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Big weekend on the track(s) / August 24, 2017
Michelin GT Challenge is highlight of VIR schedule

Virginia International Raceway welcomes an extremely competitive field for the Michelin GT Challenge feature race Sunday, including one of IMSA’s winningest drivers. There will also be an appearance Sunday by NASCAR icon Richard Petty, the official grand marshal for the weekend.

The highlight of the weekend comes Sunday with the Michelin GT challenge, featuring GT-Le Mans and GT-Daytona competition. That race is set for 1:35-4:15 p.m.

Saturday features the Biscuitville Grand Prix Continental Tire challenge race, from 2:10-4:10 p.m.

Petty’s presence should be a boost, as the NASCAR icon and his grandson, Thad Moffitt, will be signing autographs at the Petty’s Garage transporter from 10-11 a.m.

The race weekend features three days of activity and multiple support series races.

This weekend, one of the key drivers to watch is Scott Pruett. Pruitt, from Roseville, Calif., co-drives the no. 15 Lexus RCF GT3 for 3GT Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTD class along with Jack Hawksworth.

Pruett has earned six top-10 results in nine races this season, including a season-best fifth-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park earlier this month.

Pruett only competed in the first two races of the season last year to assist Lexus and 3GT Racing in the development of the new Lexus RC F GT3 that is participating this year in the GTD class.

The 57-year-old driver has won three times at VIR during his career (2005, 2008 and 2010), including two times behind the wheel of a Lexus-powered Prototype in 2005 and 2008. He also earned pole positions for Lexus at VIR in 2004 and 2009 at the 3.27-mile road course.

Pruett was recently inducted into two motorsports Halls of Fame in June, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Daytona Beach, Fla., and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in California.

Pruett is one of the most-decorated sports car racers in North America and has a storied history with Lexus. He previously drove Lexus-powered prototypes from 2004 to 2009 in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Championship Series where he won three driver’s championships and the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2007 and 2008.

Pruett has earned a record-setting 60 North American sports car victories, including a record-tying five Rolex 24 at Daytona victories and is a five-time GRAND-AM series champion.

Pruett raced in Indy Car, formerly known as CART, for 10 seasons from 1988 to 1999 where he earned two wins, 15 podium positions and was the 1989 Indianapolis 500 co-rookie of the year.

Pruett expressed excitement at returning to VIR.

“I’m so looking forward to getting back to the track, had so much success there. The track is really enjoyable to drive, fun to drive, challenging to drive. And the fans are always great.

“It’s one of those places where I personally always enjoy going,” said Pruett.

Pruett said the Lexus connection has been mutually successful. He appreciates the brand’s transition from a luxury brand to performance-based competitive racing entity.

“When they (Lexus) launched their performance cars, you have to go racing and go out and compete against your peers. … you’re always judged by the competition,” said Pruett. This is also the first time Lexus has gone racing with their own cars at this level.

He said there are 11 different manufacturers in GTD.

Pruett has faced challenges getting to a higher level, and he’s hoping for a podium finish in GTD.

Pruett has enjoyed a remarkable career. He is also excited about the commitment from manufacturers for 2018 and 2019 to IMSA, the International Motor Sports Association sanctioning body.

“I think (IMSA) sports cars have a wonderful chance to eclipse what’s going on in IndyCar,” said Pruett.

“There’s a lot of activity now, in 17. There’s more activity in 2018, and even more in (2019),” said Pruett.

“So, when you look at the Prototype class (not racing at VIR this weekend), when you look at the GT-LM class, and the class II’m in, the GTD, you’re looking at more manufacturer (commitment),” said Pruett.

Pruett sees a ‘huge opportunity’ for continual growth among manufacturers, which translates into more technical support and a sophisticated level of competition.

BRAGGING RIGHTS: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper are taking part in a friendly wager for the race weekend, betting on two drivers who hail from their home states.

The showdown will take place in the two-hour Biscuitville Grand Prix IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race Saturday. McAuliffe has James Clay from Blacksburg and the No. 84 BMW to represent Virginia, while Cooper has selected Ocean Isle, N.C.-native Chad McCumbee and the No. 25 Mazda MX-5 to race for the Tar Heel State.

The rules are simple: whichever car finishes higher in Saturday’s race will determine the winner of the wager, giving bragging rights for its respective state. As part of the fun, the winner will also receive either North Carolina or “Virginia’s Finest” agriculture products.

South Boston Speedway celebrates 60th anniversary

South Boston Speedway is gearing up for its 60th anniversary celebration Saturday, with fireworks, a full racing card, fan appreciation and a wide variety of activities for the fans.

The green flag drops at 7 p.m.

It’s also an important weekend for Peyton Sellers who leads the NASCAR late model track points at SBS.

Sellers has a 434-367 lead in the points over second place driver Bobby McCarty. Local driver Austin Thaxton is third.

It’s part of a warmup of exceptional late model racing to come for area race fans.

Sellers is mindful of the significance of the anniversary weekend at SBS. “It means a lot. My dad (Bert) grew up going to races there and being apart of it,” said Sellers.

“I think that (the anniversary celebration) says a lot for the community there, that they’ve been able to sustain the kind of racing, and things in the neighborhood for that long. The track’s been through several owners,it’s maintained a premier facility for race fans,” said Sellers.

Sellers is close to wrapping up the 2017 SBS track title.

“We’ve got a good lead. Things are going well, said Sellers, who said as long as the team doesn’t falter, “we’ll be in good shape.

Points battles for the other divisions at SBS (limited sportsman, pure stock and hornets) are still up for grabs.

The regular season finale at SBS is Sept. 16.

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