- February 28, 1969
- United States
- Not Active
Butch Leitzinger was one of the most successful American racing drivers in the sports car competitions during the 1990s and 2000s. In that period, he clinched three IMSA championship titles, three Daytona 24h wins and numerous wins/podiums in every series he participated (IMSA, Grand-Am, Trans-Am, ALMS). At 24 hours of Le Mans, Leitzinger participated six times, scoring third place overall in 2001 as the best result. Leitzinger was active until 2015, his last competition was the Pirelli World Challenge.
Butch joined his father Bob on a racetrack
Robert Franklin 'Butch' Leitzinger was born on February 28, 1969, in Homestead, Pennsylvania. His father Bob was a racing driver and a team owner, with 1989 IMSA GTU Championship title as his best result.
For the young Butch, it was so natural to follow father's footsteps and he started his racing career at the age of 17, entering the IMSA GTU Championship with father's Nissan 300ZX at Road Atlanta. Butch didn't finish his debut race.
Daytona 24h debut together with father
He returned to the race track in January 1988, debuting at Daytona 24 hours alongside his father and Chuck Kurtz in the #95 Nissan 300ZX. They finished 24th overall and fifth in GTU class.
The same trio returned with #95 Nissan 240SX to Daytona in 1989, failing to finish the race. Later in the season, Butch participated in several IMSA GTU races, including Sebring 12h.
Two in a row GTU class wins at 12 hours of Sebring
Butch scored his first IMSA victory at 1990 Sebring 12 hours, winning the GTU class with #95 Nissan 240SX. His co-drivers were Chuck Kurtz and David Loring. Leitzinger and Loring repeated Sebring victory in 1991, again with #95 Nissan240 SX.
Leitzinger Racing's GTU domination and first title for Butch
In that time, the Leitzinger Racing team was the main force in the GTU class of the IMSA Championship. Three team drivers took first three places in the 1992 season, with David Loring ahead of Butch Leitzinger and Bob Leitzinger. For Butch, it was his first full season.
Next year, Butch became the champion, winning six out of eight races. His father Bob was the runner-up, in his farewell season. The victorious car was the #97 Nissan240 SX.
1994 – first overall win at Rolex 24 at Daytona
With the 1993 championship title in his pocket, Butch stepped into the GTS class in 1994, joining Cunningham Racing at Rolex 24 at Daytona. The #76 Nissan 300ZX Turbo sensationally took the overall victory, driven by Leitzinger, Scott Pruett, Paul Gentilozzi and Steve Millen.
In March 1994, one more good result followed at Sebring 12 hours, a part of the World Sportscar Championship. Leitzinger was driving the #44 Spice WSC94 prototype for Scandia Motorsports, together with Andy Evans and Ross Bentley. They finished fourth overall.
Leitzinger recorded nine NASCAR starts in a career
In 1994, Butch debuted in NASCAR, participating as a 'road ringer' in two races at Watkins Glen. On June 25, he was driving #91 Chevrolet in the Busch Grand National Series race, three weeks later he returned to the Glen with #03 Chevrolet in the Winston Cup Series race.
Later in a career, Leitzinger collected four Cup Series starts and five Busch Series starts, all but one at Watkins Glen. His last NASCAR race was in June 2007 at Sonoma Raceway. In nine NASCAR races, Leitzinger's best result was the second place at Lysol 200 Busch Series race in 2000, when he was beaten by Ron Fellows.
Butch joined Dyson Racing in 1995
For the 1995 IMSA Championship season, Leitzinger joined Dyson Racing to drive Ford-powered Riley & Scott Mk III prototype. Butch spent a full season in the #16 car, scoring one victory (Watkins Glen)and he finished sixth in the points.
He improved his results in 1996, winning three races (Mosport, Dallas, Daytona 3hr) and he finished third in the championship standings. For most of the season, his co-driver in the #20 car was John Paul Jr.
Daytona 24h winner and IMSA champion in 1997
In 1997, Leitzinger made a final step to the top, winning the IMSA Championship title with Dyson Racing's Riley & Scott prototype, ahead of his teammates Elliott Forbes-Robinson and James Weaver. Leitzinger was the winner five times, including his second win at Daytona 24 hours.
It was a race when seven drivers participated in a victory. Leitzinger, Andy Wallace, John Paul Jr and James Weaver started in the #16 Dyson Racing's car, but when the car broke, they moved into the #20 car to join Rob Dyson, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and John Schneider.
In June 1997, Leitzinger debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans. He was a member of the #54 crew in the Panoz GTR-1 of David Price Racing, together with Andy Wallace and James Weaver. The British-American trio didn't finish the race due to engine failure after 236 laps.
Another IMSA title in 1998, third Daytona victory in 1999
In 1998, Leitzinger defended his IMSA title, still driving Dyson's Riley & Scott prototype. He won five races, all five sharing the car with James Weaver.
The season of 1999 started with Leitzinger's third victory at Daytona 24h race. His partners in the #16 Dyson Racing's prototype were Andy Wallace and Elliott Forbes-Robinson. In the second race of the season, the Sebring 12h, they finished second. James Weaver took the championship title, Leitzinger finished second in the points. Dyson Racing also participated in the inaugural season of the American Le Mans Series, but without wins.
In June 1999, Leitzinger returned to Le Mans, joining Panoz Motorsports in the #12 Panoz LMP-1 Roadster. His co-drivers were David Brabham and Eric Bernard. They finished in 7th place.
2000 - four endurance classics with Team Cadillac
The major change followed in 2000 when Leitzinger joined Team Cadillac for the Triple Crown of endurance racing (Daytona 24h, Sebring 12h, Le Mans 24h) and Petit Le Mans. Cadillac Northstar LMP didn't finish the first two American races, at Le Mans Leitzinger finished in 21st place. His co-drivers were Franck Lagorce and Andy Wallace. They were the best at Petit Le Mans, finishing 8th overall.
2001 Rolex Sports Car Series runner-up
In the 2000 Grand American Road Racing Championship, Butch continued to drive for Dyson Racing. With three wins, he finished ninth in the points.
In 2001, Leitzinger was driving for Dyson Racing only, both in the Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series. With five wins, Butch was the Rolex Series runner-up, behind his teammate James Weaver.
2001 Le Mans podium with Bentley
For the 2001 Le Mans 24h race, Leitzinger joined Team Bentley to drive #8 Bentley EXP Speed 8 alongside Andy Wallace and Eric van de Poele. They finished third overall, behind two Audi R8s.
Next year, Bentley hired those drivers again to drive #8 car again. This time, Leitzinger/Wallace/van de Poele finished fourth overall, losing the podium behind three Audis.
2002 Trans-Am Series runner-up
In 2002. Leitzinger continued to drive for Dyson Racing both in the Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series, scoring several wins but finishing out of podium at the end of the season.
On the other side, he competed full season in the Trans-Am Series with Chevrolet Corvette, winning three races and losing the championship title to Boris Said.
2003 – last Le Mans attempt with Ferrari
In 2003, Leitzinger concentrated only on American Le Mans Series with Dyson Racing, driving the #16 Lola EX257. With two wins, he finished 6th in the points.
In June 2003, Leitzinger participated for the last time at 24 hours of Le Mans, driving the #95 Ferrari 360 Modena for Risi Competizione alongside Johnny Mowlem and Shane Lewis. They retired after 138 laps.
Double programme from 2004 to 2007
Leitzinger had a double programme in 2004, participating full season in the American Le Mans Series with Dyson Racing's Lola and in the Grand-Am Rolex Series with Howard-Boss Motorsports' Crawford DP03. Butch scored one win in each competition, finishing as the championship runner-up in the American Le Mans Series, together with James Weaver. In the Rolex Series, he was seventh in the points.
Leitzinger repeated the same programme with two teams in 2005, scoring two wins in the Rolex Series and two wins in the American Le Mans Series. This time, he was better in the Grand-Am classification, finishing in third place. In the ALMS, he finished fifth.
Leitzinger's driving duties with two teams continued in 2006. It was a year without victories, but he finished third in the final classification of the American Le Mans Series LMP1 class. The fourth season with two teams followed in 2007. With three podiums while driving Dyson Racing's Porsche RS Spyder, Leitzinger finished third in LMP2 class standings of the American Le Mans Series.
Only ALMS with Dyson Racing since 2008
For the 2008 season, Butch focused on the American Le Mans Series only, driving the #20 Porsche RS Spyder. His best result was the second place at Sebring 12h, together with Marino Franchitti and Andy Lally. With no more podiums later in the season, Leitzinger finished fifth in the points of the LMP2 class.
He returned to the top in the 2009 ALMS season, finishing second in the LMP2 championship. His full-time co-driver in the #20 Lola B08/86-Mazda was Marino Franchitti. They scored two wins, at Lime Rock and Petit Le Mans.
GTC class victory at 2010 Sebring 12h
The 2009 ALMS season was Leitzinger's last full season in the major sports car competition. In 2010, he left Dyson Racing and competed with three different teams in selected ALMS and Grand-Am races.
He was driving Brumos Racing's Riley-Porsche prototype, Alex Job Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and Jaguar XKR-S for Jaguar RSR team. His best result was GTC class victory at Sebring 12h with AJR Porsche. His co-drivers were Leh Keen and Juan Gonzalez.
In 2011, Leitzinger was again combining three teams in three different competitions. His only win was the first place in the LMPC class at 4 hours of Road America, with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports. Other two teams were Dyson Racing and Alex Job Racing.
Two seasons with Bentley in the Pirelli World Challenge
After just six races in two seasons (2012 and 2013), Leitzinger opened a new chapter in his career entering the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge. He joined Bentley Team Dyson to drive Bentley Continental GT3. With two podiums, he finished 11th in GT class in his debut season. With two more podiums in 2015 PWC season, Leitzinger finished 19th in the points, driving the #20 Bentley.
It was his last competitive season.
Photos: motorsport.com, racingnation.com, pbase.com,