Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr., driving the #61 Roush Performance Mustang Boss 302R, captured their second win of the 2012 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season on June 9th at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It was Johnson’s first win at the 2.26-mile road course, and the eleventh of his Grand-Am career.
The driving duo of Johnson and Roush Jr. were fast all weekend, with Roush Jr. qualifying eighth for Saturday’s race. Bryan Heitkotter snatched pole position with his #14 Nissan 370Z, with Nick Longhi (#13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche) starting the race on the outside of row one. At the drop of the green flag, Longhi took the lead, followed by Eric Curran (#01 CKS Autosport Camaro) and Bret Spaude (#35 Subaru). Polesitter Heitkotter dropped to fourth.
The first full-course caution came out on lap ten, about fifteen minutes into the race. None of the leaders opted to pit, but with the course green and after the required thirty minutes elapsed for drivers to receive points, the three Fall-Line Motorsports BMWs howled down pit lane, including the championship-leading #48 Fall-Line BMW M3 which Charles Putman handed over to Charles Espenlaub.
A couple laps later, Bill Auberlen (#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3) was stranded on the course, and the yellow flag came out so Auberlen could be retrieved safely. The leaders headed to the pits for fuel, tires, and driver changes. The first of those who stayed out was Ashley McCalmont (#00 CKS Autosport Camaro). On the restart, Bryan Sellers (#46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3) launched from third position to the lead, followed by Hugh Plumb (#45 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3) and John Edwards (#9 Stevensen Motorsports Camaro). All three drivers had already pitted, but would likely have to stop again for fuel before the end of the race.
This season, it seems like nobody wants to win the championship. At each race, the series leader coming into the race is knocked from the top spot by a catastrophe. At Mid-Ohio, front-runners Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub blew their engine after giving the Matt Plumb’s #13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche a significant “love tap.” The fateful contact broke their oil cooler, and drained the engine of the vital liquid. Their #48 BMW had to be recovered on lap 36, one hour into the race. Two laps later, Sellers, Hugh Plumb, and Edwards pit for fuel, handing the lead to Billy Johnson. The Roush Performance crew gambled that Johnson had enough fuel to go the distance.
Several caution periods during the last hour of the race meant the gamble paid off, and Johnson held off all challengers during the re-starts to bring the red #61 Boss 302R to the checker first, followed by Lawson Aschenbach (#01 CKS Autosport Camaro) and Matt Plumb (#13 Rum Bum Racing BMW).
Their consistency means that BGB Motorsports now leads the 2012 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series standings, albeit by a single point over Rum Bum Racing and Fall-Line Motorsports, who are tied for second. In two short weeks the series moves to historic Road America for a spectacular race that starts at 6:15PM and runs to dusk. We’re looking forward to glowing headlights and brake rotors as road racing’s top drivers continue to battle in this exciting and competitive series!
Images and Captions: