SEEDVISION CUP SERIES ENDS COMPETITIVE SEASON WITH MANY NEW CHAMPIONS 20 October, 1997 More than 100,000 competition miles down the road from when the season began last January at Daytona Beach, Fla., Professional SportsCar Racing's...
SEEDVISION CUP SERIES ENDS COMPETITIVE SEASON WITH MANY NEW CHAMPIONS
20 October, 1997
More than 100,000 competition miles down the road from when the season began last January at Daytona Beach, Fla., Professional SportsCar Racing's SPEEDVISION Cup for Stock SportsCars series ended its 13th year of racing with first-time Drivers Championship winners in three of the four classes. The only repeat champion was Grand Sports class titlist John Heinricy of Holly, Mich., driving a Pontiac Firebird Formula for the Phoenix American Motorsports team from Phoenixville, Pa., who unintentionally waited until five minutes remained in the season finale at Sebring International Raceway to win his third title in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. Heinricy also won the season trophy in 1989 and 1996; this one was closer, however, he beat Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham in the SpeedSource Mazda RX-7 Turbo by two points. Jeff McMillin of Erie, Pa., won the Sports class championship in his first full year in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. Driving the J. J. Crisps/McMillin Jet Aviation BMW 328is, McMillin and co-drivers Marc Lawrence and Derek Hill beat Thomas Blam Racing BMW 328is driver Mike Fitzgerald by four points. Two veterans of the series tied for the Touring class driving title. Gary Blackman of Sebring, Fla., and Greg Loebel of St. Petersburg, Fla., shared the championship in one of the T-I Racing Honda Prelude Si entries. None of the 1996 series driving champions won more than two of the nine races during the season. Compact champion Joe Danaher of Albany, N.Y., won only at Sebring in March and at Watkins Glen, N.Y. But his consistency in the Schwartzott Racing Honda Civic del Sol Si was enough to give him a seven-point bulge over contender John Bourassa when the season ended. Just ten days shy of 55 years old, Danaher is now the oldest driver to win a championship in the series, beating a record set in 1993 by his car owner/co-driver, Peter Schwartzott. Pontiac's winning the Manufacturers Championship in the Grand Sports class was their fourth such title, while American Honda's Touring and Compact championships were their 14th and 15th -- the Touring class for the eighth straight year. The McMillin and Fitzgerald BMW teams gave BMW of North America its first championship in the series since 1986, and the BMW 328is also won the Car of the Year trophy in its first full year of competition. Rising Star awards were given to drivers in each class who, during the season, showed much promise for future years of racing in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. They were: Chuck Goldsborough of Baltimore, Md., (Van Cleef Racing Toyota Supra Turbo); Mike Fitzgerald of Atlanta, Ga., (Thomas Blam Racing BMW 328is); Craig Stanton of Seal Beach, Calif., (GTI Racing Nissan 240SX); and Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, Fla., (Protomotive Mazda Miata). David Haskell, Pompano Beach, Fla., crew chief for the four-car SpeedSource Engineering Mazda RX-7 Turbo team which almost won the Grand Sports driving championship without winning a single race, was honored as the series Technician of the Year. More than 280 different drivers competed in this year's edition of the SPEEDVISION Cup series, and 46 of those drivers, 22 of them for the first time, were class winners during the season, driving 13 different models of cars from seven manufacturers.
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