Drivers looking forward to season finale at VIR

Alton, Va. (Oct. 2) -- The stars of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup are anticipating an exciting finish to the 2002 season when the series visits VIRginia International Raceway over the weekend of Oct. 25-27. The Trans-Am Series...

Alton, Va. (Oct. 2) -- The stars of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup are anticipating an exciting finish to the 2002 season when the series visits VIRginia International Raceway over the weekend of Oct. 25-27.

The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup, America's oldest continually active professional road racing series, will headline the VIR SpeedFest presented by the Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience. The weekend will also include the season finales for the SPEED World Challenge Series, the U.S. Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship, the Pro Spec Racer Ford Series and the Pro Miata Challenge.

The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup was founded in 1966, and its fourth event during that inaugural season was held at VIR, a four-hour event won by Tom Yeager and Bob Johnson in a Ford Mustang. The VIR SpeedFest weekend will be the series' first appearance at the track since that race, and Yeager will be on hand as the race's grand marshal, as will the car with which he won the race.

The series has two races remaining before the VIR SpeedFest season finale, one this weekend at Miami as a support race to the CART Champ Cars and American Le Mans Series, and another next weekend at Road Atlanta as part of the ALMS' Petit Le Mans weekend.

The championship is shaping up to be a fight to the finish, so fans at VIR can look forward to a no-holds-barred shoot-out. Popular road racing veteran Boris Said, who also occasionally competes in NASCAR, currently holds a 40-point lead over three-time series champion Paul Gentilozzi, followed by Gentilozzi's teammate Johnny Miller (27 points further back), series rookie Butch Leitzinger (eight more points back) and Stu Hayner (a futher eight points back). With 30 points available to win in each of the final three races, plus bonus points for taking the pole, leading a lap and leading the most laps in a race, the competition will be intense. Further complicating the issue is a 29-point penalty given to Leitzinger that is under appeal and, if rescinded, would propel him to third in the title chase.

"The championship is far from over," Gentilozzi, who drives the No. 3 Johnson Controls Jaguar XKR, said recently. "Until Boris goes into the last race with a 34-point lead, it's still up for grabs, and we're going to keep putting the pressure on."

Although the series hasn't been to VIR since 1966, a number of the drivers have driven the track and are looking forward to the Trans-Am race, which will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel.

Said, who drives the No. 33 ACS Express Panoz Esperante, has done a lot of testing with Winston Cup cars at VIR for various teams, and is a huge fan of the track.

"We come up every year and test Cup cars here," he said during a recent test for the Jasper Motorsports Winston Cup team. "It's an awesome facility. You would never believe it, until you come through the gate, how nice it is."

His experience on the track should stand him in good stead for the Trans-Am finale, which he anticipates will be a terrific show for the fans.

"It's going to be great," he said. "It's got everything; it's tight and twisty and really fast, so it should be an exciting Trans-Am race."

Miller, who drives the No. 64 Automationdirect.com/Eaton/Cutler Hammer Jaguar XKR, was at VIR this summer for the SCCA Oak Tree Nationals, during which he drove at GT1-class car and familiarized himself with the challenging 3.27-mile circuit. He agrees with Said that VIR is perfectly suited for the Trans-Am cars.

"I suspect the Trans-Am cars will break 180 mph," he said, "and it will truly be an impressive race. Through the Esses two-wide will be a lot of fun," he added with a laugh, "and you know we'll do it! It's going to be a really neat race course. Even though it's a road course, because of the elevation changes there are a lot of places to watch where you see a big, panoramic view of the course."

Miller thinks VIR will be a good place to settle the championship fight.

"I think it will," he said, "because it's kind of a manly track, you know? To pass here you'd better be ready, and there are quite a few places to pass, and there's quite a few places to block people and really shut 'em down. You catch somebody up in the Esses and just get in front of them a little bit, you can kill their entire lap. They'll just be wasting their time, you know, because there's a lot of speed there. So, yeah, it'll be a gunfight."

Leitzinger has many laps at VIR in high-powered prototypes, but has never driven his Tommy Bahama-sponsored No. 88 Trans-Am Corvette on the circuit.

"I've tested here quite a few times, with Cadillac and with Dyson Racing," he said. "It's a fantastic place. The layout has a little bit of everything, and all the turns are a challenge. It's a track that takes a while to get used to, and to master, so I'm happy that I've had so many laps here. It's a beautiful setting, too. It's really kind of a throwback, and I think that a lot of other tracks that are being built now should come down here and look at this, because this is ideal."

He is looking forward to getting his first crack at VIR with his Trans-Am car.

"I think it's going to be pretty fun," he said. "It's going to be tough, because there aren't that many places where you can make a clean pass, so I think there are going to be some desperate moves from some desperate people trying to get by, so it should be very exciting. The pit stops will add something to it as well. When you get 25 big muscle cars coming around here, I think that should be a neat show."

Advance three-day Super Tickets for the VIR SpeedFest will be priced at $45, with one-day tickets for Sunday at $35, and will be available online through Oct. 17 and at various ticket outlets. After that, three-day Super Tickets will be priced at $50, with one-day tickets selling for $10 (Friday), $25 (Saturday) and $40 (Sunday). For ticket outlet information or online ticket sales, visit the track's website at www.virclub.com. VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.

VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River 12 miles east of Danville, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit (which is also designed to be operated as two autonomous, full-service courses), VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club, and the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park. The newest addition to the facility is the VIR Euro Rally School and Corporate Motorsport Experience, which features four rally stages plus a kart track, motocross track, ATV and SUV training grounds and an advanced safari course. Future plans include the VIR Gallery, a showroom for high-end collector and racing cars, and resort lodging.

VIR made history from 1957 to 1974 and is doing so again. The renovated original circuit has 17 challenging turns and 130 feet of elevation change. In addition to spectator events, the track is also available to rent for testing, driving schools and club days.

For more information, contact VIR at 888-RACE099 or visit the track's website at www.virclub.com.

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Justin Bell , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Tom Yeager