IMSA News Roundup: September 22, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: September 22, 2016

Notebook Items Include Koch Rejoins Performance Tech In Bid For Patrón Endurance Cup;

Mowlem Set For Final Race With BAR1; Strelzoff/Bloum Take Podium For RS1 At COTA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 22, 2016) – Kenton Koch, the 2015 IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires champion, has found a ride for Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort at Road Atlanta, returning with Performance Tech Motorsports in a bid to capture the Prototype Challenge (PC) title for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

After winning the class in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and placing fourth in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida for JDC/Miller Motorsports, Koch finished second with Performance Tech in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen to build a two-point lead in the Patrón Endurance Cup, a competition encompassing the four endurance races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.

Koch was without a ride heading into the finale – but not for long – with Performance Tech owner Brent O’Neil stepping up to help out the competitor. Koch will rejoin James French and Kyle Marcelli in the No. 38 Ric-Man Construction / Children’s Miracle Network / NeuroSpine Institute ORECA for the 10-hour race.

“It takes funding to find a ride – and PC is made up of Pro-Am teams that don’t have self-funding,” said Koch, a Junior business major at Cal State Fullerton. “Brent, being the good person that he is, was able to find the majority of the funding to do it, and I was able to raise the rest of the funding through sponsors Justice Brothers and Winding Road Racing that want to see me progress.”

Koch is looking to take another step up the racing ladder by winning a fifth consecutive title, proving the effectiveness of Mazda’s Road To the Rolex 24, earning nearly a half-million dollars in combined scholarship money from Mazda and the Skip Barber Racing School. Moving up from karting, Koch won the 2012 Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge, the 2013 Skip Barber Pro Challenge and the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Cup. The next rung was the 2015 IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites presented by Cooper Tires, with Koch winning 11 of 14 races to capture the $100,000 scholarship which he used to race at Daytona and Sebring.

“It was huge to win the Rolex 24 – that’s the race we all want to win,” Koch said. “I’m extremely thankful to have that opportunity, to win Daytona on my first try. There’s a lot of racers who have been trying to do that for many years and have yet to win. Now, winning the Patrón Endurance Cup would keep my championship streak alive. It would be pretty cool to make it five in a row, and it’s a testimony to Mazda and IMSA’s ladder system. I’ve come all the way from go-karts to where I’m at now, all on scholarship money with the exception of the last couple of races. Hopefully, winning the championship will put an exclamation point on it and lead to other opportunities.”

Mowlem Looking Forward To Final Race

Johnny Mowlem has mixed emotions heading to next weekend’s Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort at Road America. It will be the final race for the London resident, who will concentrate on a new business venture.

Mowlem will co-drive the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports Gas Monkey Energy/Southwest Funding/Top1 Oil ORECA FLM09 with Don Yount and Tomy Drissi.

“I’m a little bit sad – I’d be lying if I didn’t say that – but I’m looking forward to a great race,” Mowlem said. “I know that BAR1 and Brian Alder made a big commitment to try to make my last race, my sign-off, a good one. I’ll be around friends within the team, and look forward to driving with Don and Tomy. It’s my 16th Petit Le Mans, and win or lose, I know I’m going to make sure I absolutely enjoy it.”

Mowlem lists three career highlights racing in the United States: finishing second overall and winning his class to earn a Rolex watch in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona; winning the GT2 class at Sebring in 2007, sharing a Ferrari F430 GT with Mika Salo and Jaime Melo in what has been considered one of the most exciting last laps in ALMS history; and winning back-to-back PC TOTAL Pole Awards for BAR1 at the Rolex 24 in 2015-16.

Mowlem will now concentrate on Red River Sports, a managing and mentoring sports agency that aims to help businessmen pursue their aspirations of racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and other events.

“I might do some driving next year on occasion, but the whole point of me retiring is to build up this company so in the future I don’t have to rely on driving as a source of income,” he said. “I’ll be bringing in other professional drivers to work in the mentoring and driving process.”

Strelzoff, Bloum Salvage Texas Weekend For RS1 With Podium Finish

The recent Circuit of The Americas 150 started out on a heartbreaking note for RS1, with the team taking its championship-leading No. 17 Porsche Cayman of Nick Galante to the paddock after breaking a shift cable on the opening lap.

“Now, it’s going to take a miracle to win the championship,” co-driver Spencer Pumpelly admitted, watching the No. 25 Freedom Autosport ModSpace Mazda MX-5 of Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer leading the race, which could have led to a 25-point swing in the Street Tuner (ST) standings.

Fortunately for RS1, the team’s No. 19 Porsche took up the charge. Running 16th on the opening lap, Strelzoff took 13th on a Lap 3 restart and worked up to third before his green-flag stop at the one-hour, 10-minute mark. Bloum rejoined the race in eighth, and passed McAleer for third with 23 minutes remaining.

“I didn’t have the start that I wanted but I had a great restart,” Strelzoff said. “I settled into a rhythm and kept picking cars one after the other, just moving forward. I handed off to Connor in a good spot, and he brought it home to P-3. It was an unbelievable battle. given how hot it was. Our team did a great job with setup, having a car that was consistent all the way to the end.”

It was the best finish of the season for Bloum and Strelzoff, who are sixth in the standings. Meanwhile, McCumbee and McAleer wound up finishing seventh, while Pumpelly rejoined the race 18 laps down and placed 21st. Now, the RS1 Porsche trails the Mazda duo by eighth points entering the finale – a daunting task, but less than a miracle.

End Quote:

Dane Cameron, Prototype class points leader in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Corvette Daytona Prototype: “It’s something the whole Action Express Racing organization is proud of. To finish 1-2 in the championship is our goal. It’s definitely a big coup for the whole team. Everyone is really proud of the effort that goes in to having two cars that are fighting for wins and the championships. More than anything, it makes everyone proud to be part of the organization. It’s good motivation.”

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