|06/28/09 11:43PM||2009 Koni Challenge, Ken Wilden|
Ken Wilden Wins at Mid-Ohio
Ken Wilden took another step towards the 2009 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport championship Saturday, scoring a dominating victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Dean Martin in the No. 59 RehagenRacingProducts.com Ford Mustang GT.
Martin led the opening 41 circuits, pressured the entire time by pole winner Matt Bell and Bret Seafuse. The lead recycled back to Wilden on Lap 46, five laps after his pit stop, and he maintained a comfortable advantage the rest of the way.
“I wouldn’t say I was on cruise control, but I was really taking care of the car,” Martin said. “I was trying to stay consistent. We had a flawless race. We got out front and stayed out front. We also had a fantastic pit stop.”
Wilden made a final pit stop with 18 minutes remaining, but managed to retain the lead. His margin of victory, 34.439 seconds, was the largest of the season.
“Dean drove a great race,” Wilden said. “He’s a great starter. He forces the other teams to put their foot down. We were hoping we would be able to push the Porsches and BMWs to have some problems - and they did.”
Wilden and Martin averaged 85.589 mph in the caution-free two-and-a-half hour race. It marked their second consecutive Grand Sport victory at Mid-Ohio, winning the last appearance by the division in 2007. James Gue finished second in JBS Motorsport’s No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT started by Seafuse. Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende finished third in TRG’s No. 39 The DigiTrust Group/Adam’s Polishes Porsche 997, which battled back after pitting on the opening lap with a cut tire and falling back to 16th.
Joey Hand pitted for a splash of fuel in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 started by Chris Gleason with only two minutes remaining while running third. They held on to take fourth, the last car on the lead lap.
The victory opened Wilden’s lead in the championship to 21 points over Seafuse and Gue (204-183). Martin, who missed a race earlier in the season, moved up to third in the standings with 174 points, five better than Ende.
Bill Auberlen was running second in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 started by Bell before a pit stop due to losing his brakes with 30 minutes remaining. They went on to finish fifth. Bell won his fifth pole of the season - and fifth in seven races this season - earlier Saturday with a track record lap of 1:33.896 (86.572 mph), and led two laps following Martin’s pit stop.
Martin led the opening 41 circuits - pressured heavily by Bell throughout the opening hour. Seafuse made it a three-car battle much of the opening hour before being bumped off course by a lapped car on Lap 30 as the leaders raced through traffic.
“Second place was a little unfortunate, but it was good to come back from that incident,” Seafuse said. “But if those guys (Wilden and Martin) keep going like this, it’s going to be tough to catch them.”
Glenn Bocchino led two laps before pitting in the No. 32 Cybernation/Cobalt Friction BMW M3. Co-driver Todd Lamb pitted five laps later after leaking fluids. While a brief fire was quickly extinguished, the car was retired.
Several other contenders experienced problems.
Jack Roush Jr. ran fifth throughout the opening hour before turning the No. 61 Valvoline/Roush Ford Mustang GT over to Billy Johnson, who lost four laps with a broken tie rod.
Andy Lally was running sixth before dropping a cylinder in the No. 41 Magnus Racing Porsche 997 and pitting late in the race in the car started by John Potter.
Saturday’s race was the seventh of the 2009 KONI Challenge season. Only four races remain, with the next stop July 18 at Barber Motorsports Park.