Edwards, Bell Score Repeat Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Win at MRLS
Freedom Autosport Gets ST Class Win At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca For 2nd Straight Year
After a wild two-and-a-half hours of GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, co-drivers John Edwards and Matt Bell found themselves soaked in victory champagne for the second straight year, while Derek Whitis and Tom Long earned another Street Tuner victory at the storied road course for Freedom Autosport.
In a race where a number of leaders were penalized for jumping restarts after full-course caution periods, Edwards shuffled his way back to the top when it counted in the No. 9 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro, assuming the lead from third place with four laps remaining when leader David Empringham and second-place Matt Plumb both served stop-and-go penalties for jumping an earlier restart.
Edwards had already battled his way back from contact on Lap 28 of the two-hour, 30-minute race around the 2.238-mile circuit that removed the rear bumper cover of his Camaro to take the lead. He then withstood heavy contact from behind by second-place Andrew Aquilante in the track’s famed Andretti Hairpin on the final lap that left Aquilante’s Subaru in flames while Edwards sped off to the victory.
“I don’t think I’ve ever crashed so many times and won the race,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t too optimistic about getting a podium even halfway through the race. Slowly everyone started making mistakes and we found ourselves in the lead.”
Mark Boden and Bryan Sellers took advantage of the last-lap melee – which took Aquilante out and left Spencer Pumpelly, who took the white flag in third place, with a cut tire – to come home second in the No. 46 BCKSTGR/Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. Sellers rebounded to finish on the podium after losing the lead earlier for jumping a restart.
Jade Buford and Tonis Kasemets, who led 12 laps after starting second, wound up third in the final rundown in their No. 71 Multimatic Motorsports/Aston Martin Racing/Zion Aston Martin Vantage.
Following the late-race penalties, Empringham and co-driver John Farano finished 10th in the No. 83 Tower Events Grandstand Seating & Hospitality Suites Porsche Carrera, one spot ahead of Plumb and Nick Longhi in the No. 13 The Billfish Foundation/Rum Bum Film and HD Studios/RumBum.com Porsche Carrera. As a result, Empringham and Farano lead Longhi and Plumb by seven points in the GS class standings heading into the season finale at Lime Rock Park in three weeks.
Co-driving the No. 25 Mazda/SemperFiFund.org Mazda MX-5, Whitis and Long led a 1-2 sweep in ST for Freedom Autosport ahead of Rhett O’Doski and Andrew Carbonell in the similarly sponsored No. 26 Mazda MX-5. It was the second consecutive Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca victory for Freedom, as O’Doski and Carbonell took the ST victory last year.
The victory also vaulted Whitis and Long into the ST points lead. With one race remaining, the co-drivers have a nine-point advantage over co-drivers Nic Jonsson and Andy Lally, who finished fifth on Saturday in the No. 10 Infinity Audio/Kia Motors America/Rocky Tools Kia Forte Koup. Jonsson started the race from the class pole position.
Third place in ST went to Gregory Liefooghe and David Levine in the No. 81 Johnstone Supply/unitedBMWonline/Powerflex/Escort/CRC BMW 328i. The race was slowed by full-course caution 11 times for 39 laps.
Next up for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is GRAND-AM Championship Weekend at Lime Rock Park on Sept. 28-29. Each class will contest its own two-hour, 30-minute race.
Press Release Courtesy GrandAm.com
Photo: Bob Heathcote, RacePhotosOnline.com