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† By Ryan Cristobal†

May 14, 2011, Willows, Ca. Ė Brandon Kraus in the #9 DW Pumps/BlackTrax Performance/Roger Kraus Racing Honda Prelude takes win number 2 from pole position for the Nitto Tires U.S. Touring Car Championship Round 2 Race of Thunderhill Raceway. Kraus scored the fastest lap of the race with 1:58.013, besting his pole qualifying time of 1:58.408.

Krausí win didnít disappoint with on-track drama for the second race in a row. Having to battle a hard charging Pete Bovenberg in the #94 Redline Oil/ROTO Wheels/PPG MBO Motorsports Honda Civic Si for most of the race; they exchanged positions for the lead a number of times. Unfortunately the defending champion had to retire his vehicle due to engine failure resulting in a fire. With Bovenberg out of Krausí way, setting his sight for the win would be premature, as the 2008 Champion Curt Simmons was now in his rear view mirror challenging him for the first position. To make it more difficult for Kraus for some unexplained reason, he pitted at the 3 quarters point of the race; immediately relinquishing the lead to Simmons driving the #49 Cornwell Tools/Stevens Creek Dodge/MBO Motorsports Dodge SRT4. Kraus crew chief was easily heard yelling at Kraus over the radio wondering why he came in and to get back out on the track immediately. By then Simmons had already padded a half lap lead on Kraus and for added excitement the third, fourth and fifth place drivers were coming down on him.

Kraus didnít give up hope, he put his head down and charged back towards the front; soon filling Simmonsí rearview mirrors. The race win for the two came down to the last couple of laps, but in true USTCC form the drama didnít go away for Kraus. After finally taking the lead back from Simmons for the last time, he started to run out of gas and sputtered through the last 2 turns; by the time the two got to the front straight, it was all out drag race to the finish. Kraus crossed the finish line ahead of Simmons by only 0.166 seconds and logged one of the closest 1-2 finishes in Nitto Tires U.S. Touring Car Championship history. Despite the final race result, Simmons with a valiant effort stuck to his pre-race strategy and was rewarded with second place finish.

Two-time series champion Dave Brown in the #12 Hawk Brakes/Bridgelux/WORKS/Life is Good Racing Mitsubishi Lancer Rally Art brought home third place despite still having differential issues, but just keeping it clean and patient throughout the race he earned himself the PIAA Bright Idea of the Race Award. But not without having to fend off a great fourth place drive effort by Ron Valtierra in the #43 TNI Racing/Cabezas Valtiera Team Mazda Speed 3.

Larry Bani in the #5 UTI/OC Internet Exchange/GOGOGEAR.com Racing BMW M3 rounding up the top 5 and takes home the WERA Tools Top Rookie of the Race honors.

Special Awards

Ken Kurtz in the #2 Yokohama/NetApp/Kurtz Racing Pontiac Firebird leads the way for the still developing GTC class for the series. Kurtz also took home special awards from ATI Gauge and special awards from MOTHERS for the clean car award for his brand new special vinyl wrap livery on his race car.
Tom Milburn in the #14 in the The Shop/Speed Motors Acura Integra received the Wine Country $150 race gear shopping gift certificate.
Larry Bani in the #5 UTI/OC Internet Exchange/GOGOGEAR.com Racing BMW M3 receive the special WERA Tools awards for the Top Rookie of the Race.
Brandon Kraus as a race winner receives a brand new GO PRO HD Camera.
Ron Valtierra receives a brand set of STACK Gauges for the STACK Pass of the Race, passing & battling through the pack to get to the front eventually finishing fourth.
Dave Brown receives a brand new set of PIAA Lights for the PIAA Bright Idea of the Race Award for keeping it clean and patient posting his first podium finish since his return to the series with a third place finish.
Ironclad Gloves went to the top 3 finishers and a brand new Ironclad Racing gloves went to winner Brandon Kraus.
Ken Kurtz received the Mothers Clean Car Award for his brand new livery.
Vincent Parker in the # 96 MINI Mania/MINI USA MINI Cooper S receives the Le Mans Karting Slowest Fast Lap Driver Improvement Award, returning to the series after a season hiatus. The $100 gift certificate for track time at Le Mans Karting Go-Kart indoor track facility will definitely bring Vince back to full race form.
Optima Batteries Ultimate Source of Power Batteries goes to the Top 3 Finishers of the race.
AEM Gauge Special Awards UEGO wideband O2 sensor gauge went to Larry Bani.
Curt Simmons received the Swift Springs Swift Move of the Race Award making a bold move during the race that eventually led to earning him the second place finish.
The driver team of Felipe Cabezas and Ron Valtierra received the Sampson Racing Great Communication of the Race with a $75 Gift Certificate towards their next Sampson communication purchase.
Pete Bovenberg received the GoLight Award deservingly so, as he and his crew will definitely need all the lights through the night to get the race car fixed, prepared, and ready for Sundayís Round 3 Race.