This weekend the 1996 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am season kicks off Sunday with the Kash N' Karry Grand Prix on a 1.6-mile temporary street course in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Same-day television coverage will be shown on TNN at 6:00pm Pacific time (Sunday 2/25). The scheduled running time is 90 minutes.

Also competing this weekend are the Barber Dodge Pro Series, US Formula Ford 2000, SCCA World Challenge Series, Spec Racer Ford Pro Series, and a celebrity race of Dodge Neon's.

On Friday, 22 cars took to the track for Trans-Am practice and Tom Kendall of Manhattan Beach, Calif., set fastest time with a lap time of 1m04.780-seconds in his Ford Mustang. Next quickest was the Chevy Camaro of Ron Fellows (1:05.372), Paul Gentilozzi's Chevy Camaro (1:05.586), Jamie Galles in a Chevy Camaro (1:06.033) and Boris Said III (1:06.205) in a Ford Mustang. Qualifying is set for Saturday and the top five qualifiers will be inverted for the starting grid on Sunday.

Quickest in Friday practice for the Barber Dodge series was 1995 Barber Dodge rookie of the year Tim Moser, of Ventura, Calif., with a lap time of 1m09.268-seconds. Rounding out the top five were Mauro Fartuszek of Argentina (1:09.308), Thomas Schie of Norway (1:09.352), Rino Mastronardi of Italy (1:09.586), and Jeff Willoughby of Lansing, Mich. (1:09.636).

Delayed television coverage on ESPN and ESPN2 for the Barber Dodge series will be announced soon.

The fastest driver in Friday's US FF2000 practice was Bruno Bianchi of Lachanaie, Quebec in a Van Diemen Ford RF94 with a time of 1m12.470-seconds.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg picks up where it left off six years ago with the Trans-Am series, though this year it is on a completely different circuit, which now includes sections which pass over railroad tracks! The new 1.6-mile, eight-turn circuit runs around the ThunderDome in St. Petersburg.

Former Trans-Am champions of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix are Willy T. Ribbs (1985), Pete Halsmer (1986), Scott Pruett (1987), Walter Roehrl (1988), Irv Hoerr (1989) and Chris Kneifel (1990). None are scheduled to compete this weekend.

-Robert Heathcote, for The SpeedNet of Los Angeles

..Robert Heathcote.......................AUTOSPORTS BBS..310-641-9627.. ..Email: ..Opinions are mine -- Not yours -- And surely not those of SpeedNet!..