ELKHART LAKE, Wis., Aug. 22 - Wright Motorsports of Batavia, Ohio fielded two cars in the IMSA GT3 Challenge by Yokohama doubleheader Friday and Saturday at Road America, and both took their drivers to podium finishes.

 

Rookie Kasey Kuhlman of Cincinnati turned in his best performances to date in the series with a pole position and a third- and a second-place finish in the top class, the Platinum Cup, in the twin 45-minute races that were part of the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase. His No. 15 2011 Porsche 997 carries the colors of Kuhlsport and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati.

 

His teammate and fellow rookie, Mitch Landry of Lake Charles, La., finished third in the Gold Cup division on Friday and fifth on Saturday in Wright Motorsports' No. 54 2009 Porsche 997, which is sponsored by VersaCrane and Deep South Crane & Rigging.

 

Kuhlman qualified seventh overall (2:15.770) and Landry qualified fifth in the Gold Cup class (2:19.363) prior to Friday's race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course.  The top three qualifiers (Fernando Pena, Carlos Kauffmann and Tim McKenzie) broke the series' track record of 2:14.932.  Pena now holds that mark with a 2:14.514.

 

Friday's race started and ended with some on-track fireworks.

 

The third-, fourth-, and fifth-place cars were among several that spun in Turn 14 on the first lap to bring out a full-course caution.  Kuhlman deftly missed the melee, and his agility was rewarded by vaulting from seventh to second place overall.

 

Further back in the pack Landry had to lift to not become involved too, and he slipped from fifth to seventh in class.  He got those two positions back very quickly, however, as two other drivers in his class, Scott Tucker and Andres Cisneros, were involved in an incident on the restart which basically put Landry back where he started when the race really got going on lap five.

 

Kuhlman tried everything he could think of to get by the leader, Pena, for the first 15 laps.  He ran faster than anyone else in Friday's race when he was timed in just 2:16.389 on lap 12.  Just 0.879 of a second separated him from Pena on that lap, and he had a comfortable 5.395-seconds advantage over the third-place driver, Randy Trice, at the time.

 

Cheers went up from Elkhart Lake to Cincinnati when Kuhlman took the lead from Pena on lap 16 and led that lap, but Pena edged ahead again in Turn 15 on lap 17.  Kuhlman remained in second place as the clock ticked on, looking for another chance to get by.  He tried a daring move in Turn 6 on lap 17 that almost worked, but he ended up getting airborne and sailing into a gravel trap.  Somehow he freed himself and returned to the fray, but not before Trice got by to push him back to third.  

 

Pena had an 8.161-second lead over Trice when the checkered waved on the next lap.  Kuhlman finished third, 2.823 seconds behind Trice and 2.982 seconds ahead of the driver in fourth place, Jim Norman. Rob Walton rounded out the top five.

 

Landry got third in his class on Friday too.  His podium finish was a little less dramatic, but not much. He moved from fifth in class to fourth on lap seven when series newcomer Billy Stevens dropped back, but then Scott Tucker passed him on the next lap to push him back to sixth place.  He passed Tucker on lap 10 to get fifth-place back, but then Tucker repassed him on lap 11 to drop him back to sixth again.

 

Eduardo Cisneros, who had been second in class, got a cut tire on lap 12 after some contact, which gave Landry fifth place again. At that point it looked like he was going to finish fifth.  The same time Kuhlman was taking the lead from Pena, however, the second-place Gold Cup driver dropped back and Landry passed the driver who had been third, Tucker, to vault into third place.  He was just 0.235 of a second behind the driver who finished second in class, Ludovico Manfredi, when Madison Snow took the class victory.

 

Kuhlman's fastest race lap on Friday, which was at an average speed of 106.847 miles per hour, gave him the BBS of America pole for Saturday's race, with Pena alongside him for the green.  Landry started fifth in class on the outside of Row 10.

 

Pena got the lead from Kuhlman on the first lap and went on to lead the rest of the way.  The top three - Pena, Kuhlman and Trice - were really close in the early going.  By lap 10 Pena had a 4-second lead over Kuhlman, however, and Trice was back in 20th spot after getting a black flag for allegedly blocking Jim Norman. That put Marco Cirone in third place, and they ended up being the podium finishers on Saturday after the race ended under a full-course caution following a spin by Jay Policastro.  Chris Cumming and Steve Goldman rounded out the top five.

 

Kuhlman set the third-fastest lap of Saturday's race enroute to his best finish to date in this series.

 

Landry dropped from fifth to seventh place in class early in Saturday's race after Andres Cisneros and Carlos Kauffmann passed him.   He moved into fifth after the drivers who were first and second in class, Eduardo Cisneros and Madison Snow, crashed in Turn 11 on lap seven.

 

Landry ran about four-tenths of a second behind the fourth-place driver, Andres Cisneros, for most of the remainder of the event to nab his second top-five finish of the weekend. Kauffmann, Manfredi, Tucker, Cisneros and Landry were the top five in class.

 

"On the first race Pena and I just checked out," Kuhlman said Saturday night while driving back to Cincinnati.  "We dueled for the whole race.  I just dogged him, looking for his weaknesses.  I could outbrake him into Turn 5, which gave me the opportunity to get inside of him as we ran into 6.  I took four shots at him there.  The first time he blocked me, and then I passed him, and then he got me back.  On the white-flag lap he overslowed in 5 and I closed the gap, and I drag-raced him into 6. 

 



Kurt Niemeyer is editor of Cincy Motorsports Journal. He has longtime ties to the racing and auto show communities. Visit Cincy Motorsports Journal online at www.cincymagazine.com for more facts and in-depth information. And connect with CMJ on Facebook "” Cincy Motorsports Journal "” to get weekly updates.