DENVER (Aug. 13, 2005) – Eric Curran, of South Deerfield, Mass., chased down polesitter Chip Herr early on and then took advantage of a Randy Pobst mistake to win the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car portion of the CENTRIX Financial Grand Prix of Denver Presented by PacifiCare, his first-ever SPEED Touring Car race victory. -30-
Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., finished second after advancing five positions and winning the Sunoco Hard Charger Award in his No. 72 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsport Mazda 6. Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., earned his second podium finish of the season by finishing third in the No. 97 Sparco/Oakley/Tindol Motorsport Mazda 6.
After starting the 30-lap race in fifth, Curran utilized a great start in his No. 45 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura RSX to take over the lead from Herr at the fifth turn of the nine-turn street circuit. As soon as Curran took the lead, a multi-car incident in the back of the field (that knocked both Michael Flynn, of Orlando, Fla., and Kevin McKee, of San Francisco, Calif., out of the race) caused a four-lap, full-course caution.
Upon the lap-six restart, Tri-Point Motorsport’s Randy Pobst ripped the lead away from Curran with a move that blasted him from third to first in his No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsport Mazda 6. However, Pobst made a crucial mistake the very next lap, spinning on his own going into Turn Five.
The move dropped Pobst down to 11th as Curran assumed the point, where he would stay for the remainder of the 49.71-mile race, averaging 66.910 mph.
“This is wonderful. It’s a great, great feeling,” Curran said. “I’ve run World Challenge for a number of years, but not really a full season up until now. I have to thank RealTime Racing because these guys are great. Boy, I’ve been driving a ton, not just in this series, but the same car in another series, and I think it’s definitely a benefit to drive every weekend.
“It was all about the start at the beginning. I had an excellent launch. I got right up through the middle, got up to Chip and by the end of the first lap, I was able to sneak by him. I think maybe he missed a gear or something. I got by him, but boy, he filled my mirrors for quite a while. There’s nothing slow about that Ford Focus.”
Altenburg had not seen the podium since Round Three at Road Atlanta, but ended that streak with a solid drive and outlasting a multi-lap battle with Herr. Altenburg appeared to get stronger through the race, turning in multiple personal fast laps with less than 10 laps to go. With the finish, Altenburg is fifth currently in the SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship standings with 178 points.
“It seemed like Chip was trying to go outside and pass every once in a while,” Altenburg said. “So it seemed like they were battling a little bit. That helped a little bit, but I did close up on them. I felt pretty good about going to the front, but I got up alongside Chip where it was going to a nice clean pass. Then he just sort of turned into me. I don’t know what he was thinking because he isn’t going to do anything like that intentionally.”
Espenlaub had a breakthrough of sorts, earning his first podium finish for the first time in the past four rounds. In addition to putting two Mazdas in the top three, he also won the UrbanRacer.com Hot Lap of the Race with a 1:21.382 (73.299 mph) on Lap 14.
“I didn’t get a very good shot at the start,” Espenlaub said. “So I backed my way up a little bit to save the car. There was a little bit of rubbing and bumping in front of me that I didn’t want to get involved in, so I just kind of picked my way back up and made my way back toward the front.”
After beginning the race from the Air Force Reserve Pole Position, Herr, of Litiz, Pa., battled with several drivers before winding up fourth in the No. 48 US Air Force Reserve Ford Focus. Coming off his SPEED GT debut win at Portland, Dino Crescentini, of Malibu, Calif., returned to his No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Centric/Tri-Point Mazda 6 and finished fifth.
Denver University student Brandon Davis, of Denver, Colo., wrapped up The Winning Team Racing Apparel Rookie of the Year honors by finishing sixth in his No. 44 A-SPEC/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
Bob Stretch, of Dallas, Texas, earned the B&M Holeshot Award for advancing six positions after starting 12th before settling into a ninth-place finish in the No. 12 Wheels America/B5Wheels BMW 325Ci.
The standings in the SPEED Touring Car Drivers’ Championship potentially may have been much different had Pobst not spun, but with his seventh-place finish Saturday, he moved his total to 203, slightly closing the gap between him and current leader Peter Cunningham, who has 208. Pierre Kleinubing finished eighth and slipped into a third-place tie at 197 with race-winner Curran.
Curran’s win was the fifth for Acura in 2005, which boosted the marquee’s standing in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine. With 65 points, Acura leads Mazda by four with two events remaining. BMW is third with 43.
The SPEED Touring Car portion of the CENTRIX Financial Grand Prix of Denver Presented by PacifiCare will be broadcast on SPEED Channel Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. (EDT), 12 p.m. local.
For more information, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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