BRASELTON, GA. (April 24, 2004) – James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., won the SCCA SPEED Touring Car qualifying race today at Road Atlanta, as part the inaugural Drift Atlanta event weekend. Bob Stretch, of Dallas, and Brazilian Pierre Kleinubing finished second and third, respectively.-30-
Clay qualified his No. 36 Bimmerworld BMW 325i on the outside of row one and spent most of the race chasing then race leader Stretch. On lap 14, of the 16-lap event, Clay finally passed Stretch for the lead and held on for his first win in a SPEED Touring Car. Clay won by a 1.982-seconds at an average speed of 93.883 mph on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit.
“ I don’t know how I was doing it,” Clay said of catching and then passing Stretch for the lead. “I swear I wasn’t braking as late as he was, but every time coming down the hill [turns 11 and 12] I would be closer. Finally, I pulled around him in the draft and I had enough momentum to make it stick.”
With this qualifying race win, Clay also won the Air Force Reserve Pole Position Award and is subsequently the polesitter for Sunday’s SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Sport Compact GP.
Getting the holeshot from his third starting spot, Stretch piloted his neon green and orange No. 98 Wheels America BMW 325Ci into the lead heading into the first turn on lap one. Stretch then put on an impressive driving display, which included turning the race’s fastest lap of 1:36.927 (94.956 mph), for the next 13 laps before relinquishing the lead to Clay.
“The car was pretty good,” Stretch said. “I felt like the tires went off part way through the race. Once [James] Clay got in the draft, then it was all over after that.
Kleinubing, who started from the pole position, did not get the kind start off the line he would have liked. Kleinubing was second heading into turn one on lap one, but found himself in third after three laps.
“That was BMW power, I would say,” Kleinubing said remarking on Stretch’s quick start. “They [BMWs] are pretty strong and have better traction off the line. They have so much more power down the straights. Through ‘The Esses’ and the downhill, I was much faster but that is just a little part of the track. We’ll see what happens tomorrow, hopefully we can stay closer.”
Although he is the defending SPEED Touring Car race winner at Road Atlanta, Kleinubing drove a solid race to bring the No. 42 A-Spec/RealTime Racing Acura RSX home in third.
Clay’s teammate Matt Richmond, of Mooreville, N.C., drove the No. 37 Bimmerworld BMW 325i to a solid fourth place performance and Neal Sapp, of Ellicott City, Md., finished fifth in the No. 21 TC Kline Racing BMW 325Ci
Sunday’s SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Sport Compact GP race is set to make its standing start at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). For more information, including Live Timing & Scoring Presented by Cadillac, visit www.world-challenge.com.
Link to this story: http://www.scca.com/News/News.asp?Ref=rat1-race1