By N. Schilke - Motorsport.com
Mid-Ohio - Saturday, September 22, 2001 - Weather stayed beautiful with slightly dropping temperatures for the last three races of the championship runoffs.
FC Race 22:
What a start -- like a train going into the esses and some three wide. Dustin Hodges had the only off track excursion but got back on with minimal if any damage. Early leader in the closely packed field was Mike Andersen followed closely by Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Dave Weitzenhoff. In some of the close racing, Bobby Wilson and unknown car made slight contact but enough to damage Wilson and he retired. Luyendyk Jr. was letting the leader pull away and at the same time was doing a lot of side to side weaving on the track to keep the rest of the field firmly behind him with near contact as Weitzenhoff attempted several passes. Contact was made and damage was done to the front wing of Weitzenhoff which caused a handling problem. Ron Thomas had worked his way up to fourth and was trying to make up ground on the third position car of Weitzenhoff. A lot of the field had some good close safe racing throughout the race. Andersen continued to stretch his lead while Weitzenhoff battled to keep his car on track and maintain third position. 1998 National Champion, Andersen, won the race with a very nice lead.
Top three FC: Andersen, Northern New Jersey Region; Luyendyk Jr., Arizona Region; Weitzenhoff, Neohio Region.
"I set a consistent pace that I knew I could save the tires. It still was a fast pace. I was worried about the start and the tires. Hope to pull out the lead and was surprised at the lead I did have," said Andersen. Weitzenhoff explained how he viewed the earlier incident with Luyendyk Jr. "I was blocked several times on the straight by Mr. Luyendyk. He came over on me at one point and broke my wing. I fought hard the rest of the way to maintain third. I believe I had a chance early one to challenge Mike," said Weitzenhoff. Luyendyk Jr. commented, "I made the wrong tire choice and had too hard of compound. Could not make up any ground on Mike. He drove an excellent race. As to the racing incident, It was not a huge blocking maneuver -- just a racing incident."
GT1 Race 23:
Green flag saw lots of minor incidents. Polesitter Jeff Ervin drove off driver's left and lost positions, John Baucom spun and got hit slightly which put him down positions. The early leader was Tom Smith with Jack Busch behind. Busch took the lead until Tim Cowen took it in turn 7, Busch had a long battle with Ervin until in between several accidents and cars losing it and spinning. The worst one was Bill Gray and Ray Irwin and race went full course yellow. However, before the yellow, Busch spun in the oil. That left Cowen in the the lead with Ervin and Busch behind him. On the last several laps, Ervin squeezed by Cowen to take the lead. Ervin took the checker for a back-to-back National Championship.
Top three GT1: Ervin, Saginaw Valley Region; Cowen, Neohio Region; Busch, New England Region.
Winner Ervin commented, "Drove as hard as I could -- lost it at the start and had to work my way back. Without the caution, do not believe I would have caught Tim. Best guy to race with." Cowen talked about the race with Ervin, "I was better than Jeff in some spots and he was better than me in others -- he made a nice move to take the lead. The full course yellow hurt me as I had a five second lead. My plan was to avoid the stuff at the beginning by taking the approach to be patient." Busch, "I drove an aggressive race all day and lost my tires before my final spin. Tried to stay up with Tim and Jeff."
DSR Race 24:
This was another race of attrition; particular for the leaders. Michael Reupert parked it and with a nice lead, Jason Miller slowed down and his day was over. Last year's champion and one of the favorites, Al Beasley Jr. pulled into the pits with a mechanical problem and was out of the race. Marc Hoover inherited the lead as he looked for his first National Championship. However, Al Beasley Sr. was sitting behind him in second position. Several laps later to the shock of the fans, hometown favorite Beasley Sr. pulled off the track. Hoover stayed in front and won his first National Championship.
Top three DSR: Marc Hoover,San Francisco Region; Richard Leslie Jr, Northeast Pennsylvania Region; Vic Moore, Atlanta Region.
"I had a bad qualifying so I started fourth, said Hoover. " I felt I could have been higher. I expected a battle with the guys up front, but they all dropped out. The car ran very well. When I got into the lead I still tried to be aggressive in order to keep my focus." Leslie commented: "I possibly could have caught Marc but realistically it would not have happened unless he broke. Once I got into second place I just wanted to keep the car on the road." Vic Moore was understandably happy. ". I've only been racing 18 months, and I have to learn all I can.... To be on the podium today is beyond my wildest expectations."