| This is only the second
year for the GTA series which features NASCAR-similar stock cars
with very specific engine and chassis requirements designed to make
competition as equitable as possible.
Schneider, who had driven on the sports car circuit for four
years before deciding to step up to the stock cars, bought his
Ford Thunderbird chassis in October 1994 and spent a year and
a half rounding up sponsors and preparing the car.
Schneider has run two out of four possible series events this
year, following the Sears Point success by crashing early on in
a race on Ukiah's tight quarter-mile oval.
He calls the Sears Point race, "the most frustrating and most
satisfying time I've ever had in racing."
three days leading up to the race were unbelievable. We ended
up doing five engine switches in those three days and then to
finish the race and do so well was incredible."
The problem turned out to be a coupling
on the oil pump that eventually led to the destruction of the
entire engine. George Bevis of George Bevis Racing at Sears Point
spearheaded the almost Herculean effort to rebuild the engine.
The effort paid off and Schneider was
able to make his long-anticipated Sears Point debut.
After qualifying 14th out of 18 cars in
the race, Schneider pushed his Thunderbird to an eighth-place
finish and won the "Hard-Charger Award" for improving the most
places. His team was also selected the "Best Appearing" car and
Schneider's success came despite not having
a chance to even touch the chassis and suspension set up, since
all his crew's time had been devoted to solving his engine problems.
It also came on a weekend when more than
50,000 spectators a day showed up at Sears Point to watch a Winston
Cup NASCAR race. "It was an absolute honor to race in the same
show with those guys in front of 50,000 people. It was an awesome
feeling," Schneider says.
His next time out in Ukiah, Schneider
found out there is a whole lot of difference between racing on
Sears Point's road course and a tight quarter-mile oval.
It was a lesson learned by many of the
GTA drivers. "It got to be a little bit of a derby (as in destruction),"
The derby caught up with Schneider on
the sixth lap when two cars tangled in front of him and one ended
up directly in his path. "I just hammered him," the driver says.
His crew ripped off parts of the Thunderbird's
front end and Schneider continued on for another two laps before
the damage caused the car to heat and he gave up for the night
to protect the vehicle.
Schneider will get another chance on the
tight oval when the GTA series rftums to Ukiah this Saturday,
"We'll be ready this time," he says. "We
have a whole different set up under the vehicle and we've added
a few things. Of course, the car has a new nose and fender. Fortunately,
the frame was OK.
Schneider acknowledges it has been a trial
to get the funds necessary to put the car on the track, but enough
sponsorships have come through to help him complete his first
His sponsors include: Moylan's Brewery,
Aramark Uniforms, KFTY-TV 50, SpeeDee Oil Change, George Bevis
Racing, Terry at the Village Clip Joint, All American Printing
and Ech Designs.
Working with Schneider as his crew have
been Tim Molonari, Joe Tachis, Greg Tuftken and Brian Scott.
"The crew has just been fantastic," he
says. "They have gone above and beyond to keep me on the track."