Virginia (VIR): Said caps dominant season with win

Said caps dominant season with victory in Trans-Am 100 at Virginia International Raceway. ALTON, Va. (October 27, 2002) - Boris Said is simply not a sentimental guy. After a Trans-Am Series season in which he: A) recorded the...

Said caps dominant season with victory in Trans-Am 100 at Virginia International Raceway.

ALTON, Va. (October 27, 2002) - Boris Said is simply not a sentimental guy.

After a Trans-Am Series season in which he: A) recorded the first-ever victory for the Panoz Esperante; B) earned the 100th Trans-Am Series victory for Ford; C) became only the third driver in the 37-year history of the series to win as many as eight races in a season; and D) claimed his first Trans-Am Series championship, Said only seemed interested in his next ride.

"I'm never going to look back on that stuff; I'm just not the type," Said explained after claiming his eighth victory of the year in Sunday's season-ending VIR Speedfest Trans-Am 100 Presented by the Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience at Virginia International Raceway. "I like racing. I like winning races. To go out and run side-by-side, like we had the chance to do today . that's what it's all about for me."

Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Ford Mustang), who wrapped up the 2002 BFGoodrich Tires Cup two weeks ago at Road Atlanta, switched from his normal Panoz to a Mustang for the final weekend of the campaign, and made history for the folks at Ford in the process.

Said's victory was the first for the Mustang since he drove it to the checkered flag in the 2001 season opener at Sebring, and the 100th in Ford's storied Trans-Am Series history, which dates to 1966. Sunday's win became possible after Said took the lead from Tony Ave (#53 Trilithic Panoz Esperante) heading into the first turn on the 26th of 31 laps and went on to a 4.902-second victory, Said's series-high eighth of the season and fifth in a row.

Said became only the third driver in 37 years of Trans-Am competition to post as many as eight victories in a season, joining Tom Kendall (11 in 1997) and the late Mark Donohue (10 in 1968). His victory enabled him to finish the season with 359 championship points, and podium finishes in 10 of 11 starts.

"This is a big deal for [team owner] Mike Davis and the whole ACS Express team," Said commented. "It says a lot that in only three years, they've built a championship team. I'm just the guy who gets to have the fun, and not only do we win races, our cars don't break. That's really something.

"We get great motors from Joe Huffaker and Performance Friction Brakes," Said praised. "We just have a great package."

Ave's runner-up result matched a season best established at Lime Rock and unofficially clinched the 2002 Trans-Am Series Manufacturers' Championship for Panoz. Ave also led a race-high 17 of 31 laps to take home the BFGoodrich Tires Take Control Award for the event.

Ave completed the entire race without a pit stop and ran out of fuel almost immediately after crossing the finish line.

"We knew we weren't going to need many caution laps, so we just decided to stay out," Ave said in explaining the LAC Motorsports strategy. "When we got the caution [for Randy Ruhlman's stalled car on Laps 13-16], I knew it was going to be close.

"When we went back to green, I went as hard as I could, but I just couldn't keep Boris behind me," Ave continued. "But it was a great finish for us. We got the most out of our package, as we have all year. I really wanted to win, but I can't leave here unhappy."

Justin Bell (#40 Justin Bell GT Motorsports Experience/XtremeLens Chevrolet Corvette) finished third for his second podium finish in as many starts, including a season-high second at Miami earlier this month. Bell passed 2002 AmeriSuites Rookie of the Year Butch Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette) on the 30th of 31 laps to take the final podium position.

"Near the end of the race, I was working out where I might get by," Bell said. "I'm sure Butch knew I was coming, because I was trying to get by him all over the track.

"I knew I had one shot to get past him, on the inside of the S-curves," Bell added. "Fortunately, it worked. It's a great way for us to end the season."

Rounding out the top five finishers were Leitzinger, whose fourth-place effort was his eighth top-four performance, including three victories, in 12 starts this season; and Johnny Miller (#64 Automation Direct/Eaton Cutler-Hammer), who made an impressive run from the 18th starting position to finish fifth and extend his run of top-10 finishes to 23 in his past 24 starts, dating to a victory in the 2002 season finale at San Diego.

Three-time Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/Matrix One/Futaba Jaguar XKR), who sustained a broken rib in a testing accident on Thursday, started 21st in the 22-car field and completed nine laps before giving way to relief driver Jack Willes. Willes ultimately brought the car home in 17th place, allowing Gentilozzi to collect enough points to finish third in the championship, behind Said and Leitzinger.

Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship leaders (final, unofficial): Boris Said, 359; Butch Leitzinger, 288; Paul Gentilozzi, 270; Johnny Miller, 258; Stuart Hayner, 254; Tony Ave, 229; Randy Ruhlman 213; Tomy Drissi 196; Michael Lewis, 192; Simon Gregg, 167.

-scca pro racing-

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