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IMSA GT3 - Kuhlman And Landry Record Strong Finishes In Challenge Doubleheader

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SALINAS, Sept. 20, 2011: Wright Motorsports’ Kasey Kuhlman of Cincinnati recorded an eighth and a sixth-place finish last weekend in the IMSA GT3 Challenge by Yokohama doubleheader at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. His teammate, Mitch Landry of Lake Charles, La., placed third and sixth in the Gold Cup division in the same races. Wright Motorsports is based in Batavia, Ohio.

Kuhlman drives the No. 15 2011 Porsche 997 advertising Kuhlsport and the Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati. Landry’s car is the No. 54 2009 Porsche 997, which is sponsored by VersaCrane and Deep South Crane & Rigging. Saturday’s race was the series’ usual 45-minute contest, but Sunday’s race was 75 minutes long.

Kuhlman qualified 13th for Saturday’s race with a time of 1:29.570, just 0.721 of a second off the pole. His fastest lap during the race was lap four of 26, when he was timed in 1:30.531.

“I got eighth overall in Saturday’s race,” Kuhlman said later. “I had a good, clean race and lots of close running with Mark Bullitt. It was great fun.  It was tough to finish much higher given my starting position, so I'm happy. I need to learn how to qualify better; it’s as simple as that.”

Saturday’s race was won by TruSpeed’s Bryce Miller over Henrique Cisneros, Carlos Kauffmann, David Hansson and Michael Schein.

The starting line-up for Sunday’s race was established by each driver’s fastest lap in Saturday’s race, and Kuhlman started 12th on Sunday. He dropped to 15th in the early going, although he set his fastest lap of the race on lap five with a time of 1:31.855.

Kuhlman was in 13th position when the first full-course yellow waved about 15 minutes into the race. He moved into 12th on lap 14 and he was still in that spot, about 1.127 seconds behind Carlos Gomez and 0.514 ahead of Jim Norman, at the half-hour mark. Norman got around him a couple of laps later, but then Kuhlman rose to tenth on lap 22 when the second yellow waved for Norman and Randy Trice, who had made contact in Turn 8.

The green waved again for a moment on lap 29 but the yellow came out again on lap 30 for Marco Cirone and Sloan Urry, who had gone off course. A couple of other contenders pitted with problems around the same time, so at the 1-hour mark Kuhlman was in seventh place.

He advanced to sixth shortly thereafter when the second-place driver, Fernando Pena, served a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact with Hansson. Kuhlman was about a second behind Chris Cumming and 0.7 of a second ahead of Melanie Snow when Cumming pitted because his Porsche had caught fire. That moved Kuhlman up to fifth. He took the checkered under yellow in that spot, but after the race he was docked one position for passing Snow just as the race was going under yellow.

Henrique Cisneros went on to win Sunday’s race over Bullitt and Gomez, with Hansson and Melanie Snow rounding out the top five.

“Starting on a full fuel load made the car push early in the race,” Kuhlman said of Sunday’s event. “We had set up the car so that it would come to us late in the run, hoping that other would fall off.  In order for that to work I had to manage my tires.  Running conservative laps cost me several positions early in the race, but as time ticked on and attrition started to affect the field, we were sitting pretty with 20 minutes to go.  I made some good passes and worked my way to P5 at the finish.  Unfortunately, after the race the director determined that one of those passes happened right as a yellow was thrown, so they moved me back one spot.

“Laguna is a great track,” he added. “It’s very technical and challenging.  Half the battle here is just staying on the track with all the sand that gets dragged onto the surface.  I did a good job of staying ahead of the car and was rewarded in the end with some good points and a successful trip out west.”

Landry qualified seventh in the Gold Cup division for Saturday’s race with a time of 1:31.270. He stayed out of trouble and got consistently faster, as he set his fastest lap of the race on lap 22 with a time of 1:32.314. When the checkered waved on lap 26 only Mike Hedlund and Madison Snow were in front of him in the class, so Landry was able to nail down another podium finish.

Landry started seventh in class on Sunday. Ludovico Manfredi and Angel Benitez passed him in the early going and Billy Stevens got by a little later, so he was tenth in class when the first full-course caution waved.

Stevens dropped back on the restart to give him that spot back, but Michael Levitas passed him on lap 17 to force him back to tenth place. Right before the second yellow waved on lap 22 he regained ninth by passing Angel Cisneros, setting his fastest lap of the race with a 1:33.802 on that circuit. He got eighth when Urry rolled to a stop, which put him between Fred Poordad and Andres Cisneros.

He passed Poordad for seventh on lap 36 and he was in that position when the checkered fell with 40 laps complete. He advanced to sixth in the final rundown when Levitas was penalized four positions for avoidable contact.

Eduardo Cisneros, Madison Snow and Hedlund took the Gold Cup podium spots on Sunday.

“The Laguna Seca track  was great fun,” Landry said. “We were patient in the first race and it paid off. I was too patient in the second race, as I tried to save my car until the end and late-race cautions caught me back in the field.”