Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman recovered from a first-lap spin in Saturday's Continental Tire 150, the sixth round of the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season, to win the Grand Sport (GS) race and give Fall-Line Motorsports its first series victory.
Both the GS and Street Tuner (ST) races were determined in large part by contact between contenders in each class during the final 10 minutes. In ST, Lawson Aschenbach took the lead with five laps remaining, then watched as the second- and third-place cars, driven by Josh Hurley and Jamie Holtom respectively, spin behind him. Holtom, running third, slammed into the tire barrier, which brought out the final of four cautions and gave Aschenbach and David Thilenius their second victory this season.
Putman, who started second in the No. 48 Sparco/Imported Car Store BMW M3, spun at the course's Inner Loop corner and dropped back. He turned the car over to Espenlaub during the first pit stop, and Espenlaub took the lead from rookie Ryan Winchester on lap 42.
The race's third caution, for debris, bunched the field and set up a shootout between Espenlaub and Leh Keen, who drove the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 997. Keen attempted a pass for the lead on lap 60, but the pass didn't stick. Espenlaub drove alongside Keen between Turns 7 and 8, making side-to-side contact once. After making it through Turn 8, the pair touched again; the end result was a cut right rear tire for Keen.
Espenlaub expected a challenge from new second-place runner Joey Hand, but that battle never materialized. Holtom, challenging Hurley's No. 181 APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI for second, ran into the rear of the VW. Hurley continued, while Holtom hit the tire barrier in his No. 21 Sick Kids Foundation Chevrolet Cobalt.
That sealed Putman's first career victory and Espenlaub's second. Hand and Michael Marsal earned their fifth consecutive podium in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, the pair's championship lead now one point (177-176) over Espenlaub and Putman.
"We raced hard," Espenlaub said of racing Keen. "Once he fell out, I was nervous about Joey Hand. We've been racing together for three years, so this has been a long time coming."
Third were Fall-Line Motorsports co-drivers Terry Borcheller and Andrew Hendricks in the No. 45 Stable One Racing BMW M3, while Hugh Plumb and Craig Stone garnered fourth in the No. 9 Sunoco Camaro. Fifth were Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT.
For Aschenbach and Thilenius, the pair extended their championship lead to 13 (190-177). It marked Compass360 Racing's third victory at Watkins Glen in four seasons.
"I don't know what happened behind me," Aschenbach said. "The two guys were fighting really hard. I was able to get by both of them. We didn't expect to win this race."
Trailing Aschenbach was Ryan Eversley, who completed a 1-2 finish for Compass360 with Zach Lutz in the No. 75 JC Concrete/Skunk2 Honda Civic Si. Third were Hurley and Kevin Stadtlander, while Mike Galati and Bryan Johnson finished fourth in the No. 92 HART Honda Civic Si. Fifth were Peter Cunningham and Nick Wittmer in the No. 93 RealTime Racing Honda Civic Si.
Four caution periods for 15 laps resulted in an average speed of 85.404mph.