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DIVERSE DRIVERS SET TO TIP-OFF SEASON FOR CORVETTE AT DAYTONA


Ron Fellows


Chris Kneifel


John Paul Jr.

Drivers
Number 2 C5-R Corvette


John Heinricy


Andy Pilgrim


Scott Sharp

Drivers
Number 4 C5-R Corvette

DETROIT--At first glance, the driver line-up for the two factory-backed C5-R Corvettes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona looks like a formidable roster for a local YMCA basketball league. Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul Jr. will drive the #2 C5-R Corvette and all stand between 6’2" and 6’6". John Heinricy, Andy Pilgrim and Scott Sharp will drive the #4 C5-R Corvette but are a little closer to the average American male in height. Although they could pass for a starting five plus a sub, closer examination of their resumes will show that their forte is finding their way around a racetrack.

According to Fehan, assigning the drivers by height to their cars was just a common-sense approach to avoid drastic seat adjustments during driver changes. But height wasn’t the only "measuring stick" used in making driver choices from a preliminary list of over 50 names. "The first criteria was that they had to be team players; they had to check their egos at the door," said Fehan. "That alone took a huge chunk of names off the list. Then, they all had to be available and willing to do this job for a reasonable sum of money. Amazingly, the six we asked--they all accepted."

The selection of the drivers line-up was but one key component to GM’s overall C5-R racing equation. Not only did GM Motorsports design the C5-R GT2 racer, they also assembled a talented group of road racing specialists from Pratt & Miller (Detroit) and Riley & Scott (Indianapolis) to serve as one GM unit, under GM Motorsports management, to field two C5-R factory Corvettes.

Several of General Motors’ subsidiaries and business partners have joined sponsorship forces together to back GM’s first "official" factory racing effort for Corvette, starting with primary sponsor GM Goodwrench Service Plus. Other associates include General Motors Acceptance Corp. (GMAC), UAW-GM, Mobil Oil, Action Performance Companies, Mid America Designs and Cutter & Buck. Together they help form the Corvette Racing Team.

#2 C5-R Corvette
Ron Fellows, 39, is regarded as one of North America’s best road racers and, like his Corvette teammates, the Toronto native has won in nearly every level of racing. He ranks fifth all-time on the SCCA Trans-Am Series with 19 career victories and is the series’ all-time earnings leader. He has a win and two poles in two career starts in World SportsCar competition, posted a win in the NASCAR Busch Grand National division at this year’s Watkins Glen race, also won at Watkins Glen in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck series in 1997, and sat on the outside pole beside Jeff Gordon in this year’s Bud at the Glen NASCAR Winston Cup  race.

Chris Kneifel is the tallest driver to compete in CART at 6’6" and was that series’ fifth youngest competitor at 21 years, 4 months, 6 days. The 37-year-old Arizona native has been instrumental in the development of the C5-R Corvette as a test driver the last two years. He drove on three Trans-Am Manufacturer’s Championship winning teams in 1985, 1986, and 1990, and posted two wins in his Chevrolet Beretta on his way to second in the Trans-Am points standings in 1990. He also won races in three different series in 1981 (Formula Ford, Sports 2000 and Formula Atlantic) and has won races in three different decades. John Paul Jr. drove his first race in Formula Ford at Sebring in 1979 and has been winning ever since. The 38-year-old Indy Racing League veteran finished the ’98 IRL season 11th in points after posting his first IRL win at Texas Motor Speedway in September. He made his debut in CART in 1982 at Elkhart Lake and a year later chased Rick Mears down on the final lap for a victory in the Michigan 500. Paul is also no stranger to victory lane at Daytona as he is a two time Rolex 24 winner.

#4 C5-R Corvette
John Heinricy has 37 career wins including nine 24-hour race triumphs and nine wins behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Corvette. With both his decade-long position as General Motors’ assistant chief engineer for the Corvette and his current position as chief engineer for the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird, Heinricy has been in the unique position of racing what he builds. That racing has produced championships in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Grand Sports class in 1989, the SCCA Escort SSGT class also in 1989, the SCCA amateur GT-1 class in 1993, the IMSA Endurance Grand Sports class in 1996 and the SportsCar Speedvision Cup Grand Sports class in 1997. Andy Pilgrim completed the 1998 race season with his fourth series championship in four years. This year’s SportsCar Speedvision Cup, Grand Sports class championship duplicated his series win in 1995. In 1996 he won the Brazilian GT2 Championship, and then followed with the SportsCar GT1 title in 1997. Pilgrim is another Corvette veteran as he competed in the Corvette Challenge series in 1989-90, winning at Brainerd and Road America in 1989, and at Road Atlanta in 1990. He also showed his consistency with an impressive streak of 116 IMSA/SportsCar-sanctioned races without a DNF 7/19/92 9/19/98. Scott Sharp posted victories at Phoenix and Dover en route to a fourth-place finish in points this past season in the Indy Racing League. The 1996 IRL co-champ also won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1996. Sharp captured his first series title in 1986 when he won the SCCA GT-2 championship for Newman-Sharp Racing headed by his father Bob and Paul Newman. The 30-year-old went on to win consecutive SCCA GT-1 class crowns in 1987-88, and added Trans-Am championships in 1991 and 1993.

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