The team of Andrie Hartanto and Tom Lepper started from pole position and lead every lap on their way to a win in the Nitto Tire United States Touring Car Championship season opener at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California on April 26, 2009. The Hartanto/Lepper team was driving the Red Zone Performance Acura TSX and also managed to set the fast lap of the race. Qualifying was extremely tight between the top four cars and Hartanto made a gamble and played with the set up of the suspension. That gamble paid off as he improved his lap time by .4 seconds a lap over his closest rival. That .4 seconds a lap became .3 seconds a lap during the race but was the deciding factor as Hartanto edged Andy Chittum's BTM Motorworks/LeMans Karting BMW 328ti by 4 seconds after 12 laps. Curt Simmons was running in third place for most of the race but blew an engine in spectacular fashion on the last lap of the race in his Stevens Creek Dodge SRT-4. While that was bad news for Simmons, it was good news for Pete Bovenberg who managed to get on the podium for the first time in many years in his MBO Motorsports Honda Civic Si.
Michael McColligan won the Go Pro award for best improvement between his qualifying and race speed.
Newcomer Vincent Parker won the AEM award for his great race long battle with the Lo/Ko team and their clean driving for the duration of the race.
Another newcomer pair, Tony Mak and Mathew Yeung, won the LeMans Karting of Fremont Driver Improvement award.