ROLL ON PONY, ROLL ON
As it once was so aptly put, "In the rolling hills of Southern Virginia, there exists a rolling course known as V.I.R.", and thereby hangs a tale.
If you've never been to V.I.R. you ought to know, that if you ever do go, it's going to rain. There's no way around it. It always has, and I'm reasonably sure it always will. So started the first V.I.R. 400 TransAmerican Race weekend.
Starting with a light drizzle Friday night that ended a 60 day drought for Southern Virginia, the rains slowly increased to the torrential downpour that greeted everyone Saturday morning. So it went all day Saturday with hardly any let-up. Tech was late, practice was late, and most everything else for that matter. Finally after a tent was erected to run Tech in, things began to roll. Practice was like a hydroplane race, complete with 20 foot rooster tails. During Qualifying Pete Feistman took his and Russ Norburn's Mustang around in 2:37.2 for a firm clench on pole position. Considering that the track record for A sedans was 2:30.5 (in the dry) ole Pete was doing some fair honking to come within 6.7 seconds in the pouring rain. Second place went to the very fast Cortina of Moffatt/Fisher which had so soundly tromped everyone at Bryar two weeks previous. From Moffatt's 2:40.2 the rest of the qualifying times ranged all the way to 3:23.4 to fill out the 36 car field.
After Saturday's feet soaking, bone chilling rains, the cloudless, sun filled, Sunday morning sky was enough to make even Scrooge himself happy. The Track Paddock washed up some late entries, notably the Darts of Group 44 and Brock Yates who were hustling for some early practice. The NASCAR boys in the forms of Richard Petty, Wendell Scott, Curtis Turner, and such who had also just arrived from Saturday night's Grand National in Nashville, Tennessee also turning a few "get familiar" types of laps before the start.
The Brock Yates/Dave Pearson Dart then again was something else. Unless you've hung around the NASCAR Circuit a bit you just don't know about their roll bar set-ups, such was Yates' Dart. By God, that's security! There's just no way for anything to get to you with that type of setup. Great rollbar, but the engine was something else. Pearson scattered it all over Southern Virginia on the 3rd practice lap and "the Assassins" challenge was thus abruptly ended.
At 11:43 EDT starter Bonner Sams padded upon the track in his tennis shod feet, dropped the "Big Green", and off they went in a blast of rubber and smoke with Feistman hell bent for leather in front in his Mustang with Richard Petty's Barracuda honking along in second just ahead of the Johnson/ Yeager Mustang. First time around Feistman turned a scorching 2:38 from the standing start and was pulling away from everything in sight.
On the 5th Lap Petty tried too hard and took to the "Giggly Weeds" between Stations 3 and 4 and got stuck in the soft ground from Saturday's monsoons. By the time he could rock free he had dropped to 21st place so he really poured on the coal and by the 10th Lap had worked up to 10th, but on Lap 12, you guessed it, high-ho weeds, right in the same place, but with a blown engine - scratch one Barracuda.
By now Feistman had a sizeable lead with Tom Yeager in second, followed by Bruce Jennings in a Barracuda, Dick Thompson in a Mustang, then the Atwood/Gardner Cortina. By Lap 16 things started getting hot for lst place. Yeager had brought his car within a few yards of Feistman, but Pete hung on to first. In the two liter category was between the Alan Mann Cortina of Atwood/Gardner and the Alfa GTA of Harry Theodoracopulos and Sam Posey. Nose to tail and exchanging leads the battle ranged onward and at 20 Laps Atwood was Chief Honcho in 2 liters and Feistman had strolled on to a five second lead over Yeager.
On Lap 42 Feistman pitted and Yeager took the lead for one lap until he pitted and Atwood's Cortina got the honors for three laps, then that's all she wrote. Norburn replaced Feistman and on Lap 46 a number 57 white Mustang zapped back into lst place. The Norburn/Feistman Mustang was running like a train. Nothing could even get near them and it looked like a hand's down win.
By the 73rd Lap it was pit time for the Mustang gang and baby, that's where it hit the fan. Norburn came in first and was overheating and by the time the steam had cleared and water was added Bob Johnson had the lead he needed. Feistman went out like "Hell's A Breakin"' and was gaining a little but Johnson's crew had the edge in pit stop timing and that's where this race counted. By the 124th Lap Feistman had worked up within 9 seconds of Johnson but it was all over as Bonner Sams dropped the checker for Johnson, who had covered the 400.52 miles with an astonishing 75.353 mph average! So the Yeager/Johnson combination added the VIR-400 to their Mid-America win to surge ahead in the Trans-American Championship with two wins.
In the two liter class it was the Kwech/Andrey combination in their Alfa GTA that took the marbles adding to their 4th Place at Sebring and 1st at Mid-America in the two liter category.
With the last two Trans-American series races being soundly trounced by these two cars it looks like "The Great Race" at Marlboro could turn out to be just that. Peter Kernert, Alan Mann's team manager said that they will have 3 Cortinas to challenge the two liter crowd there, but in the "over 2" Class it looks like Yeager/Johnson again. O.K. Russ and Pete! Let's add a little Dowguard Coolant and get honkin' on those pit stops! Let's hear it for a white number 57 Mustang at Marlboro!