Pre Season Updates 2000-01-07

With less than three months until the start of the 2000 Speedvision World Challenge GT and Touring Car season, teams and drivers have been finalizing their plans in anticipation of the April 1-2 weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Speedvision has...

With less than three months until the start of the 2000 Speedvision World Challenge GT and Touring Car season, teams and drivers have been finalizing their plans in anticipation of the April 1-2 weekend at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Speedvision has upped the incentive for team appearance and presentation in the World Challenge Championships by offering $500 per race to the GT or Touring Car team which has the best looking car, team livery and presents the most professional image in the paddock, the pit lane and race track.

Additionally, a year-end prize of $10,000 will be presented to the team which met these standards consistently throughout the season to a level higher than any of its other competitors.

Tom Johnston Racing has purchased Scotty B. White's Vancouver-winning Corvette C5, and will campaign Frank Allers, five-time Player's/GM Series (West), two-time Honda Michelin Series and 1990 Player's Atlantic Champion.

Allers was entered in Viper Speed's second car at Vancouver in 1999, but was forced to withdraw when championship contender and teammate Bobby Archer needed a back-up car to compete in the event. Despite his vast racing experience, Allers will be a Speedvision World Challenge Rookie in 2000.

"I'm excited to be running in the World Challenge," said Allers. "It gets good coverage, has good races and the competition continues to get tougher. We'll certainly be competitive and hope to at least win Rookie of the Year."

Johnston has been in the motor racing industry for 30 years, and was inducted in the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Speedvision GT 1999 season finale winner John Heinricy will return for a full season of competition in 2000, again in a D.J. Race Enterprises Chevrolet Corvette C5. Heinricy finished ninth in the 1999 Drivers' Championship despite attending only half of the events in a developmental season for the team. The long-time Chevrolet test driver did record the model's first pole position at Pikes Peak International Raceway, and followed it up with a win at Laguna Seca Raceway one week later. Heinricy will campaign the No. 39 Aristeo Construction entry, with team owner Danny Kellermeyer driving the No. 37 entry.

Ferrari will make its Speedvision GT Championship debut in 2000 in the hands of Bell Motorsports and lead driver Matt Drendel, of Hickory, N.C. Bell Motorsports most recently, had success with BMW M3s in endurance racing, and has entered two Ferrari 355 Challenge cars with sponsorship coming from Drendel Racing.

Drendell finished second in the 1999 Ferrari Challenge Series and had an amazing run of six-straight flag-to-flag wins in the middle of the season. The driver of the team car will be named at a later date, and Nathan McBride and Doug Nagy will serve as Crew Chiefs. Nagy's last World Challenge effort resulted in a Drivers' Championship with Shane Lewis in the 1996 S2 class.

1997 SCCA Club Racing Touring One National Champion Phil Lasco and two-time Showroom Stock C National Champion Neal Sapp have finalized deals to contest the entire Speedvision World Challenge season. Lasco, of Fenton, Mich., has formed his own team (LAP Motorsports), and will campaign a brand-new Lasco Auto Plaza Dodge Viper in GT. A former ice, boat and kart racer whose career began in 1957 at age 10, Lasco earned his Valvoline Runoffs victory in a Mustang.

Sapp, who topped a deep Honda Civic Si field at the 1999 Valvoline Runoffs, has joined TC Kline's operation and will campaign a BMW 328ci alongside Shauna Marinus and a driver to be named later. Sapp, of Ellicott City, Md., started his motorsports career at SCCA Solo II and Pro Solo events in 1985, winning four championships before starting a road racing career in 1994. Sapp won his first SSC National Championship in 1997 and finished third in 1998.

Veteran World Challenge racer Mark Dixon, of Longmont, Colo., looks to make a full run at the 2000 Speedvision GT Championship with a new Pontiac Firebird. Dixon spent the last year preparing the car, which made two shakedown appearances at PPIR and Laguna Seca, and will carry sponsorship from Herber Motors, although more irons are in the fire.

"We've got the funds to do the season, but there are a couple potential sponsors which could allow us to step up the program and possibly run a Corvette," said Dixon, who has 19 career starts.

Four-time World Challenge race-winner Peter Schwartzott has been a busy man since his last series appearance in 1997, winning three-straight team and manufacturer championships (1997-1999) and two drivers' championships (1997-1998) in the Motorola Cup. He plans a full season return to the Speedvision Touring Car Championship in 2000 with the Acura Integra R that carried him to the Motorola Cup titles in 1998 and 1999.

Schwartzott has contested 24 World Challenge races over seven seasons, dating back to 1990. His four wins came at Texas World Speedway (1991), Road America (1995), Watkins Glen International (1996) and St. Petersburg (1997).

Mirko Racing, which appeared late in 1999 with its Ford Contour SVT, plans a full season of competition with team owner Albert Mirko driving. The team also plans to also field a Mercury Cougar, which recently began construction.

Mirko, a multiple Divisional and Regional champion in SCCA Club Racing, is a veteran of World Challenge and North American Touring Car competition, recording a top-10 finish in the 1995 World Challenge Super Production (Touring) point standings.

Rick Ellinger and Mike Richards plan another Speedvision Touring Car assault in 2000, again campaigning Mercedes-Benz 190s, at least initially.

"Both Rick [Ellinger] and I are working hard trying to find both performance and reliability in the C-230 2.3L model, though not much has shown up yet," said Richards, who hopes to contend for Rookie of the Year honors in 2000. "We also have a member of the team working on a C-280. It should be in testing in early 2000."

-SCCA/SCCA Pro Racing-

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Series PWC
Drivers Shane Lewis , John Heinricy , Peter Schwartzott , Albert Mirko , Rick Ellinger , Scotty B. White