Virginia (VIR): Season finale preview

Still plenty at stake as Trans-Am Series concludes its 2002 season at VIR Speedfest. CLEARWATER, Fla. (October 22, 2002) -- The chase for the championship may be over, but much remains to be settled as the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich...

Still plenty at stake as Trans-Am Series concludes its 2002 season at VIR Speedfest.

CLEARWATER, Fla. (October 22, 2002) -- The chase for the championship may be over, but much remains to be settled as the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup wraps up its 2002 season this weekend with the VIR SpeedFest Presented by the Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. (1 p.m. ET Sunday, live, SPEED Channel).

Boris Said, winner of the 2002 BFGoodrich Tires Cup, will be looking for his eighth victory of the season and his fifth in a row when the Trans-Am Series returns to VIR for the first time since its inaugural season in 1966. The initial Trans-Am event at VIR was won by Tom Yeager, who will serve as Grand Marshal of this weekend's SpeedFest.

Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) clinched the 2002 Trans-Am Series title in grand fashion by recording his fourth consecutive victory at Road Atlanta earlier this month. While Said brings an insurmountable 327-263 points lead over second-place Butch Leitzinger into Sunday's race, the remainder of the top-10 finishing order is far from decided.

Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette), coming off a podium finish of second at Road Atlanta, is only two points ahead of three-time Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi for runner-up honors in the championship. With 261 points, Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/MatrixOne/Futaba Jaguar XKR) is strongly positioned to finish among the top three drivers in the championship for the fifth consecutive season, including title runs in 1998,'99 and last year.

Only six points separate fourth-place Johnny Miller (#64 Automation Direct/Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) from fifth-place Stuart Hayner (#02 Trenton Forging Chevrolet Corvette), and another six separate sixth-place Randy Ruhlman (#49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) from seventh-place Tony Ave (#53 Trilithic Panoz Esperante).  Miller enters the weekend with 237 points, followed by Hayner (231), Ruhlman (206) and Ave (200).

A maximum of 34 points is available in this weekend's season finale, including 30 for the race victory.

Sunday's race will be contested on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course at VIR, which features 130 feet of elevation change. Virginia International Raceway first operated from 1957 through '74, then was dormant for 26 years before reopening for the 2000 racing season.

"I'm looking forward to racing the long course," notes Said, who has tested several NASCAR Winston Cup cars on the 2.25-mile North Course at VIR, but has never driven the long course, except in a rental car. "Since the Trans-Am championship has already been decided, it's going to be an all-out war.

"Just my kind of race," Said sums up. "I can't wait."

In addition to the top seven drivers in the points championship, candidates for victory at VIR include Justin Bell (#40 Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience Chevrolet Corvette), Michael Lewis (#12 AmeriSuites Jaguar XKR) and Tomy Drissi (#5 Daredevil/Pyro Jaguar XKR). Bell is the most recent winner of the three, having captured last year's season finale on the streets of Houston en route to the 2001 AmeriSuites Rookie of the Year Award. He is also more familiar with the course than most of his competitors, as Bell currently conducts a driving school at VIR.

Following Sunday's season finale, champion Boris Said and the ACS Express Racing Team will be the featured honorees during the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Awards Banquet, to be held on Monday, Oct. 28 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.

-scca pro racing/imsa-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Tony Ave , Justin Bell , Tomy Drissi , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Stuart Hayner , Michael Lewis , Tom Gloy , Tom Yeager