INDIANAPOLIS, IND. Tony Ave will drive the ...
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. Tony Ave will drive the #53 Wickes Lumber/LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante in the Trans Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup series 2001 finale at the Texaco/Havoline Houston Grand Prix Saturday, announces Kerry Alexander, owner of LAC Motorsports.
Ave, a regular competitor in the Toyota Atlantic series, has had limited testing in the Esperante, over a month ago. But he's confident his Trans Am experience will come in handy as he tries to help the Wickes Lumber racing team make its best finish of the season.
Ave's not shy about discussing the possibility that he could be part of the first Esperante victory. Alexander, who will be in the #35 Panoz Esperante, would be just as happy with a substitute driver earning that distinct glory as if he took it himself, because there's still a $40,000 Panoz contingency award available for the first Esperante to win a Trans-Am Series race.
"I just have a lot of confidence in this opportunity because the car is good," explains Ave, adding. "It is an excellent little package, and the team is so well run. I've known (crew chief) Nicholas Short for a while, and when he called and asked me to test the car, I was more than willing."
"We're really happy to have Tony Ave on board with us for the Houston race," says Alexander. "He's a smart, good shoe. I think we'll do something this weekend, and he'll help us. My car is all ready to go, so we're planning to get through the race, have at least one good finish and look forward to next year."
Ave was a threat to the Trans Am regulars at Mid-Ohio earlier this season, when he piloted a brand new Riley & Scott chassis for Tom Gloy. "We were definitely in contention. I think Paul Gentilozzi was the only one I still had to pass to win the race before the car broke," he says.
Ave will see more track time at Houston than most other Trans Am drivers, simply because he will be racing in the Toyota Atlantic series as well. Although that will give him more time on an unfamiliar track, he doesn't necessarily see it as an advantage. "About the only thing you can use (between the two series) is learning the track layout and where the bumps are. Everything else does not apply. In fact, running in both series may be a hindrance because of the difference in the braking points and the different corner speeds," he explains.
Alexander is finishing his second full Trans-Am season, his first as owner of a two-car team. Look for Alexander, Ave, and the rest of the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup drivers to put on one of their classically dramatic sprint races - Texas-style - when they take to the 1.5 mile, 10 turn street course in Houston for 60 laps Oct 5 at 3:15 pm.