Brian Simo Trans-Am champion

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Brian Simo of Carlsbad, Calif., won his first BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series championship on his home track at the inaugural Grand Prix of San Diego. His team, Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports, won its first series owner championship. Simo...

Brian Simo of Carlsbad, Calif., won his first BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series championship on his home track at the inaugural Grand Prix of San Diego. His team, Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports, won its first series owner championship.

Simo started Sunday's race from the pole position in the No. 88 Tommy Bahama Qvale Mangusta. He led the first 46 laps of the 60-lap race on the 1.65-mile San Diego street circuit.

When championship points leader Paul Gentilozzi of Lansing, Mich., retired from the race with an engine problem on lap 20, Simo had only to finish 12th to clinch the series driver championship. But he watched his lead slip away when his engine developed a misfire. He relinquished the lead on lap 47, but held for third place in the race. He won the championship by 12 points over Gentilozzi.

"This is probably one of the most unique championships ever won," Simo said of his down-to-the-wire championship. "This was one that was such a long shot, it's hard to believe. But we had such a great race car! The car was absolutely awesome. You couldn't ask for a better race car.

"When I saw Paul go off, that was the gift. Then our engine started misfiring. I just kept saying, 'Hang on.' It's hard to believe the car finished -- it must be one helluva motor in it! There was nothing left in that race car. We used up every bit of luck, we used up every bit of talent, we used up every bit of determination. All that was left was probably a couple of drops of oil at the end."

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Series TRANSAM