The 2003 Grand Am Cup season consisted of eleven race weekends. The championship kicked off in January at Daytona International Speedway, which was followed two months later by an event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Beginning in May, the teams crisscrossed the United States, making a visit to Phoenix, Arizona and then back to the east coast for a stop at Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama. The championship made their final west coast swing of the year to Fontana, California. Round six was held at Watkins Glen International, which was followed by the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Next on the schedule was a visit to Canada for races at Mosport International Raceway and Le Circuit Mont Tremblant. The penultimate race weekend was held at Virginia International Raceway with the finale taking place at Daytona.

Most races were 3-hours in length and were scheduled as a support event for the Rolex Sports Car series. Mosport was the only weekend when the Grand Am Cup series competed without the Rolex championship.

The cars racing in the series are relatively unchanged from their road-going versions – modifications are mandated mainly for safety – roll cages, window nets, etc. They also used spec DOT-approved tires produced by Hoosier. Based on performance potential, the cars were divided into one of four groups:

  • Grand Sport (GS I and GS II): Grand Sport is the quicker of the two groups - this division features the larger displacement engines as well as smaller four-cylinder motors with forced induction systems. The power-plants produce between 400 and 500-horsepower. Minimum weights range between 2,900 – 3,300-pounds which, are dependent on the motor configuration and displacement. The GS I category includes cars such as the Porsche 993 Turbo, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Viper and Saleen Mustang SR. The Acura NSX, Audi S4, BMW M3, Nissan 350Z and Pontiac Firebird are examples of vehicles competing in GS II.
  • Street Tuner (ST I and ST II): The smaller displacement cars compete in the ST category. Engines in this group typically produce between 220 and 280-horsepower. Popular vehicles found the ST I class are the Acura RSX, Audi A4, Lexus IS300, Porsche Boxster, BMW Z3 Coupe and Acura Integra Type R. The ST II group includes the Mazda MX-5, Honda Civic EX, Chevrolet Cavalier Z24, Acura Integra LS, Dodge Neon and Mazda Protege.

With the exception of Phoenix, Barber, Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen, these four classes competed on the track at the same time.

At Watkins Glen International, the Grand Sport and Street Tuner categories competed in separate 250-mile races (with a 3-hour limit) around the eleven-turn 3.337-mile road course. Street Tuner teams would compete late Friday afternoon while the Grand Sport contest was the last event on Saturday’s schedule.

It was a wet start for the ST competitors in round six at Watkins Glen International. The conditions contributed to nine caution periods during the three-hour event. Leading the field of twenty-nine starters into corner one on the first lap is the ST I pole winner from Team Lexus. Beside the No. 0 Lexus IS300 is the Duane Neyer Motorsports BMW Z3 shared by John Moore, Stewart Tetreault and team owner, Duane Neyer.
Entering round six, Don Salama and Steve Pfeffer had a couple of finishes outside the top-ten but earned podiums at Barber Motorsports Park and California Speedway. At Watkins Glen, the pair would score their first ST I victory of 2003. Driving the TC Kline Racing BMW Z4, Pfeffer was the third fastest in qualifying. Salama drove the final stint and was successful in holding off challenges from Pete Halsmer and Sylvain Tremblay.
Leading the ST I point standings are former Indy Car competitor, Pete Halsmer and John Schmitt driving the No. 00 Acura RSX-S prepared by Honda of America Racing. Schmitt qualified the Acura and was sixth quickest. With five laps left in the race, it was a shootout between Halsmer, Don Salama and Sylvain Tremblay. In an attempt to pass the leader, Salama, Halsmer brushed the guardrail on the last lap but was able to finish second.
As of late, SpeedSource’s Scott Schlesinger has been the hottest driver in the ST I category. Schlesinger shared the class winning Porsche Boxster with Sylvain Tremblay at Barber Motorsports Park and with David Haskell at California Speedway. He was given the honour of qualifying the Boxster and was ninth quickest. At Watkins Glen, Schlesinger shared the Porsche with Tremblay, who drove the last half of the race and finished third.
The HRPWorld.com Racing team entered three Acura Integra LSs in the ST II category. Their best result this weekend would be the Integra shared by Ray Bailey and Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker. The No. 42 Acura was qualified by Joe, who recorded the twenty-fourth fastest time which, was good for fifth in class. Wayne was in the car for the conclusion event and kept a hard-charging, Eric Curran at bay for the class victory.
Sharing the No. 29 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura Integra LS was the 1985 ST I class champion, Bob Henderson, team owner, Bill Fenton and Eric Curran. Henderson was given the responsibility to qualify the car and recorded the twenty-second fastest time – good for fourth in the ST II category. In the closing laps, Curran found himself chasing the leader, Wayne Nonnamaker – unable to make the pass, he finished second.
Team Lexus entered three Lexus IS300s in the ST I category. Starting on the pole was the No. 0 IS300 piloted by Andy Lally and Chuck Goldsborough. Lally’s ‘dance card’ was full at Watkins Glen – in addition to the ST contest, he participated in a go-kart race on Thursday, then on Saturday the GS event and also competed in Sunday’s Rolex race. An error late in the race while attempting to avoid another car took Lally out of contention.
Archangel Motorsports’, Michael Johnson, was joined in round six by Robby McGhee. McGhee competed in the Indy Racing League and won the 1999 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. Johnson and McGhee shared the No. 8 Nissan Sentra SE-R. McGhee performed the qualifying duties and was seventeenth fastest overall and in ST I. The pair were unable to match the pace of the leaders and finished twenty-second.
The second Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura Integra LS was guided by Bill Fenton, Bob Beede and Eric Curran. Team principal, Fenton qualified second fastest in ST II and would start twentieth overall. He moved into the class lead early during his time behind the steering wheel. Beede, the class points leader, was much more conservative during the final stint and collected third-place points to pad his title aspirations.
The lead car for the HRPWorld.com effort was the No. 43 Acura Integra LS shared by Howie Liebengood and Will Nonnamaker – the pair was second in the standings. Liebengood, the 2000 Motorola Cup ST champion, drove the Acura during the qualifying session. He was third fastest in ST II and would start twenty-first overall. Unable to maintain the pace of the leaders, they finished fourth and lost ground in the title chase to Bob Beede.

POS.CLASSDRIVERSCARENTRANTLAPS
1ST IPfeffer / SalamaBMW Z4TC Kline Racing58
2ST IHalsmer / SchmittAcura RSX-SHonda of America Racing Team58
3ST ISchlesinger / TremblayPorsche BoxsterSpeedSource58
4ST IJames / GaffneyLexus IS300Team Lexus58
5ST IHimes / MoorconesAcura Integra RCraftsman Motorsports58
6ST IBuisson / GorriaranBMW Z4TC Kline Racing58
7ST IINonnamaker / Nonnamaker / BaileyAcura Integra LSHRPworld.com58
8ST IIFenton / Henderson / CurranAcura Integra LSBill Fenton Motorsports58
9ST IConnolly / PotterBMW Z3Villaconn International58
10ST IIFenton / Beede / CurranAcura Integra LSBill Fenton Motorsports58
11ST IILiebengood / NonnamakerAcura Integra LSHRPworld.com59
12ST IIMagner / MaehlingChevrolet Cavalier Z-24WTF Engineering58
13ST IILiebengood / Bailey / HerrAcura Integra LSHRPworld.com58
14ST ILally / GoldsboroughLexus IS300Team Lexus57
15ST ILegg / EllingerAudi A4LM Racing57
16ST IGeswein / SmithMini Cooper SSterling Motorsports57
17ST IGuenette / Barber / RutherfordLexus IS300Team Lexus57
18ST ILinville / CollettiAcura Integra RColletti Motorsports57
19ST IIBaglier / LuffyMazda ProtegeBaglieracing57
20ST IMoore / Neyer / TetreaultBMW Z3Duane Neyer Motorsports56
21ST IMansolillo / GreenDodge Neon SRT4The Fat And The Furious XXL58
22ST IMcGehee / JohnsonNissan Sentra SE-RArchangel58
23ST INuzzo / Lewis / BavaroMini Cooper SNuzzo Motorsports62
24ST IPawley / PeeleToyota SupraJ Pauley Motorsports63
25ST IILisa / LisaBMW Z3ICY / SL Motorsports58
26ST IKeravich / TrinklerAcura Integra RPower Racing Team57
27ST IFrancois / Tillman / AckermanNissan Sentra SE-RArchangel58
28ST IRichardson / LinderAcura Integra RPower Racing Team57
29ST IKeith / McGillycuddy / LewisMini Cooper SNuzzo Motorsports23


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