A late race crash between Joey Hand's #97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 and Billy Johnson's #61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT put Johnson out of the lead and into fourth place with just three laps to go.
Matt Bell had placed the #6 Sunoco Chevrolet Camaro on the pole, breaking the track record in the process, and led the opening laps of the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio. Jack Roush Jr. started from fifth in the #61 ROUSH Performance Mustang GT. Roush made his way through the traffic and got past Bell on Lap 14.
Photos: Grand Am
"It was definitely a handful trying to keep Jack (Roush) behind me for awhile. Considering all those things with the Sunoco Camaro, Stevenson Motorsports did an awesome job giving us a competitive car, even though it had a bit of a handicap," commented Bell.
A total of seven full course cautions slowed the race significantly. Both Roush and Johnson consistently recovered position after pit stops and would likely have grabbed the top podium spot, barring the late race incident. Race winners Spencer Pumpelly and Steve Bertheau were not handed a freebie, having moved up from 27th place at the start, in their #41 Sargent & Lundy Porsche 997.
"We hate to win that way," Pumpelly said. "We've really gotten our program together. We've always been there, but you still need a little luck and we got there today."
Photos: Wes Duenkel/Mustang Challenge
In Ford Racing Mustang Challenge action, Jason von Kluge of Ann Arbor, MI, lead the race from green flag to the checkers, taking his fourth race of the season. The 45-minute sprint saw von Kluge and Tony Buffomante leave the herd behind as they both appeared to have dialed in the right settings for the Mid-Ohio track. The nose-to-tail action continued through the entire race.
"Tony was right there the whole time, he never cut me a break," said von Kluge. "I made a mistake early on in and power slid through the Keyhole and I was really worried about that. I just managed to hold him back. He pushed me right to the end."
Buffomante and von Kluge are now separated by only five points in the Championship points race, leaving a 24 point gap back to the third place competitor, Pratt Cole.
"In the middle I just backed up a little bit to see if I could get a run on him and get by and save the tires a little bit, but I had nothing for him," said Buffomante. "Out of the Keyhole, he was killing me. We just have to get the car better out of the short stuff. Classic Mid-Ohio. You catch them up in the back of the track and then get out of the Keyhole and it’s over again, so that was a frustrating race."
Ben Crosland started from third and finished there in his #25 RP Motorsports Mustang. Both series takes a bit of a break until getting together again at New Jersey Motorsports Park, on July 17-18.