Andrie Hartanto won the 2014 season opener in the USTCC GT class in his CT Engineering/ Supertech Honda S2000 while Jason Alexandridis won the Touring class in his Performance Technic BMW M3 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, just outside Los Angeles, Calif. The season opener also was one of the toughest races on the schedule, with a two-hour long race that started in the daytime and finished at night.
The GT class battle looked difficult with the top four cars very close in speed. It looked like it would come down to strategy and fuel economy. Hartanto was happy just to be in the field. He crashed his car in testing just weeks before the race and the crew had to work around the clock to repair the car in time. At the beginning stages it was last year’s champion, Brad McClure, who was in the lead driving the BTM Motorwerks Porsche 911. He was closely followed by Daniel Akhromstev’s Red Star Racing BMW M3 who in turn was chased by Dave Brown’s Hawk Performance Chevrolet Camaro.
Everyone was close for most of the race, with Akhromstev actually setting the fastest lap among the four drivers. Eventually they all needed to pit for fuel and that’s when things got interesting. Akhromstev was on pace to win the race, but his crew spilled fuel during refueling, prompting a five-minute penalty. McClure was next as he brought the Porsche in for fuel. The BTM Motorwerks crew also spilled fuel and were hit with a five-minute penalty. McClure then took a double hit, receiving a penalty for speeding in the pit lane as he exceeded the 25 mph speed limit. He was given a stop-and-go penalty for that, which effectively ended his chance for a win.
Next it was Brown’s turn to refuel, but his timing was bad because the team already was busy refueling another car. The team had to scramble to get ready for the Camaro, and by the time Brown was ready to go, there was a lot of time lost. Taking advantage off all of this was Hartanto. He had the slowest car among the top four, but unlike the other three, the Prima Racing team performed a great pit stop and sent their driver to the lead. After the pit stop rotation, it was Hartanto’s Honda first, Brown’s Camaro second, Akhromstev’s BMW third and McClure’s Porsche fourth. They finished the race in that order.
The battle for the Touring class was less intense as Alexandridis drove a dominating race. Finishing in second place was Pete Bovenberg in the MBO Motorsports Honda Civic. Bovenberg had a horrible start to the 2013 season but finished strong with two third-place finishes. He followed it up with a second place finish at Buttonwillow. Karl Chicca also did not have a great 2013 season, but seemed rejuvenated in 2014 as he switched from the GT Chevrolet Camaro to the Hawk Performance BMW. Chicca drove a fantastic race, setting a great pace and making no mistakes and showing everyone that he is one to be reckoned with in 2014.
Larry Bani’s GoGoGear.com/UTI BMW M3 was running well most of the race, but Bani complained that his lights were not working well and he had to slow down as darkness fell. Nevertheless, he still managed to win the Orange Electronics Top Sportsman award.
Mike Sekhon’s BTM Motorwerks M3 was a brand-new build for a new rookie driver in the series. Sekhon did a great job at the beginning in hanging with the top three, but eventually fell back, finishing sixth in class, but managed to win the Plastex Top Rookie award.
With a second-place finish in GT (Dave Brown) and a third-place finish in Touring class (Karl Chicca), the Life’s Good Racing team were the best team of the weekend scoring 175 points total and winning the Cobra Radar Detector Top Team award.
Wine Country Motorsports
Newcomer Beau Borders won the Wine Country Motor Sports gift certificate by finishing in seventh place in his Lexus IS.
The winner in each class wins a new GoPro action camera. The lucky winners were Jason Alexandridis, the winner of the Touring class, and Andrie Hartanto, the winner of the GT class.
Advanced Clutch Technology
Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT) makes some of the best clutches in the business and the ACT award went to Daniel Akhromstev, who was set the best time of the race in his Red Star Racing BMW M3. Akhromstev won a $500 gift certificate for his efforts.
Larry Bani won a free Airaid air intake system by starting last and finishing in fifth place in his GoGoGear.com/UTI BMW M3.
CRC products are the official chemicals of USTCC and Curt Simmons received a huge assortment pack of CRC products by winning the CRC Award.
Disc Brake Australia
DBA brake rotors are legendary with their kangaroo paw vents. Winning the DBA award was Pete Bovernberg, who along with the award received a set of the DBA high performance rotors.
The winner of the Sportsman class wins a free Iron X action camera at every USTCC race. Larry Bani was the winner of the Sportsman class at Buttonwillow and took home a beautiful Iron X action camera.
Rescue Tape is a revolutionary silicone repair tape that can save your race by fixing small leaks. Everyone needs to have one in their toolbox and the award this time went to Mario Lento.
Hawk performance award went to Pete Bloomberg driving the MBO motorsports Honda Civic. He finished in second place and won a free set of Hawk Performance brake pads.
Ironclad Performance Crew
The Ironclad Performance Crew award went to Ron Valtierra of the TNI Racing team for their hard work to repair the SanDisk Mazdaspeed 3 in time to make the start after an engine fire just hours before. Valtierra earned a box full of Ironclad’s gloves for the team.
Le Mans Karting Seat Time Award
The Le Mans Karting Seat Time award went to Mike Sekhon, who finished in sixth place in his very first professional race in a brand new car. Sekhon now has a $100 certificate to go to the best indoor go kart facility in California.
Mothers Clean Car
The Mothers Clean Car award went to Jason Alexandridis, who switched teams from BTM to Performance Technic and had one of the cleanest and most beautiful cars in the paddock. He earned a complete car cleaning kit full of Mothers products.
The Ooma Technology communications award went to Andrie Hartanto, who managed to win the GT class with great teamwork and communications. Hartanto won the Ooma Telo unit giving him unlimited free lifetime phone calls anywhere in the US.
Optima Battery Ultimate Power Source
The top three in Touring Car were Jason Alexandridis, Pete Bovenberg and Karl Chicca. The top three in GT were Andrie Hartanto, Dave Brown and Daniel Akhromstev. Each driver won a free Optima Battery for his hard work.
Perma-Cool Cool Move of the Race
The Perma-Cool Cool Move of the Race was won by Karl Chicca, who stormed to the front with a fantastic drive with zero mistakes to finish third in a tough environment. Chicca won a $200 gift certificate for his actions.
Many drivers wished that they had better lights on their car and Beau Borders now has a set of PIAA’s LED lights that he can use at the next night race.
The Powerbuilt Tools award went to Doug Makishima whose team performed a miracle to get him in the race after an engine fire in qualifying. Unfortunately, his race was short, but now he has a new Powerbuilt professional torque wrench to use at the next race.
The Race Ramps award is certainly one of the most popular awards that the drivers shoot for. Karl Chicca raced a perfect race with no mistakes and showed great pace and finished third. He won a $300 certificate towards the purchase of a set of Race Ramps.
Sampson Racing Award
Sampson Radio Communications award went to Dave Brown, who finished second in the GT class in his Chevrolet Camaro. He won a $100 gift certificate that the team can use for communications equipment.
Specialty Products Company
Nik Romano did not have time to bring their main car to the race, but instead they brought out a backup car and finished fifth in the GT class. They now have a Fastrax camber and caster gauge to help them set up the chassis on their new car.
Swift Spring Award
Brad McClure does not need much help to make his car faster, but a set of free racing springs from Swift Springs will certainly help.
Whiteline Performance Suspension
Whiteline Performance makes some terrific suspension components and Curt Simmons earned a $300 gift certificate for Whiteline Suspension products to improve his chances at the next race.