ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 15, 2009) - Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., captured his first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car win in 16 races Saturday, taking the World Challenge Road America Grand Prix Presented by StopTech. Charles Espenlaub, of Lutz, Fla., and Patrick Lindsey, of Santa Barbara, Calif., completed the top three in the Round Eight race, part of the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase at Elkhart Lake's Road America.
Starting third in the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX, Kleinubing followed teammate and first-starting Kuno Wittmer into Turn One to take second. The two battled for several laps before Kleinubing demoted Wittmer's No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Red Line Oil Acura TSX to second for good on the front straight. From there, Kleinubing sped away to his 28th-career victory.
Wittmer's day got worse after his teammate went by, as the car experienced a mechanical issue and he had to report to the pits, promoting Espenlaub's No. 73 MAZDASPEED/StopTech/ProParts MAZDA6 to second. Kleinubing won by 1.535 seconds, averaging 96.065 mph.
"This is a big weight off my shoulders," Kleinubing said. "I'm glad I still can do it. I was a little worried that [team owner] Peter [Cunningham] was going to fire me after this season. Hopefully, he'll keep on for a few more."
Kleinubing's drive to victory also earned him the AutoWeek Move of the Race.
"Patrick [Lindsey] made a good charge in Turn One, Three and Five, but I was just a little stronger under braking in Turn Five and I was able to hold onto the position. Kuno and I just put our heads down and started talking on the radio. We talked about not making any mistakes and just going for it, but Kuno made a mistake in Turn Eight and that's how I got around him. He came back and passed me in Turn One and I passed him back and then we got back on the radio and talked about working together for awhile. Then, Kuno's car shut off and I thought, 'there goes my partner, there goes my race.'
"I had a strong car through Turn Seven, Eight, the Carousel and the Kink and it was enough to build a gap through there every lap, soI was able to hold the position."
The four-time series Champion even survived a brief trip off course in Turn Seven on lap 13.
"I usually run pretty hard on that curb," Kleinubing said. "At that point, I was thinking 'I'll just take it easy through here,' but then the car bounced off the curb in a weird way and put me off. I just kept my foot in it and it saved me."
Espenlaub won the pole earlier today, but started fifth on the grid after losing the coin toss and the top five was inverted. Espenlaub got a good start and ran fourth for much of the race behind the pair of Acuras and Lindsey's No. 57 Horton Autosport/Sloan Securities MAZDA6. On lap 10, Lindsey went wide in Turn Seven, allowing Espenlaub through. It was Espenlaub's third runner-up finish of the season.
"I had a pretty good launch, so we got up there, but then the lead pack started to take off a little bit," Espenlaub said. "When Pierre and Kuno started running together, I thought 'let's save the tires and maybe when I get to them I'll have some tire left,' but they kept going harder and harder. I finally had to pick it up and try and run with them.
"Tri-Point gave me a great MAZDA6 today. It absolutely could have won had the coin toss gone another way. I probably could have caught Pierre eventually, but catching Pierre and passing Pierre are two different things. I definitely had a car to lead the race."
Espenlaub ran the Debaufre Fastest Lap of the Race on lap three, turning a 2:30.509 (96.823 mph). He also took the Sunoco Hard Charger award after advancing three positions from start to finish.
Lindsey qualified second, but started fourth with the inversion. Like Kleinubing, he moved past the No. 74 MAZDASPEED/StopTech/ProParts MAZDA6 of second-starting Jason Saini on the start and gave chase to Wittmer and Kleinubing. His eventual third-place finish was a career-best.
"Maybe in the beginning I could have caught [Kleinubing], but I think I drove a little too hard trying to catch those guys, and I had to starting settling down and managing my tires better," Lindsey said. "The car was set up really well. Horton Autosport did a great job, just not quite enough to catch Charles and Pierre today."
He might have had a runner-up finish, but for a mishap in Turn Seven.
"I got caught up in the dirt a bit in Turn Seven," Lindsey said. "I couldn't hold onto it and put two or four tires off I think. Charles had a good run on me. I fought him a little bit for it, but he had such a good run that it was his for the taking."
Saini held off a late charge from teammate and fellow Fort Worth, Texas resident Eric Foss to finish fourth. Foss finished fifth in the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/StopTech/ProParts MAZDA6. Foss has clinched the 2009 Rookie of the Year honor.
Milwaukee's Peter Cunningham finished sixth in his Acura TSX. The RealTime Racing team owner celebrated the team's first win on home soil since Michael Galati won in 1996. He had a stellar mid-race battle with James Clay, who brought his BMW 328i home seventh, followed by teammate Seth Thomas in eighth.
"RealTime is like my second family and we always come here with Peter watching us like hawks and we've never delivered," Kleinubing added. "It feels awesome to finally be able to do it."
Bob Woodhouse drove his Acura TSX to a ninth-place finish in his World Challenge Touring Car debut. Wittmer finished 10th, one lap down.
With only two races remaining, Kleinubing gained ground on leader Jason Saini in the Drivers' Championship. Saini now leads by 46 points (824 to 778). Cunningham fell from second to third in the standings, with 736, followed by Espenlaub (707) and Thomas (682).
Acura also made up ground in the Manufacturers' Championship Presented by RACER Magazine and now trails Mazda by two, 61 to 59. BMW is third, with 27.
Today's race will be broadcast Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on SPEED. The series next travels to Road Atlanta, Sept. 23-25, part of the Petit Le Mans event. More information can be found at www.world-challenge.com.
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