Cleveland race report

CLEVELAND Paul Gentilozzi, of Lansing, Mich., took his second-straight BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series win, leading the Simple Green 100 flag-to-flag at the Burke Lakefront Airport, part of the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. Johnny...

CLEVELAND Paul Gentilozzi, of Lansing, Mich., took his second-straight BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series win, leading the Simple Green 100 flag-to-flag at the Burke Lakefront Airport, part of the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland. Johnny Miller, of Johnson City, Tenn., finished second, followed by Brian Simo, of Carlsbad, Calif., who came from 39th on the grid to finish third. Gentilozzi, who started on the pole in the No. 1 Johnson Controls/Homelink Jaguar XKR, took the lead at the start, and held off a furious charge by Miller, who started third in the No. 64 Automationdirect.com/UPS Chevrolet Corvette in the early stages. As late as lap 10, the top-five, also including Randy Ruhlman, Tony Ave and Jack Willes, were separated by less than two seconds, but it was Simo who was putting on the best show, moving into the top-15 by lap eight and the top-10 by lap 14. One-by-one, the frontrunners encountered problems, opening the door for Simo to move into third by lap 26 without the help of cautions for the majority of the event. A late-race caution set up a six-lap dash to the finish, in which Gentilozzi moved out to a 1.5-second lead while Simo negotiated traffic in an attempt to catch Miller. Gentilozzi averaged 90.609 mph en route to his 1.593-second win, but missed the $30,000 Simple Green "Clean Sweep" bonus (pole, all laps led, fastest race lap) when Simo turned a lap 0.375-second lap faster. "I wanted to race hard enough to maintain a solid lead, but not any harder than I absolutely had to," said two-time, defending series Champion Gentilozzi. "Johnny [Miller] was racing me really hard probably harder than either of us wanted. "The $30,000 bonus would be great, but if we screwed up because I was trying for the lap time, and it ultimately cost me the championship, it wouldn't be worth it. One of my best friends [Simo] just stole $30,000 from me!" Miller pestered Gentilozzi the majority of the race, but ended up in a defensive mode in the end to hold off Simo. The win turned the corner on a season that has had nothing but bad luck for the team that has always been fast, but had problems finishing. "I made a clean start Randy [Ruhlman] went to the outside and I ran to the inside of the corner, and we went from there," said Miller. "The team has been through a lot this season, and it was important for us to finish well." Simo, who had qualified on the pole in the No. 88 Tommy Bahama Qvale Mangusta, but had his times disallowed when the car was found to be too low in the front, staged a memorable comeback, and maintained his lead in the Drivers' Championship point standings over Gentilozzi (171 to 159). "Coming from so far behind is a hit-or-miss deal," said Simo. "I have learned from past experience to not charge hard early because you want to be there for the finish. I don't know how we would have run with Gentilozzi because I never ran with him." Gentilozzi's customer team came home fourth, with Baltimore's Jeff Alternburg in the Steele Racing Enterprises Jaguar XKR, followed by Dallas' Lou Gigliotti in the LG Motorsports/GT Performance Chevrolet Corvette. Altenburg took the lead in the Red Line Oil Rookie of the Year standings, while Gigliotti maintained third in the Championship, with 109 points, followed by Chris Neville, 97, and Tomy Drissi, with 87. Gentilozzi's Rocketsports Racing also received the High Tech Performance Trailers $5,000 bonus for leading the High Tech Performance Trailers Owner's Championship after Cleveland.

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Brian Simo , Tony Ave , Tomy Drissi , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Lou Gigliotti , Jack Willes
Teams LG Motorsports