ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 15, 1998) Stu Hayner, of Yorba Linda, Calif., led just one lap of the 25-lap, 101.9-mile NTB Trans-Am Series race at Road Americathe last lapto score his first career series victory in just seven starts, topping Bill Saunders by 0.333-second, with Chris Neville, in the No. 40 ARCO Chevrolet Camaro, posting the final podium position.
"We went into the race with the game plan to take care of the car," said Hayner. "We'd been there, done that with running too fast and then have nothing at the end. This time I set the thing in endurance mode and thought at the last five laps I'd just go for it. With seven laps to go I was about 20 seconds behind the leader and thought I might have screwed up, so I picked up the pace quite a bit and all I was trying to do was get by a few cars at the end. I really had no clue at that time I was going to pull this win offthen I saw Saunders and Paul (Gentilozzi) at the same time, and really put the pressure on. By the time I got to Bill (Saunders), I had enough of a run to get by."
From the start of the 1:01:10.507 contest the race looked to belong to pole-qualifier Paul Gentilozzi, who after an early-race duel with outside-pole qualifier Brian Simo held a comfortable margin as he took the white flag to signal his final lap of the 14-turn, 4.048-mile circuit.
The race was not to belong to Gentilozzi, however, as his No. 3 AutoLink Corvette suffered a mechanical failure with just six corners to go and stopped on course, finishing 21st.
"We pitched an oil pump belt," said Gentilozzi. "We were in such a rhythm and just on cruise control. Then I saw a piece of debris in the middle of the track and thought I went over it -- well, I went over it, literally. Another 100 yards and the oil pressure went to zero. I looked in the mirror and saw the belt laying on the track. And that, as they say, was that."
With Gentilozzi out of the race, Saunders, in the No. 8 AutoLink Corvette, inherited the lead but wouldn't hold it for long as Hayner had his No. 58 Westward Ho Camaro moving fast, and as the duo went through turn 10 Hayner captured a lead he would hold to the end, earning the DynoMax Turn On The Power Award for turning in the best drive of the race in the process.
"I gave it away," said Saunders. "I honestly didn't know he (Hayner) was there. I looked in my mirror and saw Stu for the first time it was like a sniper. We could have run a bunch harder on that last lap. We made a big mistake, but my hat's off to Stu, he drove a great race."
Hayner's finish also clinched the Manufacturers' Championship for Chevrolet, the auto maker's 15 Trans-Am title and first since 1995. Lou Gigliotti, in the No. 28 Young Chevrolet/G2 Performance Parts Corvette, finished fourth, and John Miller IV was fifth after starting at the back of 35-car field.
After 11 races, Gentilozzi leads the Drivers' Championship standings with 294, followed by Saunders, 243; Neville, 238; Miller IV, 227; Simo, 226; Bruce Qvale and Ross Thompson, 188; Leighton Reese, 163; Randy Ruhlman, 156; and Michael Lewis, 153.