TOOELE, Utah (May 18, 2008) – Jason Saini, of Fort Worth, Texas, led every lap en route to his maiden SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship win Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park, part of the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix Presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels weekend. Pierre Kleinubing, of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Kuno Wittmer, of Montreal, Quebec, completed the top three.
Starting from his first career pole position in the No. 74 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6, Saini made a clean getaway on the standing start and immediately pulled out a gap on Kleinubing. The gap between the two remained fairly consistent between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds throughout the course of the 20-lap, 60.96-mile race.
Saini beat Kleinubing to the checkered flag by 1.402-seconds, averaging 86.366 mph.
“It wasn’t easy,” Saini said. “It was 50 minutes straight qualifying, every lap. There was no tire management, there was no waiting on it, I just went. I tried to pull a gap early. I knew my car was good early but, based on the whole weekend, I felt like Pierre would be stronger at the end. I knew my only shot was to get out and get a bit of a buffer when my car was good. I would look in my mirrors and he was there the whole time. He kept the pressure on. I just kept going and tried not to make any mistakes. The car was fantastic; the team did a great job. It was as good on the last lap as it was on the first. We nailed the setup.”
Saini became the first rookie winner in SCCA SPEED Touring Car competition since John Angelone won the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2005.
“It was a struggle the first two races,” Saini added. “I’ve been wondering when the results were going to come. The team pulled everything together, did a lot of work on the car from VIR where we were off quite a bit. The only change we made to the car was right before the race, other than that it was right as it rolled off the truck. Everything was done at the shop, so big congratulations for TriPoint and the team and everyone there. They nailed it.
“It’s just been a quick progression to the series that I’ve always wanted to drive in. Mazda’s given me that opportunity.”
Kleinubing was pleased with his run in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX, but felt he just didn’t have enough to make a serious challenge for the lead.
“Every time I tried to go a little faster, [Saini would] return the favor on the next lap,” Kleinubing said. “Every time I closed the gap a little bit, he stretched it out again. He had a better car today, he beat us straight up. Congratulations to him and the team. We’ll just do a better job at Lime Rock. It should be a good track for the Acura, and we have two races on the same weekend which should be pretty good for us.”
Point leader Wittmer started sixth in his No. 44 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX but was third by Turn One. He fended off Charles Espenlaub for much of the race, before the two made light contact in Turn Five, allowing Wittmer to escape from the battle.
“I went from sixth to third by corner one, it was clean into corner one and I just hung in there for third,” Wittmer said. “I had a lot of pressure from Charles [Espenlaub] for the entire race, and Peter [Cunningham] behind him. They were really putting a lot of pressure on me, especially going down into the hairpin. I had to defend my position a lot because he had more top end speed than I did. I had to really defend, but not to the point of blocking. At one point, he did get beside me. I kept the outside and was able to slowly creep away from him again. Then, Peter was behind, and he was putting pressure on me, so it was more like a defense race for me.”
The Wittmer/Espenlaub battle allowed Peter Cunningham’s No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX to slot into fourth for the finish. Espenlaub held off teammate Jim Daniels in the closing laps to finish fifth in the No. 73 MAZDASPEED/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6.
Daniels (MAZDA6) finished sixth in his first run with TriPoint Racing, followed by Seth Thomas (BMW 325i), Chip Herr (MAZDA6), Dino Crescentini (Acura TSX) and Patrick Lindsey (MAZDA6).
Herr was awarded both the Racing Electronics Holeshot Award for advancing four positions on the first lap and the Sunoco Hard Charger award for advancing seven positions throughout the race in his No. 97 Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6.
Wittmer now leads the SPEED Touring Car Championship by 12 points over Kleinubing, 317 to 305. Cunningham is third, with 269 points, followed by Espenlaub (262 points) and Seth Thomas (248 points).
Acura continues to lead the Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine, 26 to 17.
Today’s race will be broadcast on SPEED, Wednesday, May 28 at noon (EDT), 10 a.m. locally.
The series next heads to Lime Rock Park next weekend for a Memorial Day doubleheader, racing Saturday and Monday.
TOOELE, Utah - Results from Sunday’s 20-lap, 60.96-mile SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship Round Three race, part of the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix Presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels at Miller Motorsports Park with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps, distance behind winner and reason out (if any).
1. (1), Jason Saini(R), Fort Worth, Texas, MAZDA6, 20.
2. (2), Pierre Kleinubing, Coconut Creek, Fla., Acura TSX, 20, -1.402.
3. (6), Kuno Wittmer, Montreal, Quebec, Acura TSX, 20, -18.428.
4. (3), Peter Cunningham, Milwaukee, Wis., Acura TSX, 20, -19.270.
5. (4), Charles Espenlaub, Lutz, Fla., MAZDA6, 20, -20.679.
6. (5), Jim Daniels(R), Germantown, Tenn., MAZDA6, 20, -21.326.
7. (8), Seth Thomas, Cumming, Ga., BMW 325i, 20, -27.015.
8. (15), Chip Herr, Lititz, Pa., MAZDA6, 20, -33.198.
9. (11), Dino Crescentini, Malibu, Calif., Acura TSX, 20, -45.044.
10. (12), Patrick Lindsey(R), Santa Barbara, Calif., MAZDA6, 20, -45.429.
11. (13), Nick Esayian, San Diego, Calif., BMW 325i, 20, -48.145.
12. (14), Charlie Putman, Mills, Wyo., MAZDA6, 20, -52.392.
13. (9), Jason Martinelli, Roxbury, Conn., BMW 325i, 20, -1:03.357.
14. (16), Byron Smith, Salt lake City, Utah, BMW 330i, 19, -1 lap.
15. (17), Branden Peterson, Breckenridge, Colo., Acura TSX, 19, -1 lap.
16. (10), James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., BMW 325i, 18, Off Course.
17. (7), Michael Galati, Olmsted, Ohio, MAZDA6, 18, -2 laps.
Time of race: 42 minutes, 20.990 seconds.
Average speed: 86.366 mph
Margin of victory: 1.402 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-20, #74 Jason Saini(R)
Fastest race lap: #74 Jason Saini(R), 2:06.156 (86.978 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #74 Jason Saini(R), 2:06.176 (86.964 mph)
Sunoco Hard Charger: #97 Herr advanced seven positions in the race
Racing Electronics Holeshot Award: #97 Herr advanced four positions on lap one
SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Point Standings
After three of 10 races
Pos., Driver, Car, Points (Wins)
1, Kuno Wittmer, Acura TSX, 317 (1)
2, Pierre Kleinubing, Acura TSX, 305 (1)
3, Peter Cunningham, Acura TSX, 269
4, Charles Espenlaub, MAZDA6, 262
5, Seth Thomas, BMW 325i, 248
6, Jason Saini(R), MAZDA6, 243 (1)
7, Chip Herr, MAZDA6, 203
8, James Clay, BMW 325i, 195
9, Jason Martinelli, BMW 325i, 174
10, Patrick Lindsey(R), MAZDA6, 157
SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship Presented by RACER Magazine
After three of 10 races
Pos., Manufacturer, Points (wins)
1, Acura, 26 (2)
2, Mazda, 17 (1)