- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

Drivers lauded the temporary track and facilities at the RFK Stadium circuit yesterday after their first practice runs in morning and afternoon sessions. The Trans-Am series held the only race qualifying session.
"It shows a professionalism I haven't seen in a street or temporary course in a long time," said Trans-Am driver Johnny Miller, who qualified fifth for today's 125-mile race.
Added Trans-Am points leader Ors Said: "I've raced on a lot of temporary street courses, and this is the best I've raced on in the United States."
Drivers had concerns about the race surface coming into the inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix. Road races are often run on city streets, which come with their own set of grooves and nicks; few are paved specially for the event. And with the quick construction associated with tracks such as the RFK Stadium circuit in addition to the fact that it's the inaugural race drivers weren't sure what awaited them in the nation's capital.
"Their expectations were low," race cofounder Chris Lencheski said. "This has been a pleasant surprise."
"You always try to guess what it will be like," American Le Mans driver Johnny Herbert said. "I'm very impressed with what we've got here."
American Le Mans president Scott Atherton took issue with those referring to the course as a parking lot, calling that label an "injustice."
"This is a purpose-built race track," Atherton said.
Meanwhile, Bobby Goldwater, president of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, continued to refer to the track as a parking lot, since that's the identity the area will reclaim as soon as the Grand Prix leaves town next week. The commission already has found new uses for the surface until then, including high-speed driver training for the Metropolitan Police Department.
Leitzinger takes pole
Trans-Am series rookie Butch Leitzinger won his third consecutive pole, finishing his fastest lap in 1:12.021. Leitzinger, who has now won four poles this season out of six races, picked up two more championship points to maintain his hold on third place with 119 points.
Leitzinger averaged 83.026 mph, nearly a half-mile better than second-place qualifier Boris Said.
Said, a road course veteran and the Trans-Am points leader with 153 points, has started third or better in each race this season. He registered his fastest lap in 1:12.450.
Tony Ave, who like Said drove a Panoz Esperante, qualified third, followed by Jaguar drivers Michael Lewis and Johnny Miller. Leitzinger drove one of four Corvettes to make the top 10.
What happened here?
Redskins revelers wouldn't recognize their old RFK home. It's as if some loud, colorful circus has landed in the parking lots surrounding the longtime home of the Washington Redskins, bringing troupes of veteran drivers, seasoned gear heads and curious onlookers eager to check out the first auto race in the District in 80 years.
The RFK Stadium circuit has grown quickly over the last two months, when Cadillac Grand Prix organizers unveiled the newly paved course for the media. Since that time, they've added eight sections of grandstands along the pit road area between Turns 7 and 1 and finished all concrete barriers.
But to liven the scene even more, drivers from all four series American Le Mans, Trans-Am, Star Mazda and Speed World Challenge came to town Wednesday afternoon with their colorful tents, car hauling trailers and exhibits.
Nuts and bolts
Champion Racing Audi driver Johnny Herbert clocked the best American Le Mans practice time of the day in the afternoon session, finishing a lap in 1:04.310. An Audi had the best time in the first practice session, too, this one driven by Frank Biela. He completed his lap in 1:04.838. Beverly Hills 90210 star Ian Ziering "Steve" to those who watch the show had the fastest lap among the celebrities in the first practice session. The Celebrity Pro-Am race takes place right after tonight's SPEED World Challenge GT race.


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