Texaco Grand Prix of Houston - NTB Trans-Am race October 3, 1998 - Houston, Texas Mike Stucker - Motorsport News International
The first autorace ever held in the city of Houston, and the last race for 1998 Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi, got underway today at 3:34 PM on the 1.527 mile (corrected from 1.68 miles by Omega Timing) street course under the control of the pace car as a light drizzle was falling on sections of the track. On lap two, the green flag fell and the field is led by pole sitter Gentilozzi into turn one, followed by Brian Simo, Bill Saunders, Ross Thompson, and Chris Neville. Rick Lee is promptly off at turn 7 and wrecks his Mustang. Three laps later Max Lagod's Camaro is off at turn 7 and three laps after that Frank Cioppettini is off at the same corner.
By lap 10, Gentilozzi in a Corvette has .75 second lead over the Simo's Mustang, with the remainder of the top five still in the same order. Glen Andrew is into the tires on lap 12, which brings out a full course yellow. Rain is beginning to fall on both the front and back straights. Race is back green on lap 17. On lap 19 Michael Lewis passes Chris Neville for fifth.
On lap 24, pace car is sent back out as rain has started up again on sections of the course, although the sun still shines on other sections. There has been no change in the top five since lap 19. Course is back to green on lap 29. Bruce Qvale spins and damages his Mustang. Course is yellow on lap 31 so that debris from his car can be picked up.
Green flag reappears on lap 35. Stu Hayner jumps the restart and passes three cars to put himself into third, but is black flagged for the offense. On lap 38 Simo gets by Gentilozzi for the lead in turn 9. Simo begins pulling away.
With seven laps to go Simo and Gentilozzi get caught behind the lapped car of Hayner who appears to not want to get out of their way. Simo bulls his way through, but Gentilozzi is cut off by Hayner and dives back towards the inside of the track, the cars rub, and Gentilozzi is into the tires at turn 5. Gentilozzi restarts, still in second, but has smoke coming off a front tire, a fluid leak, and no power steering. On lap 57 of 60, Gentilozzi lets teammate Saunders by.
Brian Simo wins the race, the final Trans-Am of the season, by 27.64 seconds over Bill Saunders. Gentilozzi, who clinched the 1998 Trans-Am title at the previous race and is retiring as a driver, held on for third.