By: Jeff Lepper
Richmond, CA - The opening round of the 2002 United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) was held at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, CA. The season started off with some unusual circumstances. In the end, Gary Sheehan's Stoptech Subaru WRX took the pole and overall victory but it was not as easy as it sounds.
Sears Point is currently under a $50 Million dollar rebuilding plan. Due to this, the course layout was a bit different then what the USTCC drivers were accustomed to. During Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions, the course changed twice. The qualifying sessions for Saturday were cancelled and official qualifying took place on Sunday morning.
Sunday came and with the great Northern California weather it was raining. With yet another new track layout and wet conditions, qualifying for the USTCC teams was a crapshoot. Leading the way however was Sheehan's WRX. Sheehan qualified the WRX three seconds ahead of Daryl Chan's Autotronics/C2 Automotive Honda Civic. Qualifying third in the closest battle for qualifying, Ali Arsham's gogogear.com/Bosch Honda Civic qualified just 7 thousandths of a second ahead of Jeff Lepper's modernperformance.com Dodge Neon. Rounding out the top five was Pete Bovenberg in the McDonalds/PPG Honda Civic.
Prior to the start of the race the skies started to clear. All of the teams elected to put on their dry Hoosier race tires. While the cars were waiting in pre-grid it started to sprinkle. The USTCC teams had a big decision to make. Was it going to continue to rain or would it clear up? All the teams decided to stay with the race tires as the skies cleared once again.