Due to the tragic events on September 11th, 2001 the Fifth round of the United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) at Portland International Raceway was canceled. The race was rescheduled for October 20th-21st at the new road course at ...
Due to the tragic events on September 11th, 2001 the Fifth round of the United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) at Portland International Raceway was canceled. The race was rescheduled for October 20th-21st at the new road course at California Speedway in Fontana, CA. This was a new track for everyone and many drivers complained early on about the "green" track's being slippery because of a lack of rubber.
Green track or not, James Sofronas driving the SSF/Global Motorsports Group BMW 328i notched his 3rd straight victory and 4th of the year, both USTCC records.
The USTCC was only the second group to ever race at the new 1.5 mile 13 turn road course. Getting to learn the course and set up their cars took a little extra this weekend. In the Sunday qualifying session, Sofronas was the quickest with a time of 1:20.244 over second place Gary Sheehan who had a time of 1:20.568. Third was Dave Lang with a time of 1:21.201.
Sofronas started where he left off at Road America on the pole with his Sunday time. Next to him was Gary Sheehan in the Subaru of America/M2/Kartboy WRX with a time of 1:20.562. To round out the top three, gaining nearly 2 full seconds since practice was David Lang in his Miracle Auto Painting Honda Prelude with his best time improved due to a faulty rear suspension bushing. Because of their previous results Sofronas and Lang both had to carry the maximum amount of rewards weight of 270 pounds.
The track promised to fun and exciting and it proved its point at the very first chicane. Neil Vanni's Hopkins Honda Civic got a great start. Going into the chicane he went under Sheehan in the WRX but could not slow down for the turn, hitting the WRX and causing him to spin. Vanni's incident resulted in a flat tire and ended his day. Also involved was Jonathan Meris' Motorsport Dynamics Acura Integra spinning off course. The course went full course yellow to clean up. The running order was Sofronas out front, Lang in second and Ali Arsham's GoGoGear.com Honda Civic in third. After a couple of laps of full course yellow the field went green again with Sofronas pulling away from Lang. Sheehan had his work cut out for him trying to make his way back through the field. He got passed Meris. His next target was Jeff "KIWI" Owen in his Special Projects/B&G Suspension/AEM Honda Integra Type-R. After making his way passed Kiwi he overtook Arsham and in the process set the fastest race lap.
Sheehan's charge was cut short as he ran out of time and could not get by Lang. At the finish it was Sofronas' BMW, Lang in his Prelude, Sheehan's great driving got him to third. Completing the top five was Meris' Integra, and Arsham's Civic. Sheehan was disappointed with the third place finish. He said, "We felt we should have won this race. We had the fastest car today and if wasn't for the incident in the first turn, we probably would have finished first. Unfortunately, this pretty much ends our hopes to win the championship."
The next stop for the USTCC is at the new reconfigured Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, CA on Nov. 9th-11th.