Rum Bum Racing continued their string of successes in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge by winning the Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen on June 30, 2012. It was the team’s second consecutive win, and their fourth win of the season. The victory gave Rum Bum Racing’s Porsche drivers Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb a one-point advantage in the driver’s championship ahead of BGB Motorsports drivers John Farano and David Epringham, who also drive a Porsche.
The two Porsches of Rum Bum Racing and BGB Motorsports have been all but unstoppable since the series’ second race at Barber Motorsports Park, where Rum Bum Racing took their first win. Mustang teams came into Watkins Glen hoping that the course’s fast layout would favor their cars’ torque. But in practice the fastest Mustang was the #61 Roush Performance Mustang Boss 302R of Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. They were only sixth quickest, about 0.7 seconds behind the fastest car in practice: Bryan Sellers and Mark Boden in the #46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. In qualifying, Tonis Kasements put the #55 Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin V8 Vantage on pole. Jack Roush Jr.’s Mustang was seventh, the best Mustang of the field. The Mustang teams had their work cut out for them if they were to overcome the speed of the Aston Martins, Camaros, Porsches, and the Nissan 370Z ahead of them.
Race day was sunny and hot, which made the track slippery. However, since the weather was consistent throughout the weekend, the track conditions weren’t a surprise to the teams. At the drop of the green flag, Tonis Kasements’s Aston Martin led the field through turn one. Kenny Bupp (#7 Mustang Mustang Boss 302R) and John Gaw (#71 Aston Martin) made contact, which bounced Bupp into Jim Jonsin’s #07 Porsche. Bupp’s Mustang was damaged and spun, but was able to continue. Eric Curran (#01 CKS Autosport Camaro) and Matt Bell (#9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro) slotted in behind Kasemets for the opening laps of the race to make it an Aston-Camaro-Camaro top three.
Before pit stops on lap 14, Bell moved into the lead, with BJ Zacharias (#14 Nissan 370Z) up to third. The front runners pitted for fuel, tires, and to change drivers, handing the lead to Michael Marsal in the #97 Turner Motorsport BMW. John Edwards, who took over the #9 Camaro from Matt Bell, was quickest off pit road, and by lap 20 was back into the lead ahead of Marsal. During a full-course caution a lap later, Edwards pitted for fresh tires and fuel, giving the lead to Billy Johnson (#61 Mustang).
With just over an hour remaining, Matt Plumb, who took over driving duties from Nick Longhi in the #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche, was the first to top of his fuel tank for the run to the end. The call put Plumb ahead of the others in fuel strategy, which would prove pivotal toward the end of the race. Shortly thereafter, the top two drivers (Billy Johnson in the #61 Mustang and Lawson Aschenbach in the #01 Camaro) followed suit and headed to the pits for the last time. Mike Skeen, behind the wheel of the #14 Nissan led the race until an ST-class BMW spun into the path of the speeding Nissan. Skeen had nowhere to go but plow into the BMW and destroy the Nissan.
New leader Gunter Schaldach, driving the #6 Mitchum Motorsports Camaro, tried his best to hold off a hard-charging Matt Plumb, until Plumb ultimately passed Schaldach in the esses. David Epringham (#83 Porsche) also moved past Schaldach into second. A few laps later, Lawson Aschenbach (#01 Camaro) passed Epringham for second. The two battled for the position until the final caution with just a couple laps remaining. The stage was set for a dash to the finish.
With the race green again, Epringham resumed pressuring Aschenbach for second. While his pursuers fought each other for second, Plumb was able to increase his gap on his pursuers. As a result, Plumb held the lead to the checkered flag, and claimed his and co-driver Nick Longhi’s fourth win of the season.
One-time race leader Billy Johnson dropped to 19th in after serving a penalty for pitting out of sequence during the last caution period, and ultimately retired from the race with mechanical problems.
The next stop on the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge schedule is a visit to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27th. Running as a support series to the NASCAR Spring Cup series race the same weekend, the unique schedule has the series practicing, qualifying, and racing all on the same day. Stay tuned for coverage from The Brickyard later this month!
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