LIVONIA, MICHIGAN (June 12, 2000) - When Soenen Motorsports first announced it would enter the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series this year, many of racing's insiders discounted the impact of a brand new team competing in America's most competitive...
LIVONIA, MICHIGAN (June 12, 2000) - When Soenen Motorsports first announced it would enter the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series this year, many of racing's insiders discounted the impact of a brand new team competing in America's most competitive sedan road racing championship. Now, four races later, the suburban Detroit-based team has established itself as a leading force in this year's championship, and is clearly positioned to challenge for the front in this weekend's fifth round at the Tenneco Automotive Detroit Grand Prix.
Armed with Trans-Am driving ace Chris Neville, as well as championship-winning crew chief Mike Seymour, Soenen captured a podium finish in its very first Trans-Am race, with Neville taking the second spot in Sebring. The second round at Charlotte proved the result was no fluke, with Neville finishing fourth. He again appeared on his way to finishing second at Long Beach, until contact with another driver on the last lap relegated him to 16th at the finish. Mosport proved to be the team's most challenging race thus far, where they ran as high as 7th, but eventually finished 12th. Neville is currently fourth overall in the 2000 BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am championship points standings.
"We're looking forward to having a strong performance in Detroit," said Neville, who drives the #84 Soenen Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra. "This is a big race for us. The team is based here, their family and friends are here, and it's always nice to have a solid finish in front of all of the manufacturers. The key to doing well at Detroit is qualifying near the front. It's a pretty tough place to pass and it's critical to stay out of trouble. The layout is a good combination of a road course and a city street circuit. It's more like a road course, with very few 90-degree corners, only you have to be careful of the walls. I really enjoy the track and am looking forward to a great race this weekend."
Neville, now in his third year of Trans-Am competition after driving for Derhaag Motorsports in 1998 and Huffaker/Qvale in 1999, is no stranger to Detroit's tricky 2.361-mile Belle Isle street course. Last year, he finished fourth in a season that included ten top five finishes. In his first appearance to Belle Isle in 1998, Neville finished in the sixth position. As the 1998 Trans-Am Rookie-of-the-Year, Neville captured fourth overall in the season championship, then went on to finish third overall last year.
Seymour, who engineers Neville as well as oversees Soenen Motorsports' operations, is certainly a key to the team's early season success. Formerly with Roush Racing, Seymour's professional accomplishments include multiple victories in Trans-Am, the 24-Hours of Daytona, the 12-Hours of Sebring and one IMSA championship title, to name just a few.
Neville, 28, of Scottsdale, Arizona, came to the Trans-Am series after many successful years of stock car and street stock competition. His Trans-Am record includes one win (Road Atlanta, 1999), 21 top fives, 10 podiums, one pole (Long Beach, 1999) and 15 Fast Five qualifying positions. In addition, Neville captured the 1998 TotalTel Long Distance award for finishing the most miles over the course of the season.
Born and raised in Elgin, Illinois, Neville graduated from Purdue University with an emphasis on communications. Like many of today's rising stars, his racing roots began in karts, in the 80cc and 125cc shifter classes. His professional racing debut came in 1991 at Road America in the IMSA Firehawk showroom stock series, combined with several successful years in SCCA World Challenge competition. He took his first World Challenge pole and victory at Mosport in 1992, and received the SCCA Pro Racing Jim Cook Memorial Award in 1993. In 1996, Neville made the jump to the GT America Stock Car series, taking two wins, two poles and four podiums en route to third overall and the 1996 Rookie-of-the-Year title. A return to the GT series in 1997 resulted in three wins, five poles, 11 podiums and second overall. He also made his Trans-Am debut in 1997 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, maintaining his Trans-Am rookie status for 1998.
While 2000 marks the first year of competition for Soenen Motorsports, the team is no stranger to the SCCA Trans-Am series or the professional racing concept. Founded by Don Soenen, a Detroit-area pioneer in electronic sensors and vehicle emission analyzing systems, the race team combines more than 50 years of motorsports experience and reflects his commitment to excellence and drive to succeed. Based out of a purpose-built, 11,000 square foot headquarters in Livonia, Soenen's Ford Mustang Cobra features a Weaver chassis and engines prepared by the Lozano Brothers.
Round five of the 12-race BFGoodrich Trans-Am Series at the Belle Isle street course in Detroit, Michigan, begins this Friday, June 16, with practice and qualifying, then another practice session on Saturday morning before the 42-lap, 99.162-mile race at 4:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time. The race will be televised on the Speedvision Network on Monday, June 26, at 8:00 pm (EDT) with an encore presentation on Tuesday, June 27, at 12:00 am (EDT). Round six takes place on Saturday, July 1 at the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland, part of the CART FedEx Championship weekend, in Cleveland, Ohio.