Leeds, AL (10 April 2010) -- Bob Michaelean has raced a little bit of everything in his long career, but his resume was missing something before Saturday -- a win.
But Michaelean, who has promoted the race at Long Beach for decades, finally got to experience the spray of champagne from atop the podium as he and co-driver Dean Martin scored a Grand Sport (GS) GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge victory at Barber Motorsports Park driving the No. 52 Rehagan Racing Products/bizrate.com Ford Mustang GT.
The duo bested Homestead Miami Speedway round winners Jack Roush Jr. and Bill Johnson, who scored second place with the No. 61 ROUSH Performance products Ford Mustang. The Mustang monopoly up front was only broken by the BMW M3 of Michael Marsal and Joey Hand as the two took their second consecutive third place finish after 2.5 hours of hard racing in round three of the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship.
The Street Tuner (ST) class race was no less dramatic as Homestead Miami Speedway-round winners Tom Long and Derek Whitis returned to victory lane after Long made a decisive race-winning pass late in the day.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, which was staged as part of a big event weekend at beautiful Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham and featured races from the IZOD IndyCar Series, IndyLights, and the ROLEX Sports Car Series, was held in the heat of the afternoon. The conditions were tough, but the field of over 60 racers made the most of the grip on offer from the specification Continental Extreme Contact DR tire to keep control.
"I was just trying to keep the car in one piece and turn it over to Dean," said Michaelean. "He did a great job. He got it out in front and kept it there. I appreciate all the help from Rehagen Racing. It was set up perfectly."
The race saw the field slowed seven times for cautions, and proved to play a dramatic role in the final outcome as drivers sought to make the most of every chance when the green flag flew.
"It all came down to that first restart, where I got by James Gue, Billy Johnson and Guy Cosmo, all in that first half a lap before the caution came back out," said Martin after enjoying the victory celebrations and his fifth career win in the category. "I just put my head down and went to the front, focused, and held on. Now I'm looking forward to VIR, I love that track."
"It was an intense battle while I was out there, and Billy followed up with a great job," said Roush, who fell just short of picking up yet another win for his famous father. "We're always trying to win, but today, I'll take second."
Looking at the results, it was clearly a good day to be driving a Ford Mustang as the brand led every lap of the race with three different drivers sharing the point. But a strong run from the BMW M3 of Hand and Marsal kept it from being an all-Blue-Oval podium.
"We didn't have anything for the Mustangs all weekend," said Hand. "It was a tough one. I got most of it on brakes. I could go in quick, and that's how I could catch up. In the gear department, this is not the track that suits us the best. I just did what we normally do, try to make a miracle out of it. I think a podium here is spectacular, and the Turner guys will just keep on trucking. It was a great day for us."
Several of the race cautions emerged from the intense battles in the ST class as the competition in the class calls for getting the most out of every lap all race long if the drivers want any shot at victory. Former series champion Holtom found himself on the wrong end of a very determined charge by Long, who made it two in a row for Freedom Autosport and the Mazda 3.
"I always get the easy part, starting, and as long as I don't mess it up you can put guys like Tom Long to come in and clean up," said Whitis. "Freedom Autosport gave us a great car. The Continental Tires were strong, it was a great race."
"It seemed like Tom Long had me everywhere, I was pushing so hard. I was trying to capitalize on the one spot where I seemed to be faster, but the Mazda was just too fast for us," said Holtom. "We had awesome strategy. They got us in the lead, it was ours to hold, but unfortunately he got us near the end."
While it was a Mustang day, it is currently a BMW championship as the top three driver combinations are all BMW M3 drivers - Terry Borcheller and Andrew Hendricks will take a two-point margin over Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman to VIR, with Joey Hand third in the standings. In ST, Lawson Aschenbach and David Thilenius grew their championship advantage to ten points over the Bimmerworld combination of Bill Heumann and Seth Thomas.
The Barber 200 will be broadcast on SPEED Channel at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 17.
Round four of the 2010 championship will be staged at Virginia International Raceway on April 8-10.
About Continental Tire
Continental Tire is a division of the Continental Corporation, and offers a complete premium line of ultra-high performance, passenger and light truck tires that instill confidence and a passion for driving. Continental tires are fitted as original equipment on many of the world's finest automobiles. Learn more about Continental Tire by visiting us at www.continentaltire.com.
With sales of approximately €20 billion in 2009 Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also a competent partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently employs approximately 134,500 in 46 countries.
About GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge:
The GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is GRAND-AM's showcase for the latest in international and American-made stock high performance sports cars, coupes and sedans. With major modifications permitted only to improve safety, the Sports Car Challenge is home to the same cars seen on streets and highways around the world every day. Contestants compete for both class honors and the overall victory. Series races are primarily run as the featured support events for the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
Like the Rolex Series, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is made up of two classes of race cars. The big-bore Grand Sport (GS) class features a rules package that allows exotic international machines like the Porsche 996 and 997, Nissan 350Z, BMW M3 and others to go head-to-head with American iron such as the Camaro and Dodge Challenger. The smaller Street Tuner (ST) class is GRAND-AM's offering to the import and compact car crowd, with the Mazda RX-8 and Mazda MX-5, Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Dodge SRT4, Mini Cooper S, Acura TSX, a variety of BMWs and other models eligible. All Continental Sports Car Challenge classes run on Continental Extreme Contact tires.