Sebring prerace notes

What: Round One of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup. This is the season-opener for the Trans-Am Series 36th season. This weekend’s race, the Trans-Am Series 100, will be the 392nd in Trans-Am Series history. Television: ...

What: Round One of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup. This is the season-opener for the Trans-Am Series 36th season. This weekend’s race, the Trans-Am Series 100, will be the 392nd in Trans-Am Series history.

Television: Friday’s race will be carried on a same-day taped delay basis at 8:30 (Eastern) on Speedvision.

Race Length: 27 laps of the 3.7 mile circuit for 99.9 miles.

Weekend Notes

Prize Money: With potentially more than $2.0 million in total season-long payout, the 2001 season will be the richest in the series illustrious 36-year history. This weekend’s race also begins the run for the prestigious BFGoodrich Tires Cup, given annually to the winner of the Drivers’ Championship. Beginning this season, the winner of the Drivers’ Championship will pocket $100,000 with a total year-end points fund payout of $300,000.

New Marques To Make Debut: The 2001 season will see the debut of the new Panoz Esperante and Dodge Viper as well as newly-styled Chevrolet Corvettes and Ford Mustangs. Last year’s championship winning car, the Qvale Mangusta, returns along with Jaguars, Corvettes, Camaros and Mustags (existing Trans-Am Series bodywork is allowed until 2003).

Television: The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup will makes its first live major network television appearance on July 21 from Sears Point on CBS Sports. The races at both Detroit and Cleveland will also be broadcast by CBS on a one-day taped delay basis. The other seven races on the series’ schedule will be broadcast by longtime media partner Speedvision.

New Faces: Several newcomers will make their series debut this week at Sebring. Justin Bell (#40 Justin Bell Motorsports Experience Chevrolet Corvette), Kevin Allen (#44 Eagle Racing Development Chevrolet Camaro), Gary Longo (#53 Wickes Lumber Trilithic Panoz Esperante), Thomas Sloe (#56 Russell Automotive Center Preowned Chevrolet Corvette), Cliff Ebben (#68 Hoerr Racing Products Penzoil Ford Mustang Cobra), Jim Matthews (#69 Tom Gloy Racing Qvale Mangusta), John Baucom (#86 Safe-Quip Ford Mustang) and Dana Brewer (#98 Wireless Chevrolet Camaro) will all compete for the Rookie-of-the-Year Award, given annually to the rookie who earns the most Drivers’ Championship points.

Wilden Replaces Reese In #66: Kenny Wilden, winner of the Trans-Am Series race last fall at Laguna Seca, will replace Leighton Reese in the #66 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette. Reese, who led the season-opener last season at Sebring and later picked up his first career win at Texas, was injured in a recent skiing accident in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Reese will miss the Sebring race and is hoping to return to the car in Long Beach. Wilden was the first winner of the Simple Green Clean Sweep Award when he won the race at Laguna Seca after starting from the pole, setting the fastest race lap and leading the most laps. He picked up the largest payday in Trans-Am Series history with the victory.

Four Former Champions In Trans-Am Series: This season there will be four former champions involved in the chase for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup. Brian Simo (#88 Tommy Bahama Qvale Mangusta) returns to defend the Drivers’ Championship that he won in 2000. Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls HomeLink Jaguar XKR) was the series champion following the 1998 and 1999 season. Greg Pickett was the series champion in 1978 and will run a limited schedule this season. Tom Gloy, the series champion in 1984, is the owner of the #69 Tom Gloy Racing Qvale Mangusta driven by Jim Matthews and the #88 car driven by Simo.

Welcome Back: Returning to the Trans-Am Series this season is a pair of former Rookies-of-the-Year and one of the series’ all-time greats. Tommy Archer (#36 Motor City True Performance Dodge Viper) was the Trans-Am Series Rookie-of-the-Year winner in 1992. He holds a pair of Trans-Am victories, at Detroit in 1992 and at Lime Rock Park in 1993. Steve Petty (Greg Pickett Racing Ford Mustang Cobra) picked up rookie honors at the conclusion of the 1991 season. Greg Pickett, Last competed in the series in 1997. He is at nor near the top in almost every driver performance category. Second in career starts with 153; first in top-10 finishes with 107; second in top-five finishes, 74; tied for second with Paul Gentilozzi for podium finishes, 47.

Pit Stop Races: Also new this season will be three mandatory pit stop races. The firs mandatory pit stop race of the season will be on May 20 at Mosport Park. Additional pit stop races will be at Portland and Laguna Seca. All of the pitstop races will be 125 miles in length.

New Stewards: The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup has appointed Dick Templeton (San Leandro, Calif.) as the Series’ Chief Steward for the 2001 season. The series has also appointed James Foyle (Orange, Texas) as the Operating Steward. Templeton and Foyle bring over 45 years of combined racing experience to the Trans-Am Series.

Sebring Trans-Am Race History: The Trans-Am series competed at Sebring in 1966, 1967, and 1968. The series returned to Sebring in 1999, holding the 1999 season finale October 17, 1999 and the 2000 season opener on March 17, 2000. The Trans-Am series’ very first race was held at Sebring on March 25, 1966. The event was a 4-hour race encompassing both classes, Over and Under Two Liter. The series returned to Sebring on March 31, 1967 for another 4-hour race encompassing the Over and Under Two Liter classes. In 1968, the Trans-Am contested two races at Sebring. On March 22, the Under Two Liter cars competed in a “standalone” 3-hour event. On March 23, the Over Two Liter entries competed as part of the classic Sebring 12 Hours FIA World Championship series endurance race for sports cars.

- David Lang

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Justin Bell , Paul Gentilozzi , Leighton Reese , Greg Pickett , Jim Matthews , John Baucom , Kevin Allen , Tom Gloy , Steve Petty , Dana Brewer