LEXINGTON, Ohio (May 21, 2006) – Chip Herr, of Lititz, Pa., captured his first-ever SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship win in his STaSIS Engineering/QVALE Audi A4 at the Mid-Ohio SPEED World Challenge Weekend Presented by Trenton Forging Quality Formed Solutions. Polesitter Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Jeff Altenburg, of Ellicott City, Md., completed the top three.-30-
Starting second on the grid, Herr used his all-wheel drive advantage at the start to jump out in front of Kleinubing’s No. 42 Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Racing Acura TSX. From there, he never looked back, weathering three full-course caution periods to win the 29-lap, 60.966-mile race by 3.304 seconds, averaging 76.009 mph.
“The car was absolutely unbelievable under me,” Herr said. “I could run a consistent time. I was hoping that the times I was going to run were going to be a little better than Pierre’s, and I think it was a couple of tenths each lap that I could pull.
“And the fact that he had someone behind him, and I had a gap – I didn’t have to drive off line. I felt like I was out there qualifying the whole race. I kept looking in the mirror, hoping the Mazdas were going to pressure the Acura.”
It was the first series win for Herr, coming in the 24-year old’s 27th start. Herr’s previous best finish was a fourth at St. Petersburg this season. It is the third for an Audi in SCCA SPEED Touring Car competition and the second for a turbocharged car.
“I’m just happy to be out there with these guys and actually be up front,” Herr said. “I have a great team in STaSIS Engineering. They did an awesome job in getting my car ready. It was great.”
Kleinubing narrowly snagged the pole from Herr with a new track record on Saturday, but had to settle into second at the start. He kept in touch with Herr for the first part of the race, but as he came under pressure, allowed the Audi to escape.
Pressured by Altenburg and his Mazdaspeed/Tri-Point Motorsports Mazda 6 teammate, Randy Pobst, as well as the STaSIS Audi A4s of Jeff Courtney (MPI Coin/Karavan/Badger) and Freddy Baker (Fred Baker Audi), throughout the closing stages of the race, Kleinubing was able to hang on to the runner-up spot. The finish put the three-time Champion into the drivers’ point lead, 90 to 89, over Pobst, who finished sixth.
“Nothing at all,” Kleinubing said when asked if he thought he had anything to give in an attempt for the lead. “He got the jump on me coming out of the Keyhole and kept opening up gaps down the straight. I seemed to get better than him under braking, but once Jeff [Altenburg], [Randy] Pobst and [Freddy] Baker got close to me, and we started fighting, Chip just opened up the gap and cruised to victory.
“Everything I had and a bit more,” Kleinubing acknowledged in what it took to hold off Altenburg at the end. “It played out to our advantage, but it was very close - too close to call.”
Altenburg started sixth, but progressively moved up, passing Pobst for third on lap 18 and giving chase to Kleinubing. It is Altenburg’s first podium finish of the season.
“That Audi is really fast. But I was just happy to move up in the order, get on the podium,” Altenburg said. “The Tri-Point Mazda 6 was awesome as always. Just great racing at the end, that last third of the race, with Pierre and Freddy Baker behind me. Can’t say enough about how they raced clean with me, and me with them.
“Congrats to Chip for his first win. I sure wish our cars handled in the straights like theirs did, but we’ll live to fight another day.”
Courtney, of Slinger, Wis., started eighth, but moved to fifth at the start. He passed teammate Baker for the fourth spot on the final lap of the race. It was Courtney’s career-best finish and he was also named the Piloti Rookie of the Race for his effort.
Baker, of Bedford, Ohio, held on for fifth, putting all three turbocharged Audis in the top five. It was also Baker’s best career finish. He also turned the race’s fastest lap with a record time of 1:33.915 (86.554 mph) on lap 19.
Following Pobst were the quartet of Acura Certified Pre-Owned/RealTime Racing Acuras including Peter Cunningham, Brandon Davis, Nick Esayian and Eric Curran. Cunningham started third, but moved before the standing start, meaning he had to report to pit lane for a stop-and-go penalty, falling to 24th. He charged back through the field to reach the top 10 by lap 18 and finish seventh.
Justin Hall, of Davis, Calif., earned two awards in his No. 12 DIG Motorsports/JustRacing.com BMW 325Ci—the B&M Shifters Holeshot Award for advancing 10 positions on the first lap and the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing from 34th on the grid to finish 17th. Hall might have finished higher, but had to report to the pits for a stop-and-go penalty for a pass under yellow.
Overall, the race was slowed by three cautions to retrieve cars stuck in gravel traps for a total of seven laps.
Behind Kleinubing and Pobst in the SPEED Touring Car point standings, Herr’s win pushed him to third with 75 points, ahead of Cunningham’s 74 points and Davis’ 53.
With 22 points, Mazda retains its top spot in the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by Racer Magazine, leading Acura (20), Audi (12) and BMW (11).
Today’s race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel Saturday, May 27 at 8 p.m. (EDT). The fourth round of the 2006 SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship is scheduled for June 23-25, at Infineon Raceway.
For additional series information, visit www.world-challenge.com.
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