Race Weekend Central

Murillo Racing Wins Wreck-Strewn Road America 240

Murillo Racing’s Kenton Koch took the lead away from Kelly-Moss Road & Race’s Alec Udell with just under five minutes to go in turn 8. From there, he held on to give himself and Eric Foss the overall victory in the Road America 240. It is Foss’s third win of the year and the second for Koch (Foss’s third win came with Marc Miller as his teammate at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

“I was a man on a mission,” Koch told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum in victory lane. “I was doing everything that I could to fend off the [drivers] behind me. With this being the last race that I will be driving with [Murillo Racing] for this year, I wanted to just send it and do my best.”

Koch has been driving the No. 56 Mercedes alongside Foss in a substitute role ever since regular driver Jeff Mosing suffered a rib injury. Foss described this injury in a recent interview with Frontstretch that we will be running soon. Mosing plans to be back in the No. 56 at VIR.

Saturday’s race will more than likely be best remembered for the sheer number of incidents, especially in the first half of the race.

The trouble started even before the race did. Rebel Rock Racing’s Frank DePew, fresh off of his victory at Lime Rock, cut his right-front tire on the pace laps and had to make an unscheduled stop. If that isn’t bad luck, it is unclear what bad luck would be. The pit stop forced DePew to start from the pit lane.

KohR Motorsports’ Luca Mars started from the pole and opened up a small gap on the pack. Teammate Billy Johnson was able to nudge his way past Murillo Racing’s Kenton Koch to move himself up to second.

On the second lap of the race, the day came to an early for NOLAsport. Matt Travis ran in the back of Turner Motorsport’s Dillon Machavern under braking for turn 5. The contact busted one of the radiators on Travis’s Porsche, ending his day.

What was already shaping up to be a tough day for Rebel Rock Racing got exponentially worse 20 minutes into the race when DePew dropped a wheel exiting turn 13. This spun out the sole Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R in the field and put DePew hard into the wall to bring out the race’s first full course caution. DePew was ok, but he was out for the day. In an interview with NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum, DePew indicated that he had burned up the front tires in traffic and understeered.

The caution resulted in a split pit strategy as Johnson led a decent chunk of the field onto the pit lane for their first stop of the day. Mars stayed out to keep the lead. Machavern was second but pitted at the restart due to a radio problem.

Inexperience appeared to hurt Mars here. He had a decent advantage over BGB Motorsports’ Thomas Collingwood, then suddenly dropped back as Koch took the overall lead. Mars ended up dropping back to fifth.

Another caution flew at the 40-minute mark when NOLAsport’s Sam Owen went wide exiting the Kink, then slid across the track and hit the wall with the right side of his Porsche. Further back, Road Shagger Racing’s Gavin Ernstone spun in the dust and went head-on into the wall in his Audi. Both drivers were OK, but out of the race.

A big scramble broke out on the restart as Koch had a little trouble getting up to speed. There was contact in turn 1 between Koch and McCann Racing’s Michael McCann Jr. This cut McCann’s left-front tire, forcing him to make a pit stop.

Half a lap later, Kenny Murillo and TeamTGM’s Hugh Plumb collided while fighting for second. The contact broke the right rear suspension on Murillo’s Mercedes and sent the No. 72 for a spin. Murillo was able to get the car restarted, but was unable to get back to the pits. He ended up pulling off and backing behind the wall to prevent a caution.

The yellow flew again a couple of laps later when Bob Michaelian spun and went head on into the wall between turn 8 and the Carousel after contact from Turner Motorsport’s Vin Barletta. Capstone Motorsports’ Gary Ferrara went into the trap while trying to avoid Michaelian and spun in the Carousel as a result. Michaelian’s Mustang was heavily damaged, but he walked away from the crash.

On this short run, Koch and Hugh Plumb ran away from the rest of the pack as PF Racing’s Sheena Monk was nearly two seconds a lap slower and held the line up. Eventually, Owen Trinkler in the second TeamTGM Porsche got by and started dropping the JG Wentworth Ford back. Exiting turn 1, VOLT Racing’s Alan Brynjolfsson and Monk came together while fighting for sixth. This resulted in Monk sliding through the trap and hitting the tires to bring out another yellow. Unlike the first three cautions, Monk was able to continue once she got out of the trap. She managed to stay on the lead lap as well.

In an interview in the pits, Brynjolfsson put full blame on Monk for the crash, claiming that he was bump drafting Colin Braun prior to it and Monk dive-bombed him. Naturally, Monk did not agree with that statement. IMSA officials sided with Monk and assessed the No. 7 Aston Martin a drive-through penalty, served by Trent Hindman, for avoidable contact.

Another round of stops occurred during the yellow. Koch pitted and handed over to Foss. Trinkler stayed out and took the overall lead over Robby Foley. Trinkler and Foley ended up having a spirited battle for the lead until Trinkler made a green-flag pit stop.  Foley took over until his own stop. Unfortunately, a mechanical issue forced an additional stop and put him a lap down.

Foss ended up in the overall lead with a decent advantage of more than 10 seconds after the round of the stops concluded. A second round began shortly afterwards, jumbling up the field.

Udell was off-sequence and ended up in the overall lead when Murillo Racing’s Tim Probert crashed in the Hurry Downs exiting turn 7 to bring out the fifth caution of the race. This allowed Udell to consider stretching his fuel to the finish.

What really helped Udell’s case was that during the caution, the Mercedes of Riley Motorsports’ Scott Andrews lost his left rear wheel and flew off-course in the Carousel. In NASCAR’s National Series, that would result in substantial suspensions these days. Not so much in IMSA, but it did delay the restart by a lap or so.

The race restarted with only 11 minutes remaining. Stephen Cameron Racing’s Greg Liefooghe was second and put the pressure on Udell going into turn 5. Udell was able to hold him off, but that brought others into the mix.

Koch was able to barge his way past Liefooghe at Canada Corner to take second. A couple of laps later, Koch got a run in the Hurry Downs and made the pass for the lead in turn 8. Liefooghe followed into second shortly afterwards. From there, Foss opened a small gap and kept it to the checkered flag.

Foss and Koch’s margin of victory was .896 seconds over Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan in the Cameron BMW. Udell and Brule ended up third, a great result for their gamble. Hindman and Brynjolfsson recovered from the penalty to finish fourth and minimize their losses. FCP Euro by Ricca Autosport’s Trevor Andrusko and Mike Skeen were fifth.

PF Racing’s Monk and Kyle Marcelli recovered from the trip to the gravel to finish sixth. Machavern and Bill Auberlen were seventh, followed by TeamTGM’s Hugh and Matt Plumb. Hardpoint’s John Capestro-Dubets, Nick Galante and Eric McAlister were ninth, while the second TeamTGM Porsche of Trinkler and Ted Giovanis rounded out the top 10.

In TCR, KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering’s Tim Lewis Jr. started from the pole in his Alfa Romeo Giuletta. However, that lead was short-lived as Van der Steur’s Tyler Gonzalez was able to get past on the first lap to take the lead.

Gonzalez was able to hold the lead with ease, but trouble came 19 minutes into the race. While coming up to the Kelly-Moss Porsche of David Brule, Tyler cut his right front tire entering turn 13 and slid off the road. Lewis was able to regain the lead while Gonzalez was forced to pit. Ultimately, the DePew crash completely bailed him out.

During the yellow, the entire class made their first pit stop. As a result, Gonzalez ended up back in the class lead for the restart. VGRT’s Victor Gonzalez Jr. was up to second in a fast Honda. The two drivers had a long and clean battle for the lead, but Tyler was able to hold off Victor.

The TCR leaders all came in for driver changes during the fourth yellow, except for Bryan Herta Autosport’s Stephen Simpson.  Simpson took the lead by staying out. Lewis was up to second, while Rory van der Steur had to hold off Gonzalez Jr.

Van der Steur was able to get a huge run on Lewis and Simpson to get them both to take the class lead. Meanwhile, Gonzalez Jr. had the left-front wheel fall off on the run to turn 5, ruining an excellent run. The No. 99 Honda did get back on track, but ended up 15 laps down in ninth.

Van der Steur and Lewis had a strong battle for the lead that lasted until van der Steur pitted with 68 minutes remaining for what was supposed to be his final stop for tires, fuel and to put Gonzalez back in the car. That was not meant to be as the No. 19 Hyundai Veloster suffered a right rear suspension failure. Tyler was able to get the car back to the pits for repairs, but ended up five laps down in eighth.

Lewis Jr. pitted eight minutes later and looked like he was in good position. However, he had to make an extra stop due to the KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering team being unable to get the Alfa Romeo full of fuel.

That put Simpson back in the class lead with Michael Lewis in the No. 1 Elantra right behind him. During the final yellow, Lewis Jr. stopped the Alfa Romeo for tires. That would give him a substantial advantage.

Lewis Jr. restarted the Alfa Romeo in sixth and quickly made his way forward. In a lap after the restart, he was up to fourth. Then, he took third from Denis Dupont. A lap later, he snatched second from Michael Lewis.

On the final lap of the race, Lewis Jr. was able to out-brake Simpson into turn 5 to take the class lead. Once he was through, the fresher tires allowed the Alfa Romeo to pull away. Lewis Jr. and teammate Roy Block were able to defend their TCR-class victory from last year’s two-hour race.

Lewis Jr. and Block’s margin of victory was 1.594 seconds over Simpson and Michael Johnson. Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler were third, followed by Belgard & Techniseal Racing’s Dupont, Nick Looijmans and Eric Rockwell. Bryan Herta Autosport’s Robert Wickens and Mark Wilkins were fifth.

This race will be best remembered for the sheer amount of attrition. 39 cars started the four-hour race. Only 23 cars finished. Of the 16 cars that DNF’d, 10 were either due to crashes or contact that led to mechanical issues.

Hindman and Brynjolfsson leave Road America with a 220-point lead over Foss in Grand Sport with two races remaining. In TCR, Michael Lewis and Hagler have only a 30-point lead over Lewis Jr. and Block, the difference between first and second in a race.


IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge teams will take the next couple of weeks off before returning to action at VIRginia International Raceway Aug. 27 for the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers Grand Prix. The race will be streamed live on Peacock at 4:40 p.m. ET.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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