Willows, CA -- Pete Bovenberg of San Jose, CA grabbed a win in his MBO Motorsports Honda Civic Si at the Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) Round 5 race at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California. Bovenberg's win was not so easy as he had to fight many battles along the way to victory circle in the second of the USTCC tow hour endurance races of the year. Finishing in second place in his debut race with his new car was Tommy Lo, driving the 986 Advanced Cooling BMW 323i who finished second and was the top placing Dupli Color Rookie of the Race. In third place was Larry Bani in the Orange County Internet Exchange BMW 328i.
Bovenberg started out on pole position and looked like he was going to have an easy day. But as soon as the pack of cars got to the first turn, the first incident happened. The hood of the MBO Motorsports Civic flew up and was hanging from the side of the car. The commotion to avoid carbon fiber pieces of the hood negated a great start by Bani's BMW who went from fourth to second and back to sixth by the second turn. Bovenberg immediately pitted and his crew ripped the hood off and sent him back out. This unscheduled pit stop meant that Bovenberg had to play catch up and was now in sixth position.
Up front, a great battle between the Stevens Creek Dodge of Curt Simmons and the Cobb Tuning Mazdaspeed 3 of Gary Sheehan was brewing. The two were bumper to bumper for many laps with Sheehan able to pull a small gap after several laps.
On lap 12, Ron Valtierra driving the TNI Racing Mazdaspeed 3 had a huge crash which caused a long full course caution which bunched up the field. The caution negated all of the hard work by Sheehan to pull a gap on the rest of the field. This meant that Bovenberg had pretty much got back all of the lost time due to the pitstop and was now in third place behind Sheehan and Simmons.
A great battle of strategy surrounded the race with various team electing to go for a two stop, one stop or zero stop fuel strategy. Most teams would compromise on a one stop system but the thirsty turbocharged Mazdas and Dodge could possible need a second stop. The full course yellow helped them improve their fuel mileage enough that their team managers were busy crunching numbers.
After the restart it did not take long for Bovenberg to pass Simmons who had to stop due to an engine issue. Bovenberg then set his sight on the Mazda of Sheehan and managed to make a clean pass at Turn 6. Sheehan's team immediately took decisive action and brought the car in for fuel fearing that the car was starting to hesitate. In the pits, the Cobb Tuning crew lost precious time as the fuel took a long time to make its way into the thirsty Mazda. A few laps later, perhaps due to the long stop, the Mazda was sidelined with a blown radiator. This was significant because the team of Sheehan and Dobson were leading the championship points by a small margin going into the race. They needed to hope for a long stop by Bovenberg.
That did not happen. Bovenberg's crew had a great stop and sent their driver back on the track in about 30 seconds. Bovenberg was now comfortably in first place and just had to avoid any mistakes.
Behind Bovenberg, the battle was between the two BMWs of Bani and Lo. Bani had the lead and was doing great using a zero stop strategy to try to beat the quicker Bovenberg. Unfortunately, Bani suffered from heat exhaustion in the car and had to pit for water which destroyed his victory chances. Lo had a quick stop, drove a clean and error-free race, and took advantage of everyone else's mistakes to get a solid second place.
With Bovenberg's victory and the problems of the Cobb Tuning Mazda, Bovenberg is now the USTCC points leader with a one point lead over Dobson/Sheehan going into the next race at Infineon Raceway.
|Tommy Lo, driving the 986 Advanced Cooling BMW 323i, was the highest placing rookie in the race, earning him the Dupli Color Top Rookie Award.|
|Tommy Lo won the Mothers Clean Car award and received a professional Mothers car care kit for having the cleanest car.|
|Larry Bani won the Go Pro Hero award and won a Motorsports Hero camera for his outstanding strategy to try to earn the win.|
|Gary Sheehan won the AEM award for getting into a new car and after the second session, leading the race for many laps.|
|Curt Simmons won the Stri Gauge Your Performance in the hopes that he not damage any more engines. Simmons won a Stri boost gauge for his efforts.|
|Tom Milburn won the first Team DI and won a helmet bag for finishing well ahead of some established teams in a privateer effort.|
|Pete Bovenberg won the second Team DI award and won a balaclava for a great strategy and pit stop during the race.|
|Optima Batteries, the Ultimate Power Source, presented a special award to the top three finishers on the podium presenting each of them with a brand new Optima battery.|
|Skyy Vodka helped with the celebrations at the podium.|