BOWMANVILLE, Ont., Canada – In KONI Challenge competition, the driver that qualifies the car on the grid is also the driver that must start the race. Traditionally, in the No. 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Ford Mustang, this job falls on the shoulders of Jack Roush, Jr.
Now in his second year of KONI Challenge competition, Roush is still in a learning curve and admits that the 2.460-mile, 10-turn Mosport International Raceway has been one of the harder racetracks for him to learn.
"Last year, I found this track to be the most difficult for me in the entire season," Roush said. "There are multiple high speed turns, which are blind, and hard to judge. Whether you're going too fast or too slow, the feedback will be the same. And if you go over the limit here, there are severe consequences."
But when it came time to qualify on Friday, June 13, Roush must have figured out the racetrack as he busted out a lap of 1:30.936 which was good enough for second on the grid and a front row starting position. This was a career-best starting spot for Roush who, previously, had started no higher than 11th in KONI Challenge competition.
Roush recalled his qualifying run after climbing from the car. "I initially had a good run and got a Top-5 position and Dean (Martin, team co-driver) almost decided to bring me in to park it. I then took a lap to cool the tires, luckily. Once around this time, I turned it loose again. I pushed the car as fast as it would go, and the tires seemed to get hotter and hotter, which will slow the car down quickly. However, my lap times kept coming down. I was apparently able to sync into a rhythm faster than my tires were falling off and put the (No.) 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang into second position.
"In general I find qualifying kind of challenging because I am more of a rhythm driver; usually the longer I drive in a session, the faster I get. With how short qualifying is (a 15-minute session), you don’t normally have time to do that, but luckily I was able to in this session and get my fastest lap at the end."
When the two-and-a-half hour race began on Saturday, June 14, Roush quickly slid into second place and followed race leader Scott Maxwell for the first 39 laps neither gaining nor losing any positions, before leading lap 40 and turning the car over to Dean Martin. On climbing out of the car, Roush learned that he has posted the fastest lap of the race to that point, a significant milestone in his short career.
Due to some confusion with the officials during a caution period, the No. 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang lost some positions by pitting during the second lap that the GS cars were allowed, forcing Martin to push hard to make up the positions on the racetrack. On lap 41 he was shown in fifth place, nearly five seconds behind the leader, but he had cut that down to 1.9 seconds on lap 67 where he was listed as fourth overall.
Unfortunately, on lap 79 as Martin was attempting a pass for third, he ran into a problem in the form of another competitor.
"I got behind the No. 18 BMW and found it very difficult to pass because that car is very fast and he is a talented driver," Martin recalled. "I worked him hard for eight or ten laps and finally pressured him into making a mistake. We were going through Turn 10 when I got hit hard enough to bend the right rear wheel and axle. The impact spun me around in a 360 but I was able to recover enough to limp back to the pits and get two tires changed and finish the race but by then we were well off the pace.
"I exercised a lot of patience and respect for a lot of laps. What happened with the (No.) 18 was that he made a desperate and low percentage move that was not going to end without someone going off. Unfortunately, it was me," he added.
This event marked the second consecutive race that the No. 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang has been involved in an accident that ruined a potentially strong finish. When the checkered flag flew, the team had fallen all the way to a disappointing 30th position.
Mosport International Raceway is one of the few events on the KONI Challenge circuit that Grand-Am runs the Grand Sport (GS) class cars that Roush and Martin compete in with the slower Sport Tuner (ST) cars at the same time. This meant that there were 60 vehicles circling the racetrack at the same time and it was a challenge to make a clean pass without losing track position.
"It was pretty hairy," recalled Roush. "The ST cars were pretty hard to get around unless you were really willing to take risks to get around them. You sort of had to because the cars behind me were willing to take those type of risks and could easily make a pass on me at the same time."
On a bright note, the No. 60 Sunset Hills Vineyard Mustang, a Rehagen Racing team car that also carries the ROUSH® 427RTM graphics, finished the event on the podium with a second place showing. This car is driven by Mike Canney and Hugh Plumb.
The No. 52 Columbus Truck & Equipment Mustang (another Rehagen Racing team car with ROUSH® 427RTM graphics) with Ray Mason and Adam Pecorari behind the wheel, completed the event in 10th position. Both Mason and Plumb led laps as well.
The next event on the KONI Challenge schedule is Saturday, July 5 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, one of the most legendary road courses in the United States. The No. 59 Ford Mustang, based out of the Rehagen Racing shop in Livonia, Mich., carries sponsorship from ROUSH® Performance and Valvoline. In 2006, this was the highest-finishing Mustang in the series.
Based in Livonia, Mich., "The Art of Performance Engineering" takes place at ROUSH® Performance. To get a look behind the scenes at what goes on at ROUSH® and how the vehicles are designed, manufactured and produced logon to . In addition to the Stage 1TM, Stage 2TM and Stage 3TM Ford Mustang and F-150 styling, handling and performance upgrades, a complete line of performance parts and crate engines are offered. For more information see your local ROUSH® dealer, visit or telephone toll-free (800) 59-ROUSH.