Fontana, CA – Curt Simmons, driving the Cornwell Tools/Rota Wheels Dodge SRT-4, won the Nitto Tire US Touring Car Championship (USTCC) race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on August 2, 2009. Finishing second for the fourth time in a row was Andy Chittum in the BTM Motorsworks/LeMans Karting BMW 328ti. Finishing in third place was the team of Andrie Hartanto and Tom Lepper who had won every race this year so far.
Simmons almost lost the race before it even started. As the cars were lining up for the start, it looked like Simmons’ Dodge stalled and he actually had to start from the fourth position instead of his earned second place starting position. Simmons managed to get the engine going with seconds to spare. Seconds later when the green flag fell, Simmons was on a charge with a fantastic start that launched him into the lead. Using the powerful turbocharged engine in the Dodge, Simmons took the lead over Chittum. Chittum who normally gets fantastic starts, had to really take it easy at the start since the team was having transmission problems all weekend. “I fully expected to see an explosion as soon as Andy dropped the clutch,” said Brad McClure, Chittum’s Crew Chief. But the transmission held and Andy slotted to the second position with Lepper in the RedZone Performance Acura TSX in third place.
The race was not that simple as the top three swapped positions several times. Chittum managed to pass Simmons and managed to pull a 4 second gap. But Chittum’s transmission problems and Simmon’s aggressive moves in traffic soon changed things. Simmons passed Chittum and it looked like he was on his way to a win. All of this action between Simmons and Chittum meant that the lead they had built up on Lepper had evaporated and now it was a three way fight. Chittum managed to find some more speed and got around Simmons with four laps to go. But with one lap to go, Simmons made a bold move under braking and stuck his nose inside the BMW of Chittum. Chittum lost momentum and got passed by Lepper as well. So in one corner Chittum went from first to third place with one lap to go. As the three competitors were about to take the checkered flag, Chittum got around Lepper for second place at the last corner.
Simmons’ victory broke the streak set by the Hartanto/Lepper team of three straight wins this season. Chittum has now finished in second place for four straight races. Lepper deserves an honorable mention for setting the quickest race lap by .1 seconds. The teams now head out for the biggest race of the year so far at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Curt Simmons won the Go Pro Hero award and won a Motorsports HERO camera for his outstanding drive. Andy Chittum won the Stack the Competition award for the teams hard work throughout the weekend to get the #38 BMW running, winning a Stack professional gauge in the process. Michael McColligan won the AEM award, winning an AEM wideband air fuel gauge for his speed improvement over the course of the weekend.
Tony Mak won the Team DI Impressive Drive award for lap time improvement on a track he had never driven before, winning a Team DI pair of Nomex driving gloves. Rich Peterson won the second Team DI Impressive Drive award for an impressive sixth place finish and won a Team DI helmet bag for his efforts.
Vincent Parker won the Dupli Color Top Rookie award with his fifth place finish.