Last weekend, the Grand Am Rolex Series headlined a weekend at Virginia International Raceway that featured the return of the some of the finest sports cars and teams in North America to the rolling hills of the historic picturesque track near Danville, VA. This event, known as the VIR 400, has taken place in October during the last 3 years and was moved to spring for this year's schedule. My plan was to go to the track each day as a commute from Raleigh since there is little lodging in the area and camping at VIR doesn't seem very appealing to me. As the weekend got closer, the weather forecast for Saturday got worse. My pal Mark, who has gone with me the last 2 years decided against going Saturday due to the inclement weather forecast. To his and my defense, I will say, the forecast was for rain, thunderstorms, hail and strong winds - not exactly ideal weather for racing; let alone for spectators.
Grand Am Prototype and GT practice was completed on Saturday morning, while I sat at home in
One hour, 15 min later after a very nice country drive with bright skies, I arrived at VIR and can you imagine that the sky turned black and it started to rain, just as I pulled through the gates. I parked near the track and was surprised to see how many people were at VIR considering the weather and that the main event wasn't until tomorrow. I made my way to the lodge that overlooks the track and found a table and chair plus beer and hot dog to keep me smiling till the rain stopped. On track, the 83 car grid of the Grand Am Cup series was passing by under full course caution as a car had just crashed on the opening lap and taken down part of the protective barrier in turn 2.
The rain was a light sprinkle now and not a downpour that would prevent racing. You see, sports cars turn left and right, just like most other motor racing in the world so they can race in the rain. There are no high banks to drift up and into the wall like with oval racing. So, the race proceeded. As the rain came to an end, the track actually dried off and the sun shown through again. All in all, there were 5 full course cautions due to crashes on track. On one restart, I was sitting in the final downhill turns of the track and watched a driver in his Cadillac CTS try an overtaking manuever which was unsuccessul and launched his car off the track, down a steep hill and causing a loud thud as it impacted the ground. As I wandered around the North section of the track, I shot photos and peeked around the paddock area at the Rolex Series cars and Skip Barber series cars that would race the next day. Many teams had their entire Prototypes stripped down - no engine, no tranny, no suspension. It is always amazing to watch a complete teardown of these cars the night before the race after qualifying.
As the race came to an end, I was unclear who was the leader. Turns out, so was most of the crowd, the telecast commentators, the teams and even Grand Am officials - haha. Due to late race penalties and some going unserved by drivers, the order of the top cars was shuffled around and on the final 2 laps, race control decided the Playboy sponsored Nissan 350Z was the new leader. Who would have guessed? Last I saw on track, a couple Mustangs and a Porsche 911 were the leaders. Out of the 83 car field - about half the cars were running at the finish. So I proceeded to victory lane, unsure what car would be there. As my pictures illustrate, not only was the winning 350Z there but so were some Playboy t-shirt wearing hotties who later turned out to be actual Playmates visiting for the weekend from California.
ended up walking by the paddock garage area of a new team that I didn't recognize. The car was a Prototype sponsored by Ruby Tuesdays and owned by Alex Job Racing - a name I did recognize from the American LeMans Series. A little lady was handing out red Ruby Tuesday Champonship Racing hats and offered me the last one. We started chatting and ended up talking for nearly 30 minutes. She was obviously a major part of the team as she talked about their drivers, the competition, the business of racing, the travel and their new Grand Am team and sponsorship. She told me how they had qualified second for tomorrow's event and how they should have had the pole position but their driver had lifted off the pedal in the final lap of the qualifying race earlier in the day because he thought the race was over. Ooops. Still not too bad she told me considering this is our 3rd race in the series and that they already have a 75lbs weight penalty because of the horsepower generated by their Porsche engines. It wasn't till I was about to go that I asked her who she was - Mrs Alex Job she said. Also known as Holly. Than she shared with me how her husband started as a team owner 18 years ago in sports car racing building his engines at home in a 2 car garage. As I was about to walk away, I realized her hubby - Alex Job had been sitting behind me on a golf kart chatting with a friend the whole time that I was chatting with his wife. He than introduced himself and we shook hands. I wished them both luck and a good race tomorrow.