GENTILOZZI MAKES IT TWO-IN-A-ROW AFTER RACE-LONG TUSSLE WITH RUNER-UP SIMO HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Proving he and his new Chevrolet Corvette have the muscle to go the distance in a toe-to-toe battle, Paul Gentilozzi out-dueled and out-drove...
GENTILOZZI MAKES IT TWO-IN-A-ROW AFTER RACE-LONG TUSSLE WITH RUNER-UP SIMO
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Proving he and his new Chevrolet Corvette have the muscle to go the distance in a toe-to-toe battle, Paul Gentilozzi out-dueled and out-drove Brian Simo to score his second-straight NTB Trans-Am Series win with a 0.587-second margin of victory at the Homestead Motorsports Complex.
Throughout the 45-lap, 99.45-mile race Gentilozzi and Simo put on a spectacular contest as the duo probed and challenged each other, looking for an opening that would allow a pass on the 2.21-mile, 14-turn road course/oval.
Simo's first opportunity came just three laps into the event as he swept his No. 2 Valvoline Mustang Cobra by Gentilozzi's No. 3 AutoLink entry, taking over a lead he would hold for the next 15 laps.
"I think early in the race I had a little bit better car than Paul did," said Simo. "He was a little bit tight and I was probably a little more centered. I had some clean passes. I made the mistake at Long Beach of being over-eager and running myself out of brains before I took what was available to me. The best I could do was second, and the Rocketsports team did a great job."
On lap 19 Gentilozzi had enough of the runner-up position and made a bold, door-to-door move in turn two, swapping paint as he put his Corvette back into the lead. Simo, however, would not be held back, and reclaimed the front position on lap 27 with a clean pass, just seconds before the second of three full course cautions, all caused by crash debris with no resulting injuries.
As the bunched field took the green on lap 32, Gentilozzi made his final dash for the top spot, taking a lead he would never relinquish at the pair entered turn 11.
"I knew we were a little better under braking," said Gentilozzi. "I didn't want to show him everything we had, so I had been conservative. Really, the pass started two turns before -- I saw his car oversteer coming out of the turn, and when you get on a guys bumper and you're in his draft you have a big advantage. We came back up that straightaway which is fast, about 130 or so, and I just had to guess where his brake marker was and hope he didn't pull over on me."
With the win Gentilozzi posted a clean sweep of the weekend, setting a new qualifying record of 1:21.714 (97.363 mph), shaving more than two seconds off Ron Fellows' 1996 record of 1:24.011 (94.701 mph); posting the fastest race lap at 1:23.669 (95.090 mph) -- also a record; and leading the most laps while earning the DynoMax Turn on the Power Award.
While Gentilozzi and Simo dueled for the top spot, other top performances were being posted in battles behind the lead, with John Miller IV, in the No. 64 PLC Direct Camaro, putting in another solid performance to score his second-straight third-place finish, followed by Randy Ruhlman, in the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Mustang Cobra, Chris Neville, in the No. 40 SafariLand Camaro, Max Lagod, in the No. 83 HyperMax Camaro, Ross Thompson, in the No. 92 i-Dream Mustang Cobra, Michael Lewis, in the No. 12 Red Line Oil Mustang Cobra, Bruce Qvale, in the No. 44 Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports Mustang Cobra and Peter Shea, in the No. 70 Entrepreneur Magazine Mustang Cobra.
"I had to be fast at the end," said Miller IV. "Randy (Ruhlman) came up a bit to charge there, and Chris (Neville) was fast. I wanted to have a car at the end. I saw Randy coming and we picked up the pace a bit. I had some soft brakes and some soft tires. Actually, the tires were good. They would be soft in the restarts and I think that Paul and Brian were quicker with the cold tires on the restarts."
After two of 13 races, Gentilozzi leads the Drivers' Championship point standings with 68, followed by Miller IV, 52; Simo, 48; Neville, 46; Max Lagod, 39; Ruhlman, 37; Bill Saunders, 36; Bruce Qvale, 34; Ross Thompson, 31; and Rick Lee and Stu Hayner are tied for 10th with 27 points.
The NTB Trans-Am enters Round Three May 22-25 at Lime Rock Park for the Dodge Dealers Grand Prix.