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May 26, 2007 / news


Lime Rock, CT – After making the cross-country trek from California to the tight, twisty confines of Lime Rock in record time, the Compass360 Racing team had every expectation of another good result to follow their win at Laguna Seca. All three of the team's Acuras were freshened and ready to race, thanks in no small part to the hospitality and assistance of Los Angeles-based sponsor Skunk2.

The team and drivers worked throughout the short practice sessions to set the cars up for the bumpy Lime Rock pavement, and made solid improvements, moving up the time charts each session. They weren't able to translate those good practice times into their usual front-of-the-pack qualifying positions, though, with the #75 Acura TSX (qualified by Daniel Colembie) in 14th. Karl Thomson put the #76 TSX 17th on the grid, and Eric Powell was 21st in his Acura RSX-S. KONI Challenge races are long, though, and the team was confident that they'd be able to move through the field to score top-ten results in all three cars. Unfortunately, for the team's TSX's this was to be one of the worst events of the season. Thankfully, the young pilots of the paddock's sole orange RSX-S faired very well indeed, giving the car its third top-ten result of 2007.


Despite Powell's qualifying position, he hit the loud pedal with gusto at the drop of the green flag, and worked through the traffic nicely, having great battles and dicing throughout his stint. The team brought the TSXs in on an early yellow, but left Eric out until the second yellow flew, on lap 41. Pritiko took over the car in 10th place, and worked up to eighth place by race's end, in sight of the leaders and the last car on the lead lap. It was a stellar drive by the two, both of whom are new to the Grand American series this season. This great result now gives Matt Pritiko sole possession of seventh place in the ST Driver's Championship, and he's within sight of fifth. It's an exceptional start to his first season of professional racing, and if Grand Am had a Rookie Award Matt would be poised to take it!


The team's TSXs, though, didn't fair nearly so well. Both cars pitted early, the #76 car coming in under the first yellow on lap 14. Karl Thomson, who had made up a handful of places from his 17th-place start handed over the car to Billy Johnson, the plan being to use the early pit strategy to make up places as the race wore on. The team elected to do the same with the #75 TSX, with Beau Buisson taking over from Daniel Colembie. The two orange cars were running together nose-to-tail and making up places when they quickly came upon the slow-moving Cobalt of Ed Magner. To the surprise of both TSX pilots, the car ahead very nearly stopped in a high-speed corner leading to the final, downhill run onto the front straight. Johnson lightly tagged the Cobalt's rear bumper, but Buisson had less time to react and was unable to avoid driving into the back of Johnson. The resulting impact damaged the oil cooler and radiator on the 75 car, which immediately retired. Johnson, however, managed to soldier on after a quick pit stop to remove what was left of his rear bumper. 
As the race wore on, it was apparent that the hit on the #76 car had resulted in a cracked header, and unlike their race-winning run at Laguna where a broken header simply made the Acura sound like a Mustang, at Lime Rock the break was terminal. Billy drove the car admirably, staying with the front-runners until his engine overheated, forcing a retirement. It was the first time the #76 car hadn't taken the checkered flag this season.

"Such a shame," said Thomson. "We made the early strategy call which would have a made a world of difference at this tight, tiny track. We were able to run with the leaders and although I don't think we had the pace of the Subarus, we looked good for top-fives with both TSXs."

"Still, I'm thrilled for Matt Pritiko, who's having a stellar first year," he continued. "And Billy and I are still second in the championship, and there are a lot of races before the season ends. We'll head to my home track, Mosport, and try to get back on top."