LOPEZ SCORES SECOND CAREER TRANS-AM WIN, HEADS TO ROAD ATLANTA WITH EYE ON CHAMPIONSHIP
Alton, VA- RJ Lopez came into round nine of the 2010 SCCA Pro Trans-Am series season at Virginia International Raceway needing to narrow the gap to current points leader Tony Ave in Lopez's quest for a championship. Lopez kept those dreams alive by winning the event after a bold pass under braking as the two drivers toured the facility on the final lap. Lopez, driving the No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Chevrolet Corvette passed Ave in turn 14 and went on to claim a victory of nearly three seconds.
Realizing that speed and consistency is what drives a championship effort, the Lopesprt team made some changes to the number 6 Corvette following the previous race at Brainerd. Said Lopez of those changes, "We made some major changes to the suspension in the short time after Brainerd and the car responded great. Danny Slack of ECR brought us a new power plant to the track and it made killer power."
From the moment the team unloaded the race car, Lopez and crew had a sense of how their weekend would go. "Well, we were quick right out of the box and the car just got better and better with every change we made," said Lopez. As to the qualifying session being canceled due to inclement weather, Lopez stated, "Too bad qualifying was canceled, I think we had a chance at scoring our first pole, but sitting on the front row based on points was acceptable."
The racing action saw Lopez handle his on track duties like a true veteran. Keeping the points chase in mind, Lopez settled in for the race and paced himself accordingly.
"The race went very well, we ran a comfortable pace making sure we saved something for the end as we usually do," said Lopez. "The tires were going away from pretty early on, so I had to drive the car a little more carefully than usual."
After keeping pace behind race leader Tony Ave for the duration of the 90 mile event, Lopez reeled Ave in and made a pass on the final lap in the final corners. The pass, created not only some on track excitement but post race discussion as well.
"We caught Ave on the last lap and went for the pass in turn 14 at the end of the back straight," stated Lopez. "I was about half a car length behind on the inside when Ave closed the door on me. It was a racing incident in my opinion, obviously Ave didn't see it as I did as he was pretty upset after the incident."
"We made contact again after the checkered flag when Ave rear-ended me on my cool down lap," Lopez said. "According to him it was not intentional. I guess I don't even care, just upset one of my shocks broke because of the hit, making unnecessary work for the team."
The racing incident cost both Lopez and Ave penalties from the SCCA Pro series officials. Officials deducted 10 points from Lopez and assessed Lopez a $500 fine for what was deemed an unsafe pass. Tony Ave was also fined $500 for body contact between his and Lopez's car after the checkered flag. The outcome of the penalties has Ave now leading Lopez by 135 points in the standings, 1,146-1,011, leaving the final event at Road Atlanta to settle the championship outcome for 2011.
As the team and series look to wrap up the year of competition in the coming weeks, Lopez has his sights set on ending the year with a solid result. "We are looking forward to Road Atlanta," stated Lopez. "We are technically still in the championship chase. The car is really good now and the motor is really strong so we should run just as well in the last race."
The SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series next event will be the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda 2 at Road Atlanta, October 1, 2010.