BORKOWSKI TAKES THE WIN IN WILD TRANS-AM RENO FINALE
RENO, Nev. - Mike Borkowski, driving the No. 4 Textron Ford Mustang Cobra, came out on top of a wild Trans-Am season finale on the streets of Reno, topping first-time podium finishers Max Lagod and Leighton Reese when race-leaders Brian Simo and Paul Gentilozzi crashed out of contention on a late-race restart. With three laps remaining in the 75-lap, 95.25-mile Reno Grand Prix at the Reno Hilton, leaders Simo and Gentilozzi took the green following the fourth full-course yellow, and Gentilozzi wasted no time jumping into the lead, passing Simo's No. 22 Valvoline Mustang Cobra before they reached turn one. As the duo entered the first turn on the 1.27-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit, Simo nosed into the rear of Gentilozzi's No. 5 RISO Chevrolet Camaro, sending him into a spin that caught up both cars. "I passed him clean going down the front straightaway and was well ahead of him going into turn one," said Gentilozzi. "It was my race. We went into the corner and I got hit from behind, then I got hit again, spun around and got pushed into the outside wall." "Paul (Gentilozzi) and I were racing real hard - he and I seem to find each other no matter where we're at," said Simo. "He had a great re-start and the rest is history. He got me, I got him back. We tangled up in the back coming off the hairpin and I got into the wall and tor up the car pretty good." Third-place Borkowski, followed by Lagod, in the No. 83 HyperMax Camaro, and Reese, in the No. 66 Fieldworks Pontiac Grand Prix, were able to slip by the turn one crash, but Jon Gooding wasn't so fortunate, and his No. 16 Mountain Dew Mustang Cobra was also collected. By the time Simo and Gentilozzi were able to get their damaged cars restarted the battle was over, and Borkowski cruised to an easy 1.069-second victory, his second straight and second career Trans-Am win. "I'd like to say I was jumping out of my seat when I saw Paul (Gentilozzi) and Brian (Simo) take each other out, but I don't get too emotional in the car," said Borkowski. "I can say I was happier being in the lead, rather than in third. This race really went according to our plan - we figured Paul and Brian would take each other out, it just happened later than we thought it would." Tom Kendall, the 1997 Trans-Am Drivers' Champion, wasn't a factor in the contest after suffering damaged to his No. 11 All Sport Body Quencher Mustang Cobra early in the race, as did Dorsey Schroeder, who was in the pits on lap one after a turn-one incident. Both Kendall and Schroeder were able to re-enter the contest with Kendall finishing 17th and Schroeder finishing 21st. Gentilozzi recovered from the spin to finish fourth, followed by Rick Lee, Mark Pielsticker, R.J. Valentine, Gooding, Simo and Ray Genick. "We knew there would be a lot of attrition in this race, there always is on a tight street course," said Reese. "We've been struggling all weekend and just played the race conservatively, keeping on the lead lap and in sight of the leaders. With 10 laps or so to go, we decided to turn up the wick and see what would happen. Finishing on the podium was one of our goals this season, so we're really happy to be here." With his victory, Borkowski, the 1997 Rookie of The Year, finished the season with 275 points, third in the Drivers' Championship behind Simo, with 277, and Kendall, with 411. Finishing the season fourth is Jon Gooding, with 272 points, followed by Schroeder, 265; Gentilozzi, 265; Greg Pickett, 228; John Miller IV, 195; Bill Saunders, 168; and Mike Lewis, 166.