third, 8.464 seconds back, were Hurley and Ian Baas, who drove the No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI. Though neither driver led the race, both drivers ran in the top three for the majority of their stints. Baas had qualified the car third fastest on Friday.
Fourth in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS were Spencer and Ashley McCalmont, who earned their third top-five finish in the last four races together. Spencer led nine laps before Pobst passed him, and McCalmont ran as high as third during her stint.
Despite a problem with the car's ABS unit, which caused one of the No. 111 Subaru Road Racing Team Subaru Legacy's tires to flat spot, Kristian Skavnes and Andrew Aquilante finished fifth, their second straight top-five finish. Aquilante led the opening five laps before slipping as far back as 11th by Lap 11. He pitted and was in danger of going a lap down, but consistent lap times and a well-timed caution period allowed him to return to the front of the field for one lap.
Skavnes and Aquilante's persistence also rewarded them with a share of the point lead, which they share with two other drivers. Fresh From Florida 200 co-winners Pat Iannucci, of Boca Raton, Fla., and Lawson Aschenbach of West Palm Beach, Fla., finished eighth, and all four drivers are now tied with 58 points. Spencer and McCalmont sit third in points with 56.
The next KONI Challenge ST race will be run simultaneously with GS on May 2 at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
NEWS & NOTES
- The KONI Sports Car Challenge victory was the fifth by Randy Pobst and first ever by Christian Miller. The statistic is the same for overall and class victories.
- The last victory by Pobst in KONI Challenge competition was Oct. 5, 2003 at Virginia International Raceway. All four of Pobst's previous KONI victories came in 2003.
- This is the first victory of the season for Compass360 Racing and first time the team has won a race since Aug. 16, 2008 at Le Circuit de Trois-Rivières (Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood; seventh Saturday at Homestead-Miami).
- This is the first victory of the season for the Honda Civic Si and first KONI ST victory since Bill Fenton Motorsports put its No. 29 Honda Civic Si into victory lane at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
- This is the third KONI victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Honda, tying the manufacturer with Porsche for most KONI victories at the track. A Honda Accord won in 2007, and a Honda Civic Si won in 2001 - both by HART.
- The victory by Compass360 Racing ends a three-race winning streak by Georgian Bay Motorsports.
- Freedom Autosport earned its third podium finish in KONI Challenge history with a second-place finish. The team finished second at Lime Rock Park (with Saturday's runner-ups Tom Long and Derek Whitis) and third at Watkins Glen International, both in 2008.
- The third-place finish by Ian Baas and Josh Hurley was the team's second podium finish in history. Previously, Baas and Dion von Moltke took second at Miller Motorsports Park in 2008.
- The fourth-place finish by Kirk Spencer and Ashley McCalmont was the pair's third top-five finish in four races. At Daytona, the two also finished fourth.
- The fifth-place finish by the Subaru Road Racing Team and drivers Kristian Skavnes and Andrew Aquilante was the second straight top-10 finish this season. Skavnes and Aquilante took the No. 111 Subaru Legacy to second at Daytona.
- Andrew Danyliw and Gunter Schmidt earned both drivers' career-best finishes, taking sixth with the No. 138 GS Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
- The top five cars in finishing order were all different models made by different manufacturers: Honda Civic Si, Mazda MX-5, Volkswagen GTI, Subaru Legacy and Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
- Five of the top 10 cars were fielded by Canadian-based teams, including the race-winning No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si. Others included the Nos. 01 (fourth) and 00 (eighth) Chevrolet Cobalts, No. 138 Chevrolet Cobalt SS (sixth) and No. 75 Honda Civic Si (ninth, driven by Bo Roach and Jose Leroux).
- Eight of the 30 starters finished on the lead lap.
- Turner Motorsport rounded out the top 10, with Will Turner and Frank Selldorff taking 10th in the No. 95 BMW 328i.
- The No. 24 V-Pack Motorsport BMW 330i, which finished 11th behind drivers Jon Miller and Joe Masessa, advanced a race-high 19 positions.
- The race's two cautions and four caution laps were both race records in KONI Challenge competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
- South Florida drivers had mixed results. In addition to Hurley, Aschenbach and Iannucci, other South Florida drivers included Miami natives Andrew Carbonell (23rd; oil leak) and Ricky Diaz and Alfredo Carbonell (28th).
POST-RACE QUOTES (PODIUM FINISHING DRIVERS)
Christian Miller (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si; ST race co-winner): "Three-thousandths times two and a half hours was about what the finish was. First and foremost, the guys at Compass360 Racing prepared the most brilliant car I've had in a long time of racing, and we needed every ounce of it today. We came out, starting on the front row after missing the pole by .003, had a great run after a couple of laps of mayhem and mischief at the beginning - thanks to a couple of my friends - but once everything got straightened away, it was just keeping it nice, straight and smooth, keeping it together to give to my co-driver. He apparently needed every last drop it had in it after two hours. He did the job only Randy could do."
Randy Pobst (No. 74 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si; ST race co-winner): "Some of the best racing in the world is in the KONI Challenge. There is an amazing variety of cars and drivers, and the Compass360 team - crew chief Ray Lee, owner Karl Thomson and all the guys on the team build a heck of a car. I've got to thank Christian Miller for doing such a great job qualifying the car and leading the start of the race second. When it came down to it at the end, it was the lighter-handling Mazda MX-5 against the Honda V-Tech power. I did not have that much left in the way of brakes, because when I first got in the car, I just drove it, drove it, drove it. And then here comes that MX-5. I knew it was going to be a tough race, and we went back and forth about a hundred times. Then I thought, 'This is dumb.' I aligned us and just watched for awhile, and I thought, 'I can beat him to the finish line.' My V-Tech is right at the peak of its power band in fifth gear at one point, and the MX-5 always slowed down there, because he didn't have exactly the right gear. And we did. We were lucky in that regard. It was extremely well prepared by the Compass360 team, and well driven by Christian Miller."
Tom Long (No. 145 Freedom Autosports Mazda MX-5; ST race runner-up): "Derek (Whitis) handed me over a perfect car. That car was set up so well, all the guys on the team did an awesome job this weekend. At the end, I thought we had him. But that big power on the banking from the Honda - the MX-5 was awesome in the turns, but I just couldn't get it done on the banking. Hats off to Randy (Pobst), I really respect him. I was quite a pleasure to run side by side for so many laps, and I hope to do it again real soon."
Derek Whitis (No. 145 Freedom Autosports Mazda MX-5; ST race runner-up): "This is easy when you have somebody as fast as Tom Long; he tells me to bring it in and don't crash it, let me do the rest of the work. Watching him running against someone as strong as Mr. Pobst was really a pleasure. It was great racing. All of the Freedom Autosports guys, Glenn Long and all of the guys, did a real good job. First and foremost, I want to recognize why we are here, and we honor the men and women of our armed services who are protecting our country for 230 years, we really appreciate all of them."
Ian Baas (No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI; ST race third place): "My part of the race seemed to be pretty uneventful. We started off with a lot of banging over the first four laps, fighting for position. I just wanted to give the car to Josh in a good position. This is the first podium of the season for APR Motorsports and got us some good points. I'm happy."
Josh Hurley (No. 171 APR Motorsport Volkswagen GTI; ST race third place): "Not only is this a hometown podium for me (Hurley lives in Cooper City), but it's a hometown podium for my sponsor, Gunther Volkswagen. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be out there. It was absolutely a great day. I really love running with APR Motorsports and Volkswagen. The Civics had a little bit of engine on us, but that's OK, the next race we'll try to get them."
Kirk Spencer (No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS; ST race fourth place): "It was a great race. It was a little frustrating at the end, because we got held up by some of the lapped cars and couldn't get by them. They were waving the blue flag but they wouldn't move over. That cost us third position, but it was a good day. We didn't have the speed compared to the top two cars, and our tires went away. We were hanging on for dear life at the end."
Pat Iannucci (No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS; ST race point co-leader): "The two leaders were fast all day, but I thought we had a good shot for third at the end. Lawson was fast and he picked up a lot of people, but we ran out of fuel with a few laps to go and had to make another stop; that pushed us back to eighth. We'll scratch this one off and go for the next one."
Lawson Aschenbach (No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt SS; ST race point co-leader): "It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. We made some mistakes today. We had a really good car. We didn't have anything for Randy (Pobst) and the Mazda. I can't thank the Georgian Bay guys enough, along with some people who helped me - Roaring Lion Energy Drink and TGL and the McCalmonts. We had a good weekend; we just didn't put it together this weekend. But we'll be back and we'll be going for the win."