NTB TRANS-AM SERIES BANQUET CAPS 33RD SEASON
HOUSTON (October 4) -- The NTB Trans-Am Series held its annual year-end banquet following the Oct. 3 season finale at the Texaco Grand Prix of Houston. The gala, held Saturday evening at the Westin Galleria in Houston, honored the NTB Trans-Am's Drivers' Champion Paul Gentilozzi, Manufacturers' Champion Chevrolet and the rest of the series' year-end award winners.
The Banquet was co-emceed by NTB Trans-Am Series announcer Tom Hnatiw and Speedvision commentator Greg Creamer, and VIPs in attendance included West Michigan Grand Prix Director of Operations Gordon Ensing and Operations Manager James Connell, the president of the Player's Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, Leon Methot, NTB National Tire & Battery representatives Dave Albritton, Anne Sackheim and Rick Gambill, BFGoodrich Tires representatives Herb Johnson, Director of Motorsports and Dave Sanders, Road Racing Manager, Mike Kaptuch, President and CEO, BBS Wheels USA, and George Giles, Motorsports Director of TotalTel.
Before the award ceremony began the season was reviewed, with highlights including a more than 23 percent increase in entries over last season, and a 33 percent gain over 1996; an all-time record for number of drivers to contest the entire season, 17; 27 lead changes on the year, up 50 percent from the 1997 season; attendance of 1,085,000, an increase 17.4 percent; seven record narrowest margins of victory, three more than the 1997 season; and five sub-one second margins of victory, just one short of the all-time season record set in 1993.
Speedvision Network Appearance Plan awards were the first driver presentations, with the following drivers recognized: Frank Cioppettini, Jr., Morristown, N.J., No. 47 Clover Enterprises Chevrolet Camaro, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); Brian DeVries, East Grand Rapids, Mich., No. 5 Jade Pig Ventures/Econoline Abrasives Chevrolet Camaro, 12 starts (worth $4,800 in rewards and free entries); Simon Gregg, Jacksonville, Fla., No. 59 LG Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); Don Sak, West Bloomfield, Mich., No. 10 Don Sak Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, 10 starts (worth $3,400 in rewards and free entries); C. David Seuss, Charlestown, Mass., No. 13 Fight Against Smoking Oldsmobile Cutlass, 10 starts (worth $3,400 in rewards and free entries).
The top-five Speedvision Network Appearance Plan recipients were also recognized with fifth place, winning $1,000 & plaque, going to Bruce Barkelew, Columbia, Mo., No. 4 Superclubs Resorts Ford Mustang Cobra, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); fourth place, winning $1,500 & plaque, Max Lagod, Barrington, Ill., No. 83 Hypermax Engineering Chevrolet Camaro, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); third place, winning $2,000 & trophy, Bob Ruman, Munroe Falls, Ohio, No. 23 Cenweld Corporation Chevrolet Camaro, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); second place, winning $2,500 & trophy, Lou Gigliotti, Garland, Texas, No. 28 Young Chevrolet/LG Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette; 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries); and first place of the 1998 Speedvision Network Appearance Plan, winning $3,000 & trophy, Peter Shea, Newport Beach, Calif., No. 70 Entrepreneur Magazine Ford Mustang Cobra, 13 starts (worth $5,500 in rewards and free entries).
The Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race Award winners were recognized next, including Rolf Samulewicz, Huffaker-Qvale Racing (Detroit); Mark Wilsdon, Ruman Racing (Mid-Ohio); Scott McLaren, Miller Racing (Minneapolis); David Steele, heads the team of Mike Lewis and Ross Thompson (Cleveland); Pat Briody, Briody Racing (West Michigan Grand Prix); Scott Veeder, Reese Racing (Player's Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres); Scott Schanke, RaceWerX (Watkins Glen); Mike Semour, White Lightning Racing (Road America); Jim Derhaag, Derhaag Motorsports, (Pikes Peak); and Jerry Lagod, HyperMax Engineering Rac ing (Houston).
Following the Crew Chief awards, Rob Elson, NTB Trans-Am Technical Manager, presented the 1998 Crew of the Year award to the crew of the No. 44 Huffaker-Qvale Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra, driven by Bruce Qvale. George Giles was up next to present the 1998 TotalTel Long Distance Awards, with third place, $2,000 and a trophy presented to Ross Thompson, who completed 664 laps of 674 possible laps; second place, $3,000 and a trophy to John Miller IV, who completed 667 laps of 674 possible laps; and first place, $10,000 and a trophy to Chris Neville, who completed 670 laps of 674 possible on the year.
Herb Johnson next presented limited edition g-force T/A jackets to the 1998 NTB National Tire & Battery Trans-Am Series race winners, going to Paul Gentilozzi, Bill Saunders, Lou Gigliotti, Brian Simo and Stu Hayner. The Ski Centurion award program was highlighted next, and Tom Martin, who entered the drawing at the Sprint PCS Grand Prix of Minnesota, was revealed as the lucky Trans-Am race fan who won a 1998 Ski Centurion World Class Tournament ski boat, valued at $30,000.
DynoMax Turn On The Power Award winners were also recognized, including Stu Hayner, Long Beach, Watkins Glen and Road America; Brian Simo, Minnesota, Pikes Peak International and Houston; Paul Gentilozzi, Homestead; Lou Gigliotti, Lime Rock; Leighton Reese, Detroit; Bob Ruman, Mid-Ohio; Bill Saunders, Cleveland; Chris Neville, West Michigan Grand Prix; and John Miller IV, Trois-Rivieres.
The 10th through fourth-place drivers' awards were then presented, with 10th-place going to Randy Ruhlman; ninth-place, Michael Lewis; eighth-place, Bruce Qvale; seventh-place, Leighton Reese; sixth-place, Ross Thompson; fifth-place, John Miller IV; and fourth-place, Chris Neville; The BBS Most Improved Driver Of The Year award is determined by a vote of the NTB Trans-Am drivers, who chose John Miller IV as the 1998 recipient, with the award presented by Mike Kaptuch. In 1997, Miller IV has no top-three finishes, one top-five finish, 10 top-10 finishes and no Fast Five Qualifying marks. In 1998, Miller IV posted three top-three finishes, seven top-five finishes, 11 top-10 efforts and had eight Fast Five Qualifying appearances.
The third through first drivers' awards were presented next, with third-place going to Bill Saunders, second-place awarded to Brian Simo and Paul Gentilozzi honored as the 1998 Drivers' Champion.
The final award presentation was made to Chevrolet, winner of the Manufacturers' Championship. Four teams contributed to Chevrolet's success in 1998, led by Rocketsports' 88 points contributed from nine victories and one runner-up finish; White Lightning Racing contributed nine points with Hayner's victory; Derhaag Motorsports brought home four points, thanks to Chris Neville's second place finish at Pikes Peak International; and two points from Miller Racing.