SEMA eNews Vol. 14, No. 38, September 22, 2011

Racing News: PRO/RACE Performance Products Celebrates 25 Years

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  PRO/Race Performance Products celebrates 25 years.

PRO/RACE Performance Products Celebrates 25 Years
Founded by ’60s three-time Australian national champion Graham Withers driving his self-designed and built 392-c.i. blown Chrysler Hemi front-engine dragster, PRO/RACE Performance Products celebrates 25 years.

As Australia’s first professional drag racer, Graham toured for five years, and then retired to establish PRO/RACE Performance speed shop. While building high-performance engine packages for local racers, Graham recognized the need for a durable, high-strength crankshaft vibration damper, also known as a harmonic balancer, so he designed and patented an “all-steel” harmonic balancer to suit Australia’s GM V8 Holden engines, substituting the factory OEM cast-iron harmonic balancer, which was not suitable for high-performance engine applications. Today, PRO/RACE offers high-performance harmonic balancers for a wide range of American engines.

Skeen, Brown and Aschenbach Win Pirelli World Challenge In Monterey

Mike Skeen, Paul Brown and Lawson Aschenbach all took Pirelli World Challenge class victories last Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, clinching Drivers’ Championships for Brown—in GTS—and Aschenbach in Touring Car during the Cadillac Sports Car Grand Prix Presented by Grassroots Motorsports. Patrick Long clinched the GT Championship with a fifth-place finish.

Skeen, from Charlotte, North Carolina, took the lead in his No. 2 Cragar Wheels/CRP on lap 21 with a pass on the outside of turn 10, when he and then-leader Randy Pobst split a slower Touring Car. Skeen used traffic to his advantage to take the lead and earn the Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award. From there, Skeen pulled away for a 4.139-second win—his third of the season.

Skeen averaged 72.459 mph over the 27-lap, 60.426-mile race that was slowed twice for seven laps under caution.

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  Mike Skeen used traffic to his advantage to take the lead and earn the
Cadillac CTS-V Move of the Race Award. From there, he pulled away for
a 4.139-second win—his third of the season.

Pobst, the polesitter, held on for a second-place finish in the No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 after leading the opening 20 laps. It was the highest finish of the season, and only the second podium, for the defending GT Drivers’ Champion who has been slowed by assorted issues this season.

Skeen’s teammate, Patrick Lindsey, was third in the No. 12 Hawk Performance/CRP Chevrolet Corvette. Lindsey moved past James Sofronas’ No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 on lap 12 restart, then moved into third past Johnny O’Connell’s No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V Coupe on lap 20. Sofronas, trying to keep his slim championship hopes alive, moved back into third position on with two laps to go, but a flat tire slowed him to a 10th-place finish on the final lap. O’Connell would inherit fourth after Sofronas fell out.

Despite missing round four at Miller Motorsports Park, Long—who has won a number of championships behind the wheel of a Porsche in multiple sports car series—clinched his first Pirelli World Challenge Championship with his finish in the No. 45 Privacy Star/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 with one race remaining.

Brown’s GTS class flag-to-flag win in the No. 50 One Hour Heating and Air/Luminox/Kenny Brown Ford Mustang Boss 302S clinched his first career World Challenge title. Brown qualified on the pole, pulled away at the start, and hustled to a 2.713-second margin of victory.

The Championship is the first for Brown, who wasn’t sure if the funding was available at the start of the season to run for a championship. The team placed together race-to-race deals to make it to every championship round and now sits on top with a one-race cushion to spare.

Brown finished ahead of Pratt Cole’s No. 96 USA Cares/Western Metal Ford Mustang FR500S after Cole ran second for the entire race.

A pair of RealTime Acura TSX machines followed, with Peter Cunningham’s No. 1 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX completing the podium. Nick Esayian’s No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX finished fourth.

Cunningham was slowed on the standing start behind a stalled GT car and was as low as fifth in class on lap 16. Esayian fell as far back as seventh before using attrition and a steady climb to earn his 11th career podium finish.

Ben Crosland (No. 25 RacewithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) and Eric Foss (No. 73 Traxxas/St. Jude Hospital/SPX Ford Mustang FR500S) each climbed as high as third position during the race, but mechanical problems left them in seventh and sixth at the finish, respectively.

Brad Adams (No. 75 RaceWithRP.com Ford Mustang FR500S) completed the top five.

Aschenbach, the 2006 World Challenge Champion in the GT class, clinched the Touring Car title with his win after beginning the day in the back of the field. Aschenbach started ninth in class in his No. 71 Compass360 Racing Honda Civic Si after missing qualifying. By the end of lap one, however, Aschenbach was already in fourth position, a lap that would earn him the Optima Batteries Best Standing Start Award. Trailing only the Volvos of Aaron Povoledo and Robb Holland, and the No. 33 GermanAutoParts.com/Techtonics Volkswagen GTI of Tristan Herbert, Aschenbach settled in to earn as many points as he could.

Aschenbach moved past the No. 66 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30 of Holland on 17th of the Touring Car class’ 26 laps, then inherited second place when Povoledo’s No. 88 K-Pax Racing Volvo C30 fell out with mechanical difficulties on lap 19.

After Herbert struggled while working through lapped traffic, Aschenbach moved to the bumper of and past Herbert with two laps remaining to take his fifth win of the season and lock up the Championship.

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  The Jaguar XKR GT team of Ken Wilden and Bruno Junqueira salvaged an 11th-place finish in class at Laguna Seca last weekend.

Herbert earned his third-consecutive podium finish, leading on two occasions for 13 total laps. Herbert earned the Invisible Glass Clean Pass of the race after taking the lead from Holland on the lap seven restart.

Holland finished third, followed by Patrick Seguin’s No. 80 Theberge Homes/Capsparts.com Honda Civic Si. Tom Lepper finished fifth in the No. 48 Team Cobalt California/Lepper and Associates Chevrolet Cobalt.

The Pirelli World Challenge concludes at Road Atlanta, September 28–30, with the Cadillac Road Atlanta Grand Prix.

JaguarRSR Overcomes Early Obstacles and Goes the Distance at Laguna Seca

The JaguarRSR team recovered from uncontrollable obstacles and completed the six-hour challenge of Round Eight in the 2011 American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend.

Ken Wilden qualified the #99 JaguarRSR XKR GT 11th on the GT grid and Bruno Junqueira took the green flag for the ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón. An on-track incident in the famed Corkscrew involving an LMP car that spun and caused the two Corvettes to spin ahead of Junqueira left him with nowhere to go as the track was completely blocked. He made contact with one of the Corvettes, which resulted in a broken radiator and nose. The crew had to replace the nose and install a new radiator, water lines, oil coolers and a steering link.

During the repair, Junqueira wrapped up his two-hour run, and Wilden stepped in. Once the repairs were fixed, the Canadian was on his way for a successful two-hour stint. Junqueira returned to the cockpit for the remaining two hours. The team was able to salvage an 11th-place finish in class, but the #98 car had an early retirement due to suspension damage from contact.

The season ends where it all started for JaguarRSR back in 2009 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, October 1. The Petit Le Mans is the second longest endurance event of the season—a 1,000-mile/10-hour classic. ESPN2 will air the race Sunday, September 18, from 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. (EDT).

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  Mark Blundell and Zak Brown recorded seventh place in the season finale of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series last weekend.

United Autosports Brings Curtain Down on GRAND-AM Season in Style

Mark Blundell (GB) and Zak Brown (USA) brought the curtain down on a partial GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series by Crown Royal Cask No.16 season for United Autosports in style by recording seventh place in the season finale last weekend.

The Anglo-American combination brought their United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing #23 Ford-Riley home a mere 5.157 seconds behind the EMCO Gears Classic race winners at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Blundell moved up one place to fourth on the opening lap around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio road course and briefly into third at the re-start of the first full course caution on 20 minutes before pitting to Brown during a second caution period Zak, who was fighting a fever throughout the weekend, resuming 10th with 30 minutes on the clock.

Blundell was back in the #23 Riley-Ford placed 11th after the race’s third caution on 51 minutes and was up to fourth place on 90 minutes. Blundell slipped three places to seventh on the same lap with just over an hour to run before making a final pit-stop during another caution period resuming ninth, but was at the tail of a three-car dice for fourth place with 50 minutes remaining.

Blundell muscled the #23 up to fifth at the re-start of another caution, the top-five running nose to tail, before an eighth and final caution bunched the 29-car field for a final three-minute dash to the checker, which saw Blundell slip two places to seventh after being nudged off the track in the closing laps.

United Autosports finished 13th in the team standings despite only contesting four races on the 12-race Rolex calendar.

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  Second in points Matt Mitchell #37 and point leader Mike Spencer #50 in action at The PAS, August 20. Photo credit: Doug Allen.

Richard "The Gasman" Griffin Returns to Perris Auto Speedway for the Glenn Howard Memorial
The Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series returns to the "Southern California Home of Major League Sprint Car Racing," Perris Auto Speedway (PAS), for a special race—the Glenn Howard Memorial this Saturday night, September 24. On hand and serving as grand marshal for the event will be one of the most popular drivers ever to turn a wheel at The PAS—Richard "The Gasman" Griffin. Spectator gates will open at 5:00 p.m. and the first race will be at 7:00 p.m.

Howard founded So-Cal Performance, which today is run by his son Steve. A former racer with the original CRA series in the ’70s and ’80s, Steve has raised more than $14,000 in cash and contingencies to add to Saturday night's purse.

Griffin will fly his plane in from his home in Silver City, New Mexico, to oversee the action on Saturday night. In the early days of the now-famous Riverside County clay oval, Griffin was one of the main drivers to beat. He racked up five SCRA championships and went out on top when he retired after winning the 2003 crown. He won a total of 63 main events, which ranks him seventh all-time on the combined CRA, SCRA, USAC/CRA list dating back to the ’40s.

Heading into Saturday's race, the top three in the championship standings are separated by a mere 56 points. Defending three-time champion Mike Spencer of Temecula, California, who has won four of the six races at The PAS this year, leads Yorba Linda, California's Matt Mitchell by 37 points. Mitchell has won the other two races at The PAS this season, including the last one August 20. Huntington Beach, California's Nic Faas, a college student at Cal State Fullerton, is third in the standings and is only 19 points behind Mitchell.

Among the other fan favorites expected to be in action include the Williams clan, comprised of National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Rip Williams and his sons Cody and Austin from Yorba Linda, "Super" Rickie Gaunt of Torrance, California, Visalia, California's Greg Bragg, "Dynamite" David Cardey of Riverside, California, Norco, California's Ronnie Gardner and more.

In addition to the stars of the West Coast's open-wheel series, the CDCRA Dwarf Cars and WRA Vintage Cars will also be a part of the program.

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  A rear-end collision with a GTC class car at the ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey last weekend resulted in the retirement of Team Falken's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

Contact Ruins Team Falken Tire's Winning Run at Mazda Raceway's ALMS Enduro

The superb run Team Falken enjoyed, winning two out of the last three American Le Mans Series races, came to an abrupt jolt as a rear-end collision with a GTC class car resulted in terminal damage to drivetrain components, forcing the team’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to retire at the ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With the Falken Porsche unable to finish, it caused the team and drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers to drop in the GT Team and Driver standings, respectively. Nevertheless, Team Falken is only one of two teams to win multiple races this year—an important accomplishment given its single-car status.

Team Falken engineers maintained that the track was difficult to prepare for and the rapid changes in temperature meant the team was chasing chassis set-up throughout the weekend.
 

Despite the challenges, Sellers started the race and advanced to seventh in class and was holding his position to the third hour when Henzler got into the Porsche. He was rear-ended roughly 50 minutes later, which ended the team’s day.

The season finale—the 14th annual 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta—is scheduled for September 28–October 1.

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