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Continental Tire Challenge: Kansas, Race Report

Drivers had less than two weeks to relax after a dramatic race at Lime Rock Park, but the jaunt down to Kansas Speedway for the fifth round of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was relatively quick after much crisscrossing from coast to coast. Unique to the Kansas event, the race was held under the lights, illuminating the 3.81-kilometre “roval” consisting of both banked corners used for NASCAR racing and a simple, but tricky, infield road course.

In Grand Sport (GS), young star Trent Hindman drove his #46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 to the top in both practice sessions on Friday, June 6. The always competitive Lawson Aschenbach placed his #01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R in a close second in Practice 1, setting a 1:23.015 in relation to Hindman’s 1:23.009. The #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche was third, with Nick Longhi setting a 1:23.183, a time good enough to vault him into the lead for a short while until being usurped by Aschenbach, and later the charging Trent Hindman. In the second practice session, in which drivers became accustomed to late dusk and nighttime conditions, a Camaro was once again in second place, this time the #6 Stevenson Motorsports machine with Andrew Davis at the wheel. BJ Zacharias took his #14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z to a third place by means of a 1:22.066.

Michael Valiante pedaled the #93 HART Honda Civic Si to a 1:28.045 and a first place in Practice 1 in Street Tuner (ST). Porsche’s occupied second and third with the #88 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche Cayman clocking in at a 1:28.057 and the #04 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche Cayman in third with a 1:28.174. In Practice 2, the #24 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche Cayman of Cory Friedman was quickest and set the best ST time of the day, a blistering 1:27.560. The sister car, the #04 of Remo Ruscitti, did well again to place in second, while Owen Trinkler took third in the #98 CRG – I Do Borrow Honda Civic Si.

But the action was just heating up as the fifty-odd cars pulled into their garages after completing Practice 2 at 7:30 PM. The cars would hit the high banks under the lights once again at 9:10 – 9:55 PM for staggered ST and GS qualifying.

Although Nick Longhi put together a fighting lap of a 1:22.124, the Rum Bum Racing driver made contact with the wall late in the session and sat out the rest of qualifying, leaving the door open for Kris Wilson to take the #07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage to a last-minute pole position.

“I made a couple mistakes and the guys actually called me in, but I asked to do one more lap because I felt I could clean up a few things, and it worked,” said the polesitter from Monument, Colorado.

Kurt Rezzetano, driver of the #35 Phoenix American Ford Mustang, had originally qualified third, but was sent to the back of the grid after post-qualifying technical inspection saw grill and duct work illegally taped. Therefore, Trent Hindman, who swept the practice sessions earlier that day, would start third. The #6 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R of Andrew Davis and the #14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z of Brad Jaeger rounded out the top five in GS.

In ST, Corey Lewis drove expertly to his first career pole in the #87 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche Cayman while Canadian Adam Isman took second in the #04 Autometrics Motorsports machine, another Porsche Cayman. The sister car, piloted by David Baum, took third in ST in the #24 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche Cayman.

GS Race

51 cars took the start of what would be a turbulent 150 minutes of racing at Kansas Speedway. Immediately, polesitter Wilson took off while Edwards was swamped; the Hindman/Edwards duo would be plagued with frequent losses of power throughout the race. Meanwhile, Eric Curran would be black-flagged for a false start after rocketing up to second place, and the #01 CKS Autosport Camaro had to serve a drive-thru penalty.

Then came the first caution, thrown for a stricken ST car. In the space of only fifteen minutes of racing, Kurt Rezzetano, who was relegated to the back of the grid due to his car’s post-qualifying technical infringements, had taken his #32 Phoenix American Ford Mustang up to third place in GS in a storming drive to the front.

The restart was followed shortly by pit stops. Bringing his Aston Martin Vantage in from the lead, Kris Wilson briefly handed the lead to the #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche of Matt Plumb, who took over from Nick Longhi early in the race. After both the halfway mark and the second and final caution flag, Plumb seemed to have control over the race.

But James Davison, taking over from where the polesitting Kris Wilson left off, took his #07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage through the field to duel with the leading Porsche. After swapping positions several times, the Davison had the lead and Plumb, driving without radio communications, was forced to make an unscheduled late-race pit stop, bumping him down to fourth. In the end, Davison took the win as the sun set over Kansas Speedway, the first victory for TRG-AMR and the Aston Martin Vantage in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

“It was certainly a competitive race, and I was trying as hard as I could,” Davison said. “I did throw away the Laguna race, so I’m pleased for the whole TRG-AMR team. Kris did a great job putting the car on pole and he gave me the car in a competitive position. That made it easier for me than any other race I’ve had before, not having to come from behind.”

Andrew Aquilante was able to take a fantastic second after teammate Rezzetano made a torrid drive from the back of the pack, while the Sandberg/Carter duo drove the #7 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche to a solid third.

ST Race

Michael Valiante went into the Kansas Speedway round seeking redemption. In 2013, the Canadian trounced the field but was disqualified after the race for “manipulating the field.” After starting sixth in class, the #93 HART Honda Civic Si found itself in the lead with 45 minutes left to go with Valiante at the helm. After disposing of Charles Espenlaub, who took over from ST polesitter Corey Lewis in the #87 Rebel Rock Racing Porsche Cayman, Valiante held off a persistent Wayne Nonnamaker to take a well-deserved victory alongside co-driver Chad Gilsinger.

“This was one of the toughest wins I’ve had, with that much pressure and knowing that second and third were coming,” said class winner Valiante. “I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, particularly when they are on your bumper. I kept telling myself, ‘hit your marks, hit your marks’ and get good exit shots, and I was able to pull it off.”

Rebel Rock Racing pulled off two podiums in a very successful Kansas evening, as Corey Lewis and Charles Espenlaub brought the #87 Porsche Cayman home to finish third, while the sister car of Jim Jonsin and Tom Dyer were not far behind in fifth, split by only the #75 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si of Ryan Eversley and Kyle Gimple.

Beck Duggleby