SOURCE: SCCA GENTILOZZI TAKES DETROIT JOHNSON CONTROLS 100 NTB TRANS-AM RACE WITH FLAG-TO-FLAG EFFORT DETROIT, Mich. (June 6, 1998) -- Paul Gentilozzi, of Lansing, Mich., dominated the Johnson Controls 100 NTB National Tire & Battery ...
GENTILOZZI TAKES DETROIT JOHNSON CONTROLS 100 NTB TRANS-AM RACE WITH FLAG-TO-FLAG EFFORT
DETROIT, Mich. (June 6, 1998) -- Paul Gentilozzi, of Lansing, Mich., dominated the Johnson Controls 100 NTB National Tire & Battery Trans-Am Series race on the streets of Belle Isle, Detroit, Mich. en route to scoring his sixth career victory with a 1.976-second margin over Leighton Reese, while Bruce Qvale finished third, a one-two-three finish for Chevrolet, Pontiac and Ford, respectively.
From the start, Gentilozzi was the class of the 29-car field, and despite two full-course caution restarts that bunched the field -- both for debris from incidents that caused no injuries -- Gentilozzi would never be challenged in his clean sweep of the weekend, starting from the pole, leading every lap and setting the race's fast lap.
"You don't know what it's like to try to accomplish something for 10 years and finally achieve it," said Gentilozzi. "I've been racing a long time and this is the most important race I've ever won. This race typifies Trans-Am racing and what motorsports is all about. I've won the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, but this is the most satisfying thing I'll ever do in motorsports."
While Gentilozzi, driving the No. 3 AutoLink Chevrolet Corvette, was never challenge throughout the 42-lap, 98.532-mile contest, the battle behind him for the remaining podium positions was fierce, with six drivers alternately running in second and third place.
Second-place starter Bill Saunders, in the No. 8 AutoLink Chevrolet Corvette, held his position for the first four laps until hard-chargers Mike Lewis and Brian Simo slipped by, but Lewis' run in second would be short-lived as he dropped out of the race with mechanical problems, elevating Simo to second and John Miller IV to third. Saunders, however, would not be denied and by lap 12 he was back into third, advancing to second three laps later when Simo slid off course at turn three of the 14-turn, 2.346-mile circuit, falling to third with Miller IV, in the No. 64 PLC Direct Camaro, close behind in fourth.
As Saunders, Simo and Miller IV battled for second, Reese, in the No. 66 Phillips 66/Banner Engineering Pontiac Grand Pix, was working his way up from a 10th-place start, and when Simo spun on lap 25 while trying to pass Saunders, Reese capitalized with his own maneuver, advancing past Miller IV into third. Six laps later Saunders' day was over as his motor let go, advancing Reese to second while Bruce Qvale, in the No. 44 Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra, moved up to third on lap 32 after shadowing both Reese and Miller IV from the green flag.
"It seemed like I was the slow car of the fast group, then the car started to dial in," said Qvale. "Brian (Simo) did get me on a couple of the restarts, but I was hanging with him. I knew that if I could just be consistent then I could have a good finish. I was gaining a little on Leighton (Reese) at the end, but I doubt that I could have caught him."
Simo made a late-race charge with eight laps to go, passing Qvale for third but ultimately dropping to his fifth-place finish as his worn-out No. 2 Valvoline Mustang Cobra faded in the final laps, behind fourth-place Rick Dittman, in the No. 24 M&D Auto/Fel-Pro Chevrolet Camaro.
For his drive from 10th to second, Reese earned the DynoMax Turn On The Power Award for turning in the best drive of the race.
"This was the best drive I've had in a long time," said Reese. "I think I only made one or two mistakes out there all day."
After four races Gentilozzi leads the NTB Trans-Am Drivers' Championship standings with 124 points, followed by Miller IV, 93; Chris Neville, 81; Ross Thomspon, 76; Qvale, 75; Simo, 72; Reese, 65; Saunders, 61; Max Lagod, 61; and Lewis and Randy Ruhlman, 49.