Mid Ohio: Tony Ave preview

Ave says it's time to close the deal and Mid-Ohio could be the place. INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Tony Ave has seen the front of the pack enough lately to know he belongs in the lead when the checkered flag flies. Whether he's racing a new GT1...

Ave says it's time to close the deal and Mid-Ohio could be the place.

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Tony Ave has seen the front of the pack enough lately to know he belongs in the lead when the checkered flag flies. Whether he's racing a new GT1 Corvette, a USAC Silver Crown car or the LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante in the Trans Am Series for the BF Goodrich Cup, Ave has either been at the top of the field or a serious threat. For whatever reason, he hasn't taken home a first place trophy - yet.

So he's more than ready to have everything change this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "I just can't wait to get back to the track and get this (a win) done. It's time to close the deal," says the versatile Ave as he looks forward to Round Four of the 2002 Trans Am season.

Coming off a strong second place finish in the Memorial Day Race at Lime Rock Park, Ave spent the past four weeks toning his racing muscles behind the wheel of anything he could sit in. Most recently, he snared the GT1 pole position in the SCCA June Sprints at Road America in a new Corvette owned by Ray Irwin. Although he led from the pole, he put the car behind the wall on the 11th lap when brake problems developed.

Now he's focused on Mid-Ohio, where he feels at home in the paddock and on the grid, but most importantly, he feels at home in victory circle. Ave has raced Oldsmobile Pro Series, Sports 2000, Formula Continentals and Formula Atlantics at the 2.25 mile, 13-turn course. With an overall Mid-Ohio winning record exceeding 75 percent, Ave has the right to feel confident. "Mid-Ohio is a driver's track. I've had a lot of success there in the past, so this is one of the races I've been looking forward to this year."

Although he didn't get any testing time in the Kerry Alexander owned #53 LAC Motorsports Esperante in his month long break, he's sure the team has been busy preparing the car for the fast a furious summer ahead. "I know there were a lot of things we wanted to do for this weekend, and I know they've been working on it. We'll be ready."

Ave has one more slight advantage to consider this weekend. Last year he piloted a brand new Riley & Scott chassis for Tom Gloy at the Mid-Ohio race. After qualifying third in the car's maiden voyage, he just might be able to give Gloy's driver this year, Butch Leitzinger, some tips. "I know just how fast they are," he says wryly.

Ave, currently 7th in the series points standings, takes on series leader Boris Said, defending champion Paul Gentilozzi, Johnny Miller, rookie of the year contender Leitzinger, Justin Bell and the rest of the Trans-Am regulars Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The race will be broadcast live on CBS.

For more information about Ave and LAC Motorsports, visit www.lacmotorsports.com. For more information about the Trans Am Series, visit www.transamseries.com.

-lac-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Tony Ave , Justin Bell , Paul Gentilozzi , Kerry Alexander , Johnny Miller , Tom Gloy