Trans Am History Runs Deep at VIRginia International Raceway
Virginia International Raceway will continue its long history with the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli on September 25-27 with a unique doubleheader for the Heacock Classic Gold Cup.
For the first time, Trans Am will hold separate races for the TA/XGT/SGT/GT and TA2® powered by AEM classes on Saturday, and then a combined event on Sunday for all five classes. The two-day race event will be live streamed on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App.
VIR first hosted what was then known as the Trans-American Sedan Championship in the fourth race of its inaugural 1966 season. Bob Johnson and Tom Yeager won the VIR 400 in a Ford Mustang, completing 124 laps, averaging 75.44 mph to lead the 36-car field.
Four NASCAR stars were entered in that event. David Pearson – en route to his first of three NASCAR Cup Series titles – destroyed Brock Yates’ Dodge Dart in practice and did not race. Richard Petty, the 1964 champ and 1966 Daytona 500 winner, got stuck in the mud three times in 12 laps and failed to finish in Charlie Rainville’s Plymouth Barracuda. Local star Wendell Scott from nearby Danville went off into the infield, where he broke the suspension on his Dart trying to jump a ditch. Pioneer Curtis Turner was the only stock car star to be running at the finish, placing 22nd in a Mustang.
The 1966 event was Trans Am’s last visit to VIR until 2002, when Boris Said won in Ford Mustang to wrap up the TA title with his fifth straight victory – and eighth of the season.
“I remember going there in 2002, and VIR was a great track,” Said recalled. “That was the 100th win for the Ford Mustang in Trans Am. I remember that the guy who won that first race in a Mustang was there for the race.”
Yeager, who gave Ford its first two victories in Trans Am with Johnson at Mid-America and VIR in 1966, was the Grand Marshal for Trans Am’s return in 2002.
Seventeen years later, Said returned to VIR and won the 2019 Trans Am 100-mile feature.
“That was a really good time,” he said. “I just ran off and hid. There’s nothing wrong with that. Now, I hope to come back this year with a brand-new car. We shook it down a few weeks ago, and it ran good.”
Said’s 2002 triumph came at the expense of Tony Ave, who finished 4.902-seconds back in a Panoz Esperante, followed by the Corvettes of Justin Bell and Butch Leitzinger.
It was seven years until the series’ next visit in 2009. With the exception of 2012, Trans Am has been a regular visitor every year since.
Klaus Graf won the 2009 race in a Jaguar XKR fielded by Greg Pickett, while R.J. Lopez won the following year in a Corvette.
The 2011 weekend saw Tony Ave earn his second VIR pole en route to capturing the TA victory in a Corvette, while Bob Stretch won theTA2® class in a Camaro.
When Trans Am returned in 2013, Simon Gregg won from the pole in Jim Derhaag’s Corvette – opening seven years of great racing.
Ernie Francis Jr. is the lone four-time winner at VIR, winning in TA3 American Muscle in 2014-15; TA4 in 2016; and Trans Am in 2017. However, the six-time champion has struggled in his past two visits, finishing 14th in 2018 and second last year.
Paul Fix II is a three-time winner, taking the TA feature for Ave from 2014 through 1016. Cameron Lawrence won TA2® in 2013 and 2015, while Steve Davison captured TA4 in 2017 and GT last year. Randy Mueller won TA3 International in 2015, along with TA3 in 2016.
Other winners include Adam Andretti, TA2® in 2014; Cindi Lux, TA3 in 2017; Mark Boden, TA3 in 2018; Scott Lagasse Jr., TA2® in 2018; Lawrence Loshak, TA in 2018; and Tim Kezman, SGT in 2019.