Grand Sport Champs Fall-Line Have Record Season

Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman pilot the No. 48 Sparco/Fall-Line BMW M3 in the season-ending Salt Lake City 200.DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fall-Line Motorsports had never earned a pole position or race victory in GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition prior to 2010.

That all changed this year, however, as the team fielded three BMW M3 E92 models for some of the top drivers in the series. But it went further than just wins and poles. With two victories and finishes of ninth or better in all 10 races, Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman – newbies to the Fall-Line stable – captured the Grand Sport (GS) championship in the No. 48 Sparco/Fall-Line BMW M3.

The team immediately showed it would be a championship contender at Daytona International Speedway. Sports car veteran Andy Pilgrim made his series debut there, won the pole position and led the opening 29 laps in the No. 46 BMW M3. Yet, it was Espenlaub and Putman who scored the team’s best finish at the two-and-a-half hour race, finishing second. Terry Borcheller and rookie Andrew Hendricks were sixth in the No. 45 Stable One Motorsports BMW M3.

The next four races, the two team cars battled for the championship lead, with Espenlaub and Putman leading for the first time after a fifth-place showing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Borcheller and Hendricks turned a one-point deficit into a two-point advantage after finishing fourth at Barber Motorsports Park.

Espenlaub and Putman then regained the lead at Virginia International Raceway by one over Borcheller, Hendricks and Turner Motorsport drivers Joey Hand and Michael Marsal. Hand and Marsal picked up the lead by four points with their second consecutive victory in the next race at Lime Rock Park. Borcheller and Hendricks faded after finishing 10th.

Espenlaub and Putman won their first race – and Fall-Line’s first event ever – at Watkins Glen International, cutting the deficit to one point, and gained the lead for the final time when they earned their fourth podium finish at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Hand slipped off track in the final laps at Mid-Ohio while battling for the race lead, and he and Marsal were credited with a season-worst 19th.

From there, it was consistency that kept Espenlaub and Putman up front. They finished a season-worse ninth at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but a pair of fifth-place finishes in the final two races gave them a six-point lead (280-274) after the final checkered flag.

Borcheller and Hendricks were fourth in the standings with five top-five and eight top-10 results. The team’s No. 46 BMW M3, piloted by a multitude of drivers, claimed seventh in the car standings, with two pole positions and a best finish of seventh at Miller Motorsports Park with team owner Mark Boden and Bryan Sellers, who won the pole at Watkins Glen.

The team also competed with the No. 47 BMW M3 in two races, earning a best finish of 12th at Lime Rock with Gunter Schaldach and Cooper MacNeil.
Below are other teams that won races or finished in the top 10 in the Grand Sport points standings.
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Turner Motorsport
Turner Motorsport was in the battle for the 2010 Grand Sport championship right up until the final lap of the season. Joey Hand finished third in the Salt Lake City 200, coming up six points shy in the battle for the title.

Hand and Michael Marsal scored seven podium finishes among nine top-six results, including back-to-back triumphs at VIR and Lime Rock.

“I sure wish I didn’t get that cut tire and finished 13th at Daytona,” Hand said. “I cut a tire with two laps to go. I thought at the time, ‘I sure hope this doesn’t decide the championship.’ It turns out we would have been good enough to win it without that setback. But that just shows how consistent you need to be in this championship. We had strong race cars all year. We were always contenders. Like they say in karting, we wanted to be the guys everyone has their stopwatches on.”
Hand was impressed with his new teammate.

“Michael’s expectation at the beginning of the year was to get one podium,” Hand said. “We definitely exceeded his expectations. He didn’t make any mistakes. I told him to hand me a clean race car, and I’ll make something happen. We’re coming back next year, and I have the feeling everyone will have their watches on us again.”
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Roush Performance
A 37th-place finish in the season opener effectively eliminated the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang from GS title contention. Drivers Jack Roush and Billy Johnson spent the remainder of the campaigning running like champs. They scored top-five finishes in all nine remaining races, including victories at Homestead and New Jersey, among six podium results. The Thunderbolt Raceway victory saw the pair lead all but four of the 87 circuits.

“We dropped a bolt out of the rear caliper while we were leading, and that killed us,” said team manager Brad Francis. “I think we would have either won Daytona or finished second. You can’t have a DNF in a series like this – it’s too competitive.”
Roush put together an incredible run of 103 consecutive laps led late in the season. He passed Camaro driver Matt Bell on lap 14 at Mid-Ohio, and led 26 laps before his pit stop. He then started from the pole at New Jersey and led all 44 laps before his stop, and started second and led all 33 laps he ran at Trois-Rivières.
“It was gratifying to see Jack running up front,” Francis said. “He’s a real quiet guy, but he has a lot of talent and he likes to run up front. Putting him with Billy was a real good move. They really get along, and Billy is a real good teacher and he has big-time talent.”
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Rum Bum Racing
Rum Bum Racing made an impressive debut in his Continental Tire Challenge debut, with Matt Plumb and Gianluis Bacardi winning the Daytona opener.
“Mr. Luis Bacardi came to us in early November and said he wanted to put together a team, and we did that in a few short months,” Plumb said. “We were able to get Joe Varde to be our crew chief, and all the pieces came together just like we envisioned it. At the time we were shooting for a top 10 in the championship. Winning Daytona was a totally overwhelming experience to see all the hard work pay off so quickly.”

The learning curve began in Round 2 at Homestead, where Plumb was caught up in an accident – triggering a run where the team finished 19th or worse in five of six races. A third at VIR was the lone bright spot midway through the season.
“The dark period was the reality of having someone who had only driven race cars for around nine months,” Plumb said.

The season ended on a solid note, though. Plumb and new co-driver Nick Longhi finished second at New Jersey and won the final two races at Trois-Rivières and Miller, finishing fifth in the championship.

“That was a great way to finish the year, obviously,” Plumb said. “We’re looking to come back next year in the Continental Tire Challenge.”
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Rehagen Racing
After winning the 2009 championship, Rehagen Racing struggled through the 2010 campaign.

Dean Martin and Bob Michaelian won Round 3 at Barber after the No. 52 bizrate.com Ford Mustang finished 20th and 10th in the opening two races. That proved to be the team’s lone podium finish of the campaign, though, with the next-best finish of fourth at Lime Rock for Michaelian and defending champ Ken Wilden.

The 2009 championship-winning No. 59 rehagenracingproducts.com/Stay-Nu Mustang finished 19th in the team standings, with a best finish of fourth at Homestead with Michaelian and Wilden. Rehagen Racing also fielded two additional Mustangs at two events. The No. 60 Columbus Truck and Equipment Ford finished seventh at Daytona with Ray Mason and Ryan Winchester, while the No. 57 ran different driver lineups in the opening two rounds, finishing 36th and 25th.
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Stevenson Motorsports
Stevenson Motorsports turned back the pages of American sports car racing to field a pair of new Chevrolet Camaros, painted in the iconic Sunoco paint scheme raced by Mark Donohue and Ronnie Bucknum in the Trans-Am Challenge.
Second-generation driver Jeff Bucknum and Matt Bell finished fifth in the season-opener at Daytona in the No. 6 Camaro. They went on to score four top-six finishes, including a second at VIR and third at Trois-Rivières, in addition to two poles for Bell. The team’s best chance to win was at VIR, where Bucknum led 14 circuits before losing the lead with only seven laps remaining.

“It was a challenge at beginning of year, because we had so much to develop – and we were trying to do it at race track,” said team manager Mike Johnson. “We were trying to develop reliability and speed, while working through a few silly problems. By mid-season we had a competitive car.”

The team also fielded the No. 9 Camaro for Hugh Plumb and Craig Stone. Their best finish was fourth at Watkins Glen, finishing 18th in the championship.
“We had two poles and led a bunch of laps, and for a development season we’re pleased,” Johnson said. “Now, we’re trying to continue and apply what we learned for next season and hope to be even more competitive.”
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Other Contenders
BGB Motorsports, Multimatic Motorsports, TRG and Automatic Racing were among the other contenders in the ultra-competitive GS division.

BGB fielded a trio of Porsches. The No. 83 Carrera took ninth in the championship, led by a sixth-place finish at Lime Rock with Guy Cosmo and Stewart Tetreault, while the No. 23 Cayman of Keith Carroll and Duncan Ende took fifth at Mid-Ohio and 11th in the standings. The best outing for the No. 38 Cayman was ninth at Lime Rock for Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Steve Jenkins.

Multimatic Motorsports ran a pair of Ford Mustang Boss 302Rs. The No. 16 finished 10th in the championship, with Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo placing a season-best seventh at Trois-Rivières. The No. 15 scored four top-10 finishes – led by fourth at Salt Lake City for Joe Foster and Scott Maxwell – and took 15th in the final standings. Foster led four races for 108 laps, second-best in the division.

TRG ran a limited schedule, taking 12th in the standings. Spencer Pumpelly and Steven Bertheau won at Mid-Ohio, while Pumpelly and Steve Miller placed third at Daytona.

Automatic ran a full schedule with the No. 99 BMW M3 for Barry Waddell, Mark Hillestad and David Russell, placing 13th in the championship. Their best finish was fifth at Watkins Glen.

source http://www.grand-am.com

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