Tom Long led Lawson Aschenbach by 0.103sec in Saturday's Homestead 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Street Tuner (ST) class, in a reversal of the top two cars from the class race last year at Homestead-Miami. Long was joined by Derek Whitis in the No. 25 Aventura Technologies/PFC Mazda MX-5.
Long took the victory on the last lap from Aschenbach, who was trying to give Compass360 Racing its second straight victory both in a race and at the track. Instead, it was Long, who battled tooth-and-nail with Compass360's No. 74 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si a year ago, coming up with a pass on Aschenbach and his second victory in three races with Whitis, who started fourth.
Long first took the lead on lap 45, and battled for several laps with Sam Schultz and James Clay. After Long assumed the lead following the final caution period, he led for two laps, before Aschenbach got by for a lap. Long made the final of 13 ST lead changes on lap 88, and held on by just 0.103sec.
Last season, Long finished 0.129sec behind the No. 74, which was piloted by Randy Pobst and Christian Miller; the car went on to win the championship.
"It was like déjà vu, but this time, our Mazda came out on top," Long said. "The MX-5 handled well in the infield, and the parity in the class made for a great race."
Whitis also won with Long in last season's finale at Virginia International Raceway. He is a team owner of Freedom Autosport with Rhett O'Doski.
"We fought the entire way, and it was a little nerve-wrecking in those final laps, waiting to see if the race would finish the same or different from last year," Whitis said. "Everything worked out though."
It appeared another Compass360 machine was going to dominate the race. Rookie Zach Lutz, in only his second series start, mustered the lead away from polesitter Sarah Cattaneo in Turn 1 and led the opening 35 laps of that race's 88 circuits.
Soon after relinquishing the seat to co-driver Ryan Eversley, however, the No. 75 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si's engine let go in Turn 1, ending a promising day for the front row starters. They finished 30th.
Aschenbach and Thilenius now lead the standings by seven (67-60) over fourth-place finishers Seth Thomas and Bill Heumann in the No. 81 Performance Friction/RAYS Engineering BMW 328i. Thomas led seven laps during the race. Third were BJ Zacharias and Craig Conway in the No. 198 Cruise America/Four Winds RV Mini Cooper S, the first-ever podium finish for RSR Motorsports. Teammates Cattaneo and VJ Mirzayan in the No. 197 Cruise America/Four Winds RV Mini Cooper S finished 27th.
APR Motorsport drivers Josh Hurley and Kevin Stadtlander advanced a race-high 27 positions to finish fifth after starting 32nd. Both are Miami area residents – Hurley from Copper City and Stadtlander from Miami.
The next race for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will be April 10 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.