The team of Gary Sheehan and Ali Arsham made it three wins in a row in the Touring class of the Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Andrie Hartanto won the GT class and made up some points in the championship.
The second qualifying session was intense as four drivers in Touring were aiming for the pole position. Sheehan set the early pole in his GoGoGear.com/ UTI/ Konig Wheels Hyundai Genesis Coupe, but the pole time kept getting quicker as Mike Sekhon put the BTM Motorwerks BMW M3 on pole temporarily with a lap of 1:42.696. Next it was Mario Lento who came up with a blistering 1.41.834 and placed the Hawk/Competition Clutch Mitsubishi Lancer on pole with what looked like an untouchable lap. Sheehan was not done yet. The team made some adjustments and attacked again as time was winding down and clicked off a lap of 1.41.713, just .121 seconds quicker than Lento and put the car in first place.
With less than a minute left, Jason Alexandridis knew he still had a chance, and on a lower fuel load, gave it one last try to put the Performance Technic BMW M3 on pole. Alexandridis had the best segment times and was on pace to beat Sheehan, but was held up just enough in traffic, which cost him a few tenths. He still ended up with a 1.41.974 lap good enough for third place. With the top three separated by about .3 seconds, it promised to be a great race. In the GT class, Hartanto had an easier time as he easily put the CT Engineering/ Supertech Honda S2000 on pole position.
The race start was the key moment of the race as the starter was premature with the green flag, catching some competitors by surprise. In the GT class, Hartanto led in the early phase and was followed by Dave Brown’s Hawk Brakes/ Competition Clutch Chevrolet Camaro as Daniel Akhromstev stalled the Red Star Racing BMW M3 at the start. Akhromstev managed to get going and eventually caught Brown. The pair had a fantastic fight for several laps as Brown seemed to be quicker in the straights with his V8 power, but Akhromstev seemed to have the edge under braking. Akhromstev used that braking to his advantage as he came off Turn 11 with good exit speed, and the pair had a drag race down the front straight that resulted in Akhromstev making the pass for second place.
In the Touring class, it was rear-wheel drive against all-wheel drive as the Sheehan/Arsham Hyundai Genesis was on the inside line with the AWD of the Lento’s Mitsubishi Lancer on the outside. Lento thought that he had the edge with better traction, but the quick start thwarted his advantage as the start became a scramble to make the best situation possible. Sheehan got the Hyundai to the inside of Turn 2 first and forced Lento to tuck behind. From there the pair slowly pulled away from the rest as five cars battled for the third place spot. That battle was cut short on lap five as championship contender Mike Sekhon pulled over with a suspension problem. Working his way through the field was eventual third-place finisher, Alexandridis. Lento fought hard all the way to the end and finished in second place less than 10 seconds behind winner, Sheehan.
After the race, Lento complained about the start saying, “I wanted to use my Competition Clutch to my advantage, but I could not because I had to back out of it, which allowed the Hyundai to get by.” Sheehan, on the other hand, was excited and said, “I was worried about the Mitsubishi going into Turn 2 and my race was made much easier once I got the lead on the first lap.”
With a second-place finish, Mario Lento claimed the Plastex Top Rookie award and earned a Plastex plastic repair master kit for his drive. Lento’s teammate, Dave Brown, finished third in the GT class, which gave the Cobra Electronics Top Team award to Life’s Good Racing. The team had two cars on the podium and won a Cobra radar detector in the process.
With three races left in the season, there is still a lot of racing left until the final race in November.
Watch the race on Final Drive TV here:
Wine Country Motorsports
Geri Amani won the Wine Country Motor Sports gift certificate by finishing in fourth place in her Mazdaspeed 3.
The winner in each class wins a new GoPro action camera. The lucky winners were the team of Sheehan/Arsham, the winner of the Touring class, and Andrie Hartanto, the winner of the GT class.
Advanced Clutch Technology
Advanced Clutch Technology makes some of the best clutches in the business and the ACT award went to Mario Lento.
Jason Alexandridis had a poor start and fell back early, but fought back and finished third and won an Airaid air intake system of his choice.
CRC products are the official chemicals of USTCC, and Mike Sekhon 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 Daniel Akhromstev who along with the award received a set of the DBA high performance rotors.
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 Geri Amani.
Ironclad Performance Crew
Many teams have mechanical problems during the weekend and need to make long drives to find the right parts. The Prima Racing team of Andrie Hartanto were one of those teams but their weekend got more difficult as their street car broke down on the way back from the shop with the right parts, and had to be rescued by the AAA tow truck. The team still got the car fixed and won the race and won he Ironclad Performance Crew award along with 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 Ron Valtierra who finished in eighth place in his Mazdaspeed 3. Valtierra 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 Daniel Akhromstev’s BMW M3, with a beautiful graphics and shiny paint job. He earned a complete car cleaning kit full of Mothers products.
The Ooma Technology communications award went to Larry Bani, who got a great start and was poised for a great finish but was involved in a crash on the first lap. Bani won the Ooma Telo unit giving him unlimited free lifetime phone calls anywhere in the US and Canada.
Optima Battery Ultimate Power Source
The top three in Touring Car were Arsham/Sheehan in first place, Mario Lento in second place and Jason Alexandridis in third place. The top three in GT were Andrie Hartanto in first place, Daniel Akhromstev in second place and Dave Brown in third place. 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 Ron Valtierra, who raced a new unproven car and managed to do very well and had no problems in the first race for the car. Valtierra won a $200 gift certificate for his actions.
PIAA’s LED lights are amazingly bright and they draw much less power than conventional lights. A very bright performance by Pete Bovenberg had him skip the Saturday sessions and qualified well on Sunday and finished in fifth place. Bovenberg earned a set of PIAA’s LED lights for his hard work.
The Powerbuilt Tools award went to Dave Brown, who crashed with a brake problem on Saturday but the team managed to get it fixed in time and Brown finished in third place. Brown now 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. Michele Abbate was supposed to make her USTCC debut in April but due to some sponsorship issues, had to sit out the season until June. She started off slow but quickly learned the new track and ended up finishing in eighth place, getting quicker in each session. She won a $300 certificate toward the purchase of a set of Race Ramps.
Sampson Racing Award
The Sampson Radio Communications award went to Brad McClure who had mechanical problems while on grid and missed the first lap, but got the car on the track and fought hard to finish in fourth place. He won a $100 gift certificate that the team can use for team communications equipment.
Specialty Products Company
Michele Abbate has a new car and it will need to be quicker. A great tool to have if you want to have a winning car is the SPC Fastrax camber/caster gauge. She now has a Fastrax camber and caster gauge to help them set up the chassis on their car and go even quicker.
Swift Spring Award
Geri Amani was one of the quickest newcomers at this race and the team is still working on their car to make it quicker. She won a set of Swift Springs of her choice that they can use for the next race.
Whiteline Performance Suspension
Whiteline Performance makes some terrific suspension components and Andrie Hartanto earned a $300 gift certificate for Whiteline Suspension products to improve his chances at the next race.
Hawk Performance Brakes – GT Award
Brad McClure came back to finish in fourth place when it looked like he was not even going to make it to the race. He won himself a new set of Hawk Performance brake pads.
Hawk Performance Brakes – TC Award
Beau Borders got off to a great start and was in the mix of five cars dicing for third place but a missed shift caused him to fall back. He finished sixth and looked rock solid. He won a set of Hawk Performance brake pads for his efforts.