Cleveland: Leitzinger collects third pole in four events

CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 12, 2002) -- Rookie Butch Leitzinger of Tom Gloy Racing added to his status as the only driver to win multiple pole positions in the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Friday when he captured his third of the...

CLEVELAND, Ohio (July 12, 2002) -- Rookie Butch Leitzinger of Tom Gloy Racing added to his status as the only driver to win multiple pole positions in the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Friday when he captured his third of the season for Saturday's Trans-Am on the Tarmac Presented by Microchip at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport (5 p.m. ET, live, CBS).

Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette) put together a lap of 103.478 miles per hour (1 minute, 13.268 seconds) on the 2.106-mile temporary circuit to take the premier starting spot for Saturday's fifth round of the 2002 championship. The pole followed earlier pole-winning efforts at Mosport and Mid-Ohio for Leitzinger, who comes to Cleveland off his first career Trans-Am victory at Mid-Ohio last month.

In addition to the Jaguar Pole Award, Leitzinger also collected two championship points for his effort, giving him 89 for the season, fourth in the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship.

"This morning, we were pretty lost out there," said Leitzinger following his pole-winning performance. "It's a common thing to happen here with the wide expanses. Finding the line can be a bit of a problem.

"The team did a good job of changing the car out between sessions, and between practice and qualifying I watched a couple videotapes of past Trans-Am races here to get an idea of how other drivers found the line," Leitzinger added. "My teammate, Randy Ruhlman, helped me a lot, too, based on his experience here. In the end, it all worked out."

Three-time and defending Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/MatrixOne/Futaba Jaguar XKR) qualified on the outside pole at 103.342 mph (1:13.364). Gentilozzi, the two-time defending Trans-Am event champion at Cleveland, will make his best start since qualifying on the pole in the season opener at Long Beach.

"There's a bunch more left in the car," he said. "Our rhythm was off. On my last lap and my last chance to try and get the fast time, I spun. I just carried too much speed and [the car] started to push. It was in a spot where there's not a lot of grip and I kept my foot off the brake, so I hope I protected the tires and didn't flat-spot them."

Championship leader Boris Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) qualified third at 103.327 mph (1:13.375). He will be seeking his fifth consecutive podium finish, and his third win of the season (Mosport, Lime Rock) in Saturday's race, which he enters with a 19-point advantage (121-102) over Gentilozzi in the championship standings.

"I felt like my fast lap was as good as it was going to get, but I came in one lap too early," Said recalled. "I don't regret it -- coming in was still the smart move. Unlike the last two tracks, this one will be harder on the fronts [tires] than the rears. With all of the passing opportunities here, I want the rubber in the race, when I need it."

Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Johnny Miller (#64 Automation Direct/Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR), who was fourth at 103.113 mph (1:13.527) and Tony Ave (#53 Trilithic Panoz Esperante), who qualified fifth at 102.686 mph (1:13.833). The top five drivers were separated just over one-half second on the starting grid.

A total of 25 drivers, a Trans-Am Series season-high, qualified for Saturday's event.

-Trans-Am-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Tony Ave , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Tom Gloy