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Aug 22, 2014 - 03:50 PM
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· F1: Rumours tip Lotterer for Caterham race debut ? (Aug 19, 2014)
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ZF Motorsports Virginia International Raceway Newsletter
Posted by: newsla on Aug 22, 2014 - 03:50 PM
USCR News
ZF Motorsports Virginia International Raceway Newsletter


An international racing globe trotter for the last ten years, Jeroen Bleekemolen runs 35-40 race weekends per year. In the TUDOR United SportsCar Series, he is teamed with Ben Keating in the No. 33 Viper Exchange Dodge Viper in the GTD Class.

 

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"Sometimes I do more than one race per weekend, which makes it probably over 50 races every season," Bleekemolen said. "I have been doing four to five 24 hour races over the last couple of years. I have a total of 32 24 hour races so far in my career."

Logging that many race miles, Bleekemolen has a few favorite circuits. "Le Mans, Monaco and Nurburgring are among favorites. But there are around 10 to 15 tracks I really like, so it is very hard to just pick one or two. I also list Bathurst, Road America, and Road Atlanta up at the top as well. There are just too many great tracks around the world to list."

In addition, the Dutchman also appreciates the race weekend as an event. "The 24 Hours of Le Mans is definitely a stand out. I love the whole event. The big 24 hour races are always great. But, I have also had great times racing in the states. I love the atmosphere at the track. The same goes for V8 Supercars in Australia. And this year, I raced in the Brazil V8 Stock Cars, which was also a lot of fun."

Driving so many races Bleekemolen never lacks for motivation. "I love racing and competing - just can't live without it. Every time I go to the next race, I feel as excited as I'm still 16 years old going for my first race. I just love to compete, drive a car at the limit and getting the best result possible out of the situation."

Is having a young family with two children, the downside to racing? "I spend way too much traveling. I spend more than three weeks straight in the sky. That equals flying about eight times around the world."

Tony Rizzuti Racing Fuel in his Veins

Tony Rizzuti, MRN and ZF Race Reporter, has spent more than 25 years covering athletics across the United States. From college sports with the Iowa Hawkeyes and UCF Knights, to the NBA hardwoods with the Orlando Magic, on the NFL gridiron with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and on pit road with NASCAR, Rizzuti has helped to bring the excitement of sports into the homes of the American fan. Tony can be seen on Fox Sports 1, Three Wide Life and of course heard on the Motor Racing Network.

How did you get interested in racing? "I grew up in a racing family. My Dad raced a little when he was younger, but primarily worked as a crew chief on a dirt and asphalt late model that a good friend of his owned. So they would take me along and I would watch from the stands or from our van in the infield. Several years later, my Dad decided to buy an SCCA GP Austin Healey Sprite and went regional and national racing across the Midwest. I helped worked on the car and began a good friendship with John Doonan, who now runs Mazda's racing efforts in North America. Eventually, that background led to my switch from covering 'stick and ball' sports to motorsports on MRN."

What do you like most about covering sports car racing? "This is probably the same answer you would get from a driver or crew member, but the people and friendships I have made along the way. Certainly the coolness of the cars, the speed and competition draw you to the sport, but it's the people you meet along the way that keeps you in it."

Which NASCAR event that you have covered stands out the most in your mind?
"Tough question with so many good ones to choose from. I covered a Cup race at Darlington Raceway in which Dale Earnhardt Sr. had to be pulled from the No. 3 car after blacking out at the initial start. He was replaced by Mike Dillon that day. But the one that stands out most was the Brickyard 400 in 2007. I covered that race on television for DirecTV HotPass with FOX Sports' Larry McReynolds. We followed the 20 car of Tony Stewart exclusively all day long right into Victory Lane. Knowing what the race meant to Tony and the team and seeing what it took to get everything right, was incredible. At the end of our broadcast, I was told by the producer to kiss the bricks on camera. I refused because that should be reserved for the competitors not the media."

What is your favorite event to cover? "The Rolex 24 at Daytona. I used to camp at the race when I was in college, so I have seen the technology of the cars expand throughout the many years I have been going there as a fan, and the six years I have covered it for MRN. The effort it takes to win with the elite level of drivers and teams is incredible. The pre-race grid walk is an absolute mob of humanity. You can't help but feed off the energy and that's what keeps you going around the clock."

VIR and the Oak Tree

Virginia International Raceway (VIR) opened in 1957 as one of the country's first permanent road racing circuits. The 3.27-mile track has remained exactly the same since, with the only change being widening some places to offer safer run-off room.
A fixture in nearly every photo of the track is its signature shot that includes the majestic Oak Tree that lived at the apex of the turn that bore its name, the Oak Tree Turn.

On July 2, 2013, VIR lost its beloved Oak Tree which fell after breaking at its base. The news resonated throughout the racing community garnering sympathy notes on social media. Like losing an old friend the memorials poured into the VIR offices.

"The outpouring of love and support we received surrounding the Oak Tree was unfathomable and we can't thank the racing community enough," Connie Nyholm, VIR owner and CEO said. "In its place, a tree was re-planted in its honor outside Oak Tree turn. The new tree will not serve as a replacement, but as a hallowed memorial to the tree that held such a special place in our hearts. In addition, we're working with the incredible team at the Institute for Advance Learning and Research in Danville to clone the oak tree. Assuming they're successful, the cloned saplings will be offered for purchase, so our fans can replant them in their own communities and celebrate the iconic tree for years to come."

ZF Motorsports Race Reporter Video Library

The ZF Race Reporter series is in full production. The videos, hosted by Motor Racing Network's Tony Rizzuti, show race, event, and technical features from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, including the popular ZF Fan Reporter segment. Past and future editions can be viewed at www.Facebook.com/zfmotorsport. Look for new content from TUDOR Championship events at Daytona, Sebring, Detroit, Watkins Glen, Indianapolis, and Road Atlanta.

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