Danville, VA - April 30, 2001 - The first round of the American City Racing League Eastern Division was comparable to racing at one of the most beautiful golf resorts in the country. But instead of a golf course, Virginia International Raceway is...
Danville, VA - April 30, 2001 - The first round of the American City Racing League Eastern Division was comparable to racing at one of the most beautiful golf resorts in the country. But instead of a golf course, Virginia International Raceway is a "Motorsports Country Club" for race cars. The race was run in conjunction with the Ferrari Challenge series, a first visit for both venues to the 3.27 mile stunningly manicured facility on rolling hills just 12 miles southeast of Danville, Virginia.
Hotshoe Michael Johnson of Team St. Louis, a cast member of MTV's 1995 "The Real World," gave early warning in practices and qualifying that he was the man to beat at VIR. His only other ACRL race was in 1998 at Pikes Peak where he finished first, just ahead of his father, Duke. Michael is the team owner of ArchAngel Motorsports that won the 2000 SRP2 Championship and the SRP2 Class at the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Mike captured the VIR pole and was the only driver to break into the 1:57s, covering the field by more that two seconds. Rookie Vic Kicera (Team Boston)looked to be a threat with some 1:58s in practice but couldn't duplicate his time in qualifying. The next three qualifying positions were within .188 second with AJ Smith (Team Philadelphia), Kicera, and New York's Dan Dubrovich. Fifth position went to 2000 SCCA National S2 Champion, Jeff Clinton (Team St. Louis), followed by rookie Eric Langbein (Washington, DC), Duke Johnson ( St. Louis), David Dullum (Washington, DC), John Burke (New York), and Bob Liebert (Columbus) filling out the top ten. Team Boston's Bill Haney took the pole for S16 ahead of teammate, John Faulkner, 2nd 2000 S16 Driver Points. Jeff Wayland (New York) was the single CS2 competitor in the 8th spot with Philadelphia's Jim Stengel in 14th.
Michael's win at VIR, 1.645 seconds ahead of Team Philadelphia's AJ Smith, (2001 SRP Class Winner of 24 Hours of Daytona) was not uncontested. On the start, he had just enough speed to hold the inside line into Turn 1 from Smith who was being hounded by an impressive Jeff Clinton who had charged past Kicera and Dubrovich for third position. On Lap 4, Kicera spun his Lola to the outside of turn 2 under heavy braking to avoid contact with Clinton and had to wait for the entire field to go by, joining the back of the pack. Dullum passed Duke Johnson on the front straightaway and Johnson almost overcooked it dropping 2 wheels off on the outside of 1, returning in 6th position. There were three distinct packs at this time behind leader M. Johnson; a three car battle of Smith, Clinton, Dubrovich, then Dullum, D. Johnson, Langbein, and Liebert followed by the S16 battle of Team Boston's Haney, Faulkner, Wayland (Team New York CS2), and Stengel (Philadelphia) with Kicera charging hard recovering from his earlier spin. Team New York's John Burke suffered bad luck when his clutch failed causing him to take the green flag in pit lane and retire to the paddock.
Clinton took advantage of a missed shift by Smith and made a pass in the back straight to takeover second spot. On lap 5, Dullum, running in fifth, misjudged the cresting, right hand Turn 15 and spun to the outside. Most of the other competitors got thru cleanly, but teammate Eric Langbein, couldn't avoid a collision and collected Dullum's nose, breaking off a substantial chunk of the fiberglass and lodging it in his own radiator inlet. This soon overheated the engine and he gradually dropped back with a fading power plant. Michael pulled gradually away from the pack until a full course yellow came out on lap 7 and the field tightened up as the pace car slowed the field down for 4 laps while Dullum's car and bodywork were removed.
The pack took the green again in a race that would now go by time, not laps. AJ pulled a slingshot maneuver on the inside to go from third place to the race lead going into turn 1 on lap 11 and the following tight pack had battles going on throughout the field. When congratulated on his charge to the lead, Smith said, " It was easy. I had my crew chief, Chris Schneider, shouting in my ear, ready, ready, READY, GO!, GO!, GO! - - -just in case I couldn't see the green flag!" But that lead lasted a little less than a lap as AJ and M. Johnson went into the turn 14 "roller coaster" side by side then nose to tail again until Johnson got better grip at turn 17, finally passing Smith just before start/finish, which was now displaying the white flag.
In the meantime, Liebert had driven his newly acquired Carbir on the inside of Duke at turn 1, continued side by side, Liebert slightly ahead into turn 2, then 3 when the two made contact, resulting in an off by Duke. The S16 battle at this stage was moot as John Faulkner had fallen a lap behind due to an earlier pit stop for an overheating engine. But they were still racing nose to tail and after the turn 3 incident, Haney pointed a hard charging Duke by in the back straight. As they entered "oak tree" corner, Johnson carried a bit too much speed and spun off to the left and came backwards across the track in a dust cloud. Faulkner went left, Haney went right but couldn't avoid the perpendicular contact with the end of Duke's tail, resulting in a large hole in Haney's left front fender and scrape down the length of the car. Duke pulled into the pits on lap 10 with a loose damaged tail section. In the meantime, Liebert got by an overheating Langbein to move into the 5th spot just behind Clinton (3rd) and Dubrovich (4th). Langbein fell victim to Kicera on the last lap and had to settle for 7th position. A good race was still going on with Haney, Faulkner, Wayland and Stengel with Haney taking the S16 win ahead of Faulkner.
Michael held onto the lead to take the checker with a 1.645 second margin over Smith. Very satisfied, Johnson said "It was reassuring to find I've still got the touch. And it's a real treat to get back and go racing with my dad." AJ commented that it was a really great race and "the VIR track is a true Grand Prix track." Third spot went to Clinton. Dan Dubrovich, the winner of the first two Western Division S2 races at Phoenix, picked up fourth with Liebert holding onto 5th, .
Team New York edged out Team Boston to win the beautiful silver City Cup with points scored by Dubrovich (4th), Wayland (8th) and Burke (14th).
The American City Racing League Eastern Division will race next at Mid Ohio Sports Course in Mansfield, OH with Grand Am on June 10. The next ACRL Western Division race is with NASCAR at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California on May 20, with a strong contingent of Eastern Division competitors expected to take part.
The ACRL Eastern series, using a unique team racing concept, Ford-engined Sports 2000, and Toyota-powered Sports 1600 cars, with drivers required to run Hoosier ACRL-stamped R-45 compound tires and Union 76 110 Octane Leaded Racing Fuel.
<pre> Season Points SPORTS 2000 CLASS 1 Michael Johnson 102 2 A.J. Smith 93 3 Jeff Clinton 88 4 Dan Dubrovich 84 5 Bob Liebert 80 6 Vic Kicera 76 7 Eric Langbein 73 8 Jim Stengel 70 9 Duke Johnson 67 10 David Dullum 64 11 John Burke 61
SPORTS 1600 CLASS 1 Bill Haney 102 2 John Faulkner 93
CLASSIC SPORTS 2000 CLASS 1 Jeff Wayland 102
CITY TEAM 1 New York 211 2 Boston 206 3 St. Louis 190 4 Philadelphia 157 5 Washington, D.C. 131 6 Columbus 80
2001 SEASON EASTERN DIVISION POINTS STANDINGS (AFTER 1 RACE)
SPORTS 2000 EASTERN DIVISION DRIVER POINTS (AFTER 1 RACE): 1 Michael Johnson 102 Dan Dubrovich 102* 3 A.J. Smith 93 4 Jeff Clinton 88 5 Bob Liebert 80 6 Vic Kicera 76 7 Eric Langbein 73 8 Jim Stengel 70 9 Duke Johnson 67 10 David Dullum 64 11 John Burke 61 *Crossover points from Western Division
SPORTS 1600 EASTERN DIVISION DRIVER POINTS (AFTER 1 RACE): 1 Bill Haney 102 2 John Faulkner 93
CLASSIC SPORTS 2000 EASTERN DIVISION POINTS (AFTER 1 RACE): 1 Jeff Wayland 102
CITY TEAM POINTS STANDINGS - EASTERN DIVISION (AFTER 1 RACE): 1 New York 211 2 Boston 206 3 St. Louis 190 4 Philadelphia 157 5 Washington, D.C. 131 6 Columbus 80