MILLVILLE, N.J. – When the 2008 KONI Challenge schedule was released, everyone took one look at the August 30 date and knew that it would be the wild card in the championship chase.
Not only would his be the first-ever race held at the new Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but the drivers would actually be competing in two races that weekend – the race to learn the nuances of the 2.25-mile road course and then the actual race itself. And to make it even more challenging, the Grand-Am officials combined the GS and slower ST cars together for the two-and-a-half hour contest meaning 65 cars would all be racing together for the first time on a brand-new racetrack.
So, at an event where anything could happen, mostly good things did happen for the No. 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang with co-drivers Jack Roush Jr. and Dean Martin who finished fourth overall and were the top Ford Mustang in the field this weekend. This would be the team's fourth consecutive finish of sixth place or better.
Roush qualified in 19th, taking a conservative approach to the new racetrack. But once the green flag flew Roush began to make up positions and moved up to seventh position before handing the wheel to Martin.
The race itself was marred by lengthy cautions, five total which eliminated much of the green flag race time. In fact, just 54 minutes of the two-and-a-half hour contest were held in green conditions; the remaining time was spent circling the racetrack under the full-course yellow.
"This race today was really challenging on a number of levels," said Roush. "First, everyone had to figure out the racetrack and the best line for whatever type of car they were racing. It seemed like some guys figured it out pretty quickly but there were some who were still working on their line even as the race was going on. And of course, with the GS and the ST classes racing together it made for a very challenging event trying to work through the traffic, especially on an unfamiliar track. And with so much of the race being held under caution it really was hard to get into a rhythm behind the wheel which is how I seem to do my best – just getting into that 'zone' and working on being smooth with the No. 59 ROUSH®/Valvoline Mustang."
The two other Rehagen Racing cars, also carrying the ROUSH® 427RTM graphics scheme, had mixed results. The No. 52 Columbus Truck & Equipment Mustang of Ray Mason and Gene Martindale finished on the lead lap in 11th position. However, the No. 60 Sunset Vineyard Mustang of Mike Canney and Hugh Plumb continued their recent string of bad luck.
On lap 13 Canney collided head-on with Jep Thornton who had spun his BMW and was sitting facing the oncoming traffic. Both cars sustained heavy front-end damage and could not continue the race, but fortunately both drivers were able to walk away from the incident.
This event was taped for a SPEED Channel broadcast on Sunday, September 7 at 2 p.m. (Eastern). The race on the KONI Challenge schedule takes place at Miller Motorsports Park, the longest racetrack on the schedule. This event is will be held on Sunday, September 21.
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.