Hainer Takes Grand-Am Cup Points Lead After Thrilling Victory Alongside Said at Miller Motorsports Park

02.09.2006: Hainer Takes Grand-Am Cup Points Lead After Thrilling Victory Alongside Said at Miller Motorsports Park

Boris Said drove his No. 97 Under Armour/Turner Motorsport BMW M3 past Wolf Henzler's No. 175 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 on the final lap to take a thrilling victory in Friday's Grand-Am Cup 200 at Miller Motorsports Park.

The victory catapulted co-driver Anders Hainer to the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport class points lead with just one race remaining on the 2006 schedule. After an intense nose-to-tail battle throughout the last half of the race, Henzler passed Said on Lap 35 and looked to be a lock to score the win for himself and co-driver Eric Lux. However, the German pulled up lame on the final lap with suspension problems, allowing Said past for the No. 97 duo's first victory of the season.

"Wolf was a little better under braking than me and I was a little better on the straightaway" Said commented,. "Then all of a sudden I saw smoke and I attacked the last lap and a half. It's unfortunate because I've lost a lot of races that way but a win is a win and I'll take it. It was fun out there."

Hainer started the No. 97 machine on the outside of the front row and led two laps during the race's midpoint before handing control to Said. The win by Hainer was his first Grand-Am Cup victory since 2004, and marked his sixth-straight top-five finish this season. Coupled with a 10th place finish Friday by Brent Martini and Patrick Long in the No. 81 Wheel Enhancement Porsche 997, Hainer will carry a seven point lead over the No. 81 duo into next month's six-hour finale at Virginia International Raceway (228-221).

"We had such a good time today," Hainer said. "It feels really good to win and good to be back in the championship. We're all very excited."

Henzler finished second alongside his 18-year-old co-driver. Lux, who also led one lap during the green flag pit stops and subsequent driver changes coming between Laps 20-26. Henzler took control from Lux on Lap 22 and came out just behind Said on the track. It is the best finish of the season for Henzler in just his second start, and the runner-up finish for Lux was his best result since a victory alongside Charles Espenlaub in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

"What a great race," said Henzler. "Boris was driving perfectly and not making any mistakes. Three laps from the end I heard some noise and the car was moving around and I slowed down a bit. Two laps from the end I started to lose the brakes then the suspension went out, but we're happy to finish second. It's good for the team and I'm looking forward to the last race."

"The car was excellent but unfortunately we had a rear suspension problem on the last and that cost us at the end," added Lux. "Still, Tale Racing put together a great car."

Tommy Constantine and Mike Borkowski finished third in the No. 35 Playboy Racing Nissan 350Z, the car's best finish of the year. Constantine started the No. 35 machine ninth on the grid, running as high as fifth before turning control to Borkowski. Borkowski made his way around Andy Lally's No. 49 CDOC Porsche 997--which had slowed on-course with a right-rear flat--with four laps to go to secure a podium spot.

"I qualified poorly," Constantine said. "I was a second faster in the practice session but we started ninth. We had a great handling car and a great race, so we were able to catch up to the leaders. The Nissan just kept getting better and better. We're very happy. It's been a long time coming. We've had nothing but bad luck and while it's near the end of the season it's great to be on the podium."

"I felt we could have been championship contenders but we've been plagued by bad luck," Borkowski contributed. "I'm happy for the team. We were catching up to second (place) at the end but we're happy with the podium."

Jeff Segal and Joe Varde finished fourth in the No. 90 Automatic Racing BMW M3. It is the best finish of the year for Varde and best result for Segal since a third place run at Barber Motorsports Park two races ago. Joe Foster and Charles Espenlaub rounded out the top five in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Mustang GT.

The 45-lap race around the brand-new 4.486-mile, 24-turn circuit ran caution-free, the first Grand-Am Cup Series race to do so since the Street Tuner class stand-alone event earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway.

With one race remaining on the schedule, seven drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the Grand Sport driver title. Aside from Hainer and the No. 81 Porsche duo, Pumpelly and Lally--who wound up 15th Friday--have 210 championship markers, followed by Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason--co-drivers of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3--with 199 points apiece.


In a Grand-Am Cup Series Street Tuner class race that was just as exhilarating as the battle for the overall win, Will Turner and Don Salama completed the Turner Motorsport sweep at Miller Motorsports Park Friday with the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 300i's first-ever class victory, also extending their ST class points lead with one race remaining.

Turner started the No. 95 machine from the pole and led 15 laps during opening stint. Coming down pit lane on Lap 19 to hand control to Salama, the Turner Motorsport car was shuffled back in the running order. After the green flag stops for all the teams were complete, Salama found himself out front again, and in a tight battle with Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Tremblay pressured Salama throughout the race's final 18 laps, but Salama kept the No. 70 machine in his mirrors, crossing the finish line less than half a second ahead of before the Mazda.

"Basically the race came down to us not taking tires and them (SpeedSource) not taking tires," Salama said. "Who would have thought it would have worked out that way? But it did and we're leading the championship."

It was the first-career Grand-Am Cup win for Turner in 29 starts, who along with Turner have posted eight top-five finishes in nine races this season. With the victory, Turner and Salama now carry an 11-point lead over No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S co-drivers Hugh and Matt Plumb into next month's six-hour season finale at Virginia International Raceway.

"It's just an incredible feeling," Turner said. "It's a great, great day for racing. There were no yellows in two-and-a-half hours and great racing. It's the way it should be on a race track. This is kind of surreal. It hasn't hit me yet. We've been second so many times. I was looking to see if a storm was coming in or something else was going to happen. I guess it will settle in later tonight."

Tremblay finished second alongside two-time defending ST class champion David Haskell. The runner-up result matched the best finish of the season for the No. 70 machine, which also finished second at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in June. The finish also catapults the duo into a tie for fifth in the standings, 13 points in arrears of the No. 27 duo.

"We got it down from six (seconds) to three to two and just ran out of laps," said Tremblay. "I don't know what I would have done if I had got beside him. I love charging. To run a good race and do nothing wrong but still wind up losing, well, you do have to be pleased."

"It was a great battle," added Haskell. "We were just riding along. Our Mazda handled perfectly. This track really suits our car."

Glenn Bocchino and Roger Foo finished third in the No. 188 i-MOTO Racing Acura TSX, the car's best finish in five races this season. The previous best result for the No. 188 machine was eighth in the rain-shortened event at Barber Motorsports Park in July. Mark Boden and Steve Jenkins finished fourth in the No. 28 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, with the Plumb brothers rounding out the top-five in the No. 27 Acura.

The Grand-Am Cup Series finale is scheduled for the weekend of October 6-8 at Virginia International Raceway with a pair of split-class six-hour events to decide the 2006 championships. Aside from the No. 95 BMW, No. 27 Acura and No. 70 Mazda teammates, No. 12 Performance Motorsports BMW Z4 co-drivers David Tuaty and Jason Potter (225 points) and No. 01 GM Performance Division Chevrolet Cobalt co-drivers Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran (224 points) are also mathematically alive in the Street Tuner championship picture.

- Grandam -

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02.09.2006 / MaP

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