IMSA Road America Saturday Notebook

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – With a 45-second lead over second place, it looked like a dream win for the No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman, but the dream ended when Espenlaub steered into the pits on the white flag lap for a splash of fuel.

That deeded over the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge win to the potent No. 15 Multimatic Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R-C of Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell, relegating the Aston Martin to a fourth-place finish in the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America in Wisconsin.

Johnson and Maxwell had already resigned themselves to a second-place finish, and they were fine with that, since even second would increase their points lead over the No. 33 Porsche Cayman GT4 of C.J. Wilson Racing’s drivers, Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett. The win for the Multimatic team, Johnson said, “was icing on the cake."

They came to Road America with the 13-point lead over Miller and Burkett, and that lead is now 23 points. “Again, we weren’t the fastest car," Maxwell said, but race strategy won for the Multimatic team. The fast car in the GS class, incidentally, was the fifth-place No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 of Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels – Hindman laid down a lap of 2 minutes, 22.735 seconds, compared to Maxwell’s best lap of 2:23.602.

Finishing second to the Multimatic Shelby was Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter Ludwig in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4. Third was another Porsche Cayman GT4, the No. 64 Team TGM entry of Ted Giovanis and Guy Cosmo.

In the ST class, like in GS, the points leaders increased their advantage with a class win as the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman of Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante won by a healthy 10.693-second advantage over second place, the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si of Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger. Third was the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman of Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing.

“This is redemption from last year when we ran out of gas on the last lap in this same position," Pumpelly said. “I wanted to make sure we got this thing home."

Pumpelly and Galante padded their points lead over the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 Miata of Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer, who finished fourth. The fastest car in the ST class was the No. 73 Mini JCW Mini Cooper of Mat Pombo, who had a best lap of 2.31.890. That car was leading for part of the race, but ran out of fuel on the last lap.

After a caution-free race at Lime Rock, this event had four full-course cautions, including one for a bad collision early on between the No. 35 C.J. Wilson Racing Porsche of Till Bechtolsheimer and the No. 76 C360R Ford Shelby 350 R-C of Paul Holton. There also was a bad crash involving the No. 38 Next Level Porsche Cayman of Dan Rogers, and another by Michael Johnson in the No. 54 JDC-Miller BMW 228i, but all drivers check out OK.

Seven races are in the books for the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series and three remain, with the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway August 26-28 next on the schedule.

MAGNUSSEN’S JOB INTERVIEW: Longtime Corvette Racing driver Jan Magnussen loves Road America because it was the site of his first GT win – in a Ferrari. “I got my first GT victory here in 2003 with David Brabham driving a Ferrari and managed to pass Johnny O’Connell," who was driving a Corvette from team manager Doug Fehan, “on the last lap. Doug wasn’t happy – he didn’t want to see that happen again so he signed me the following year and I have been ‘home’ in Corvette yellow ever since."

VIPER COUNT DOUBLES: Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen have been a little lonesome on the GT Daytona grid, fielding the only Dodge Viper – the No. 33 Viper GT3-R.

This weekend, and for the next two races, another Viper will be racing: Dan Knox and Lone Star Racing return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this weekend at Road America where Knox and Mike Skeen will co-drive the No. 80 ACS Manufacturing Dodge Viper GT3- R.

Road America will be just the third career IMSA GTD race start for Lone Star Racing, and the first since their 2016 debut in early May at Laguna Seca. “Being gone for such an extended period of time was kind of nerve-wracking but we are excited to be back," said Knox. “We have had good success here in the past and we are looking forward to what we can do this weekend."

HARRAH’S STEPS UP AS PETIT SPONSOR: Road Atlanta and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort have partnered for the 2016 edition of the Petit Le Mans sports car endurance race, as Harrah’s joins the event as the new presenting sponsor for the last race of the season for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“We’re thrilled to connect two iconic entertainment venues through this new partnership," said Road Atlanta president and general manager Geoff Lee. “As Harrah’s and Petit Le Mans have two different sets of enthusiasts, there’s a huge opportunity to now share the fans between this event and the casino."

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