Paul Fix has both a love for race car driving and sports car racing's past. Now the Williamsville resident will try to make history of his own as hopes to become a prominent driver on the Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) Trans-Am Series.
Fix, 36, will run six races with the Trans-Am group this season, all on the East Coast. If a main sponsor can be found, the team may expand its involvement to include more events. They will begin the campaign at Sebring, Fla., March 16.
"We have a few associate sponsors to get us through all the East Coast races," Fix said. "The East Coast races are all at the beginning part of the schedule, so while we run these events, we'll have some more time to try to secure a big sponsor."
Fix is an accomplished racer of historical sports cars. He began racing Solo II locally 15 years ago and then set out to run the Sports Car Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) and Historical Sports Car Racing (HSR) Series. He has won multiple races on both circuits.
"I'm heavy into restoring older historic sports cars and then racing them," Fix said. "I have two Roush Trans-Am cars from 1986. They are just now eligible for historic racing competition. I have the 1986 IMSA Trans-Am car that Scott Pruett won the championship with. I also have acquired the 1986 car that Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader and Ricky Rudd won the 24 Hours of Daytona with that year."
The car that Fix will race on the modern-day SCCA Trans-Am schedule is a 1998 Ford Mustang Cobra body with a 310 cubic inch-650 horsepower racing engine. The car features engine heads from the shops of famous NASCAR Winston Cup engine builder Robert Yates and has a Weaver design chassis. According to Fix, SCCA has altered body style rules this season to make the cars more street production looking, but the new Mustang bodies will not be available to teams until after Sebring.
"The car has a really good chassis, which features good, solid technology," Fix said. "I was at Daytona testing the car in December on the same 24 Hours of Daytona course configuration. I also tested at the end of January at Sebring."
The SCCA Trans-Am series began in 1966 and has featured the late Mark Donohue, Parnelli Jones, George Follmer, Wally Dallenbach, Pruett, Scott Sharp and Tommy Kendall as past champions. The series will be 12 events in 2001. Six will be run in conjunction with CART series weekends and three will receive national television coverage from CBS.
Fix and his wife, Lauren, are nationally recognized driver and racing safety instructors. They run the Driving Ambitions Performance Driving School. Lauren Fix appeared Feb. 19 on the Today Show and makes frequent visits to the Oprah Winfrey Show.
"We started the school 14 years ago," Paul Fix said. "We run it three times a year at Watkins Glen and get typically between 80 to 100 students. Students use their own cars. We feature classes for those who have never been on a track before to those who have professional licenses. When we began the school is when I got my first real passion for driving."
Fix ran one SSCA Trans-Am event last August at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., but had a problem during the race. "I qualified about mid-pack in the 42-car field and passed three cars by the third lap. Then the float bolt screw fell out and the car body started on fire. I was near a corner safety worker station so I pulled off there and they took care of the problem."
Fix will rely on veteran road racing crew chief Gary Johnson of Knoxville, Tenn., to handle the crew chief duties. Dave McIntyre (data), Bob Brodnick (lead mechanic) and Robert Nadeau (mechanic) will comprise the pit crew.
The weekly local ET/Bracket drag racers have been literally squeezed out of competition at July's IHRA Car Quest Empire Nationals at New York International Raceway Park in Leicester. Space at the track is tight in part because additional grandstand space is needed to accommodate the crowds.
"IHRA and New York International are asking our racers for help and understanding," IHRA president Bill Bader said. "We were up 110 entries last year and expect an even larger count this year. With the team rigs increasing in size and the need for additional spectator grandstands, we find ourselves in a short-term space crunch. We don't want to compromise the integrity and safety of the race by having to pit cars along the track."
Each year the Empire Nationals draw high-powered performance professional class cars such as Nitro Top Fuel Dragsters, Funny Cars and Pro-Modifieds as well as many different Sportsman class vehicles. While these are the cars that draw the spectators, the weekly bracket racers are considered the backbone of the sport.
Veteran area race track announcer Ken Hangauer Jr., has been named the new chief race announcer for the Wyoming County International Speedway. Hangauer, of West Seneca, has announced at virtually every area race facility over the years including Lancaster, Ransomville and Holland. He most recently was the voice of the MBNA Cup Lite Racing Series and continues as the voice fans hear at the Northern Motorsports Niagara TQ Midget Racing Series as well as on Sunday evenings at the Gasport Speedway.
Fans wanting to pay respects to the late Dale Earnhardt can do so at the Watkins Glen Gift Shop, the retail outlet for Watkins Glen International. Fans are invited to drop by the shop located on Franklin Street in the village of Watkins Glen and to write their favorite Dale Earnhardt memory or offer condolences in a special book. The book will be sent to the Earnhardt family at a later date. Fans wishing to drop off memorial items can do so at Gates 2 and 3 at the speedway.