Sonoma, CA. November 14, 2011 – Dave Brown won the Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California on November 13, 2011 driving the Hawk/Works/San Rafael Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. Brown jumped to the start at the start of the race and soon began to pull away hoping that a win would give him the Driver’s Championship. Behind him there was a lot going on as the other championship contenders were having issues. Finishing in second place was Brandon Kraus in the Roger Kraus Racing Honda Prelude who was the points leader going into the weekend. Kraus’ second place finish was enough to give him the title. Finishing in third place was the TNI Racing Mazdaspeed 3 of Felipe Cabezas.
At the start of the race it was Brown who rocketed to the front with Cabezas right behind. The two were bumper to bumper for the first few laps of the race. Meantime, Kraus who had qualified on the pole and had the race in hand had problems from the drop of the green flag. As soon as the race started, Kraus launched poorly and was passed by several cars. To make matters worse, an ignition issue surfaced that caused the Honda to sputter intermittently. By the end of the first lap, Kraus’ championship hopes were dim as he went from first to last place in one lap.
Going into the last race, five drivers had a shot at winning the title. Those five were, in order, Brandon Kraus, Pete Bovenberg, Dave Brown, Larry Bani and Curt Simmons. Bovenberg had issues in the second qualifying session and blew up an engine. Since there was not a lot of time, an engine change did not look good. So the team decided to use a backup car but it would take several hours to get the backup car ready. Finally the grid was set and the cars were ready to go on the track but the backup car was still being worked on by the MBO Racing crew. So Curt Simmons, Bovenberg’s teammate, offers his car to Bovenberg since he had a very good shot at the title. This was a very sporting gesture as Simmons himself was still in the championship fight. Bovenberg started off slow and had issues with the Dodge at the beginning of the race but once things were settled he came back and managed to finish fourth.
Brown had no issues whatsoever as he drove to the victory circle leading every lap. Cabezas was filling the mirrors of the Mitsubishi in the first quarter of the race but after lap six, Brown seemed to start pulling away. Cabezas would close the gap slightly but Brown always seemed to have an answer for the Mazda.
At the end, Brown was extremely happy with the win, his first since 2006. He was still thinking about how close the team came to winning the championship. Had they not broken down in the opening laps of the season opener, they would have had enough points to win the title. But every sport has those “what if” thoughts and that is the way things go.
The championship that was so close one minute for Kraus seemed to just disappear as the Honda started sputtering. It seemed like the entire season would be a disappointment for Kraus but he did not give up and kept pushing knowing that the race is still not over. Luckily, the sputtering cleared up and Kraus started catching up the field and after dropping back to last place, he managed to finish in second place, 12 seconds behind Brown.
Larry Bani won the Wera Tools Rookie of the Year title in his first season of USTCC racing with the Gogogear.com/UTI BMW M3. Bani hopes to have a new car ready for the new season.
|The Go Pro award went to Dave Brown for winning the race.|
|Larry Bani won the ATI gauges award for fighting for the championship as a rookie.|
|The PIAA Bright Idea of the Race award winner was Pete Bovenberg for using team strategy and switching cars to get to the front.|
|The Mothers Clean Car Award went to Ron Valtierra’s Mazdaspeed 3.|
|The Le Mans Karting Driver Improvement award went to Tom Milburn.|
|The AEM award went to Felipe Cabezas for a great fight and finishing in third place.|
|The Swift Springs Move of the Race went to Ron Valtierra for finishing the race after having much mechanical issues.|
|The Sampson Racing Radio award went to Curt Simmons.|
|The Go Light award went to Brandon Kraus for fighting through electrical issues and finishing in second place.|
|The Race Ramps award went to Curt Simmons for great sportsmanship and giving up his car to his teammate to try to win the championship.|
|Larry Bani, driving the GoGoGear.com/UTI BMW M3 was the highest placing rookie with a fourth place finish and won the Wera Tools Top Rookie award.|
|Dave Brown won the Wine Country Motorsports Award for winning the race.|
|Ironclad Performance Wear. The top three drivers each won Ironclad crew gloves. Brandon Kraus also received a pair of Ironclad racing gloves.|
|The top three drivers each won a free Optima battery, the Ultimate Source of Power.|