Monday
Jul092007

TEAM NEWS: Baas's Second-Place Finish In Sunday's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Race Is One For the Highlights Reel

Photo by John Thawley TORONTO, Ontario, July 9 - Take 19 SPEED World Challenge Touring Cars on a

tricky 1.755-mile course, add water in the form of rain, sprinkle in a star like

Ian Baas who kept rising to the top, and the fans at Exhibition Place had a

recipe for a race to remember on Sunday.

With a light mist falling, Baas, of Noblesville, Ind., started second in the

50-minute contest and immediately got to work trying to pass polesitter Kuno

Wittmer at the drop of the green. Baas edged ahead in Turn 2 but things

disintegrated in Turn 3, when Baas' STaSIS Motorsport Audi A4 slid into a runoff

area.

Baas got it pointed in the right direction on his own and started all over

again.

"I just went too deep into the corner," Baas said afterwards. "I saw the

race flash before my eyes. But I was able to get it turned around.

"Two turns later, there were two cars that got together, and I got into them

and then I got plowed from behind!" he added. "I came to another standstill,

and started over again."

Baas was in 15th for the restart on lap five.

The race leader, Wittmer, joined Baas at the back after the restart when he

went too wide in Turn 3 to land in the same runoff area that Baas had earlier.

That gave the lead to Baas' teammate, Chip Herr, but Baas didn't have time to

cheer for Herr because he was still back in 13th, having passed James

Sofronas and getting one other spot due to Wittmer's misfortunes.

Things got to a rolling boil on lap six, when Baas vaulted from 13th to ninth

with his No. 18, which advertises Team Janica Racing, PFAFF, STaSIS, Clear

Capital and the not-for-profit group Baas helps, the Think First National Injury

Prevention Foundation. The big advancement was due partly to Baas passing

some rivals and some who went backwards in the running order, but as long as he

was moving up Baas was happy.

He passed both Seth Thomas, who set the fastest race lap, and Jason

Martinelli on the next lap to move to seventh, and then he took care of Jeff Altenburg

on the next lap to nab sixth. On lap 10 Herr tumbled from the lead due to some

mechanical issues and ended up behind Baas, moving Baas to fifth.

Baas was surprised to see his teammate headed backwards but the 24-year-old

was determined to push on with his Audi. He charged into fourth on lap 12 by

passing Charles Espenlaub, although the Audi's right-front was damaged a bit in

the tussle. Baas continued his march to the front, and two laps later he was

once again in podium position when he passed point leader Randy Pobst for

third.

A podium is always nice. In Baas' previous five races in this series his

best finish was an eighth at Lime Rock, Conn., in May at a race that Herr won, so

he wouldn't have been criticized if he'd just gone on the defensive at that

point to protect his podium spot. But Baas wasn't done racing, and he

immediately zeroed in on the second-place car being driven by Pierre Kleinubing.

Baas considered the best way to get around Kleinubing during the five laps

the field circled under yellow from laps 18 through 22 after Espenlaub hit the

wall. He also looked for puddles to cool his rain Toyo Proxes tires, since the

track was drying off. In the end he just had to capitalize on what was

developing in front of him on the restart, because Kleinubing and the leader, Peter

Cunningham, who also owns Kleinubing's car, made contact in Turn 8 on lap 24,

allowing Baas to blast by Kleinubing to take the runner-up spot.

Time was running out but Baas still had Cunningham ahead of him, and he

wasn't intimidated by the fact that Cunningham is the series' winningest driver.

Cunningham's Acura and Baas's Audi went side-by side on the last lap and Baas

got ahead briefly. He had the line but Cunningham hit him repeatedly, or Baas

would have kept him behind him.

Cunningham took the checkered in first with Baas second, 0.538 of a second

behind, but the officials have a review on their hands due to the contact. Baas

was second in the provisional results, but what he gained in confidence will

be immeasurable in races to come. Both his second-place qualifying run and the

second-place race result were his best so far in his rookie season in this

series.

"I passed Cunningham on the last lap," Baas said afterwards. "I held my line

into the next corner, but before I got into the turn he hit me once, and then

he hit me again. I had him the whole time until he hit me.

"The early caution and restart helped, and the Audi all-wheel drive is

definitely an advantage," he added. "Obviously in the wet it's good, but when it

dries and you're on wet tires things are slick too, so it's an advantage then as

well.

"It was a wild race," he added. "This one will be on the highlight reel for

the year."

Fans who couldn't see the race in person can see what they missed by watching

SPEED's coverage at 11 a.m. Eastern time this coming Saturday, July 14.

Baas competes in both the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Series and the

Rolex Series. His next Rolex Series race is at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa

next Sunday, July 15. It will be broadcast live on SPEED starting at 2:30 p.m.

Eastern.

He'll do double-duty July 19-22, competing in the Rolex Series GT race at

Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, July 21 (live on

SPEED at 4 p.m. Eastern) and the SPEED World Challenge race at the Mid-Ohio Sports

Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on Sunday, July 22 (tape-delayed on SPEED at 3

p.m. Eastern on Saturday, July 28).

« TEAM NEWS: CunninghamÂ’s Acura Wins in Toronto | Main | TEAM NEWS: WOODHOUSE PERFORMANCE POSTS TWO TOP-15 FINISHES ON THE STREETS OF TORONTO »

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