SEBRING, Florida (March 17, 2000) â€” Johnny Miller, of Johnson City, Tenn., started his Automationdirect.com/UPS Corvette from the front for the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series season opener at Sebring International Raceway today, but he didn't...
SEBRING, Florida (March 17, 2000) — Johnny Miller, of Johnson City, Tenn., started his Automationdirect.com/UPS Corvette from the front for the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series season opener at Sebring International Raceway today, but he didn't finish there. After yielding the lead to second-starting Paul Gentilozzi, Miller stalked Gentilozzi through the first 15 laps of the 27-lap, 99.9-mile race, reclaiming the lead when Gentilozzi was forced to the pits with a flat tire. Unfortunately, Miller, who led the next 11 laps, came together with Leighton Reese on a last-lap restart and his race ended in Turn Three. He was scored 16th in the final tally.
"It was a wild race," commented Miller. "There was oil all over the track. Paul and I were off the track four or five times, it was so greasy. I had the faster car, I was just waiting to find a way to get around him cleanly. I could see his tire was down during the yellow flag, so I wasn't worried about getting around him. I knew he'd have to pit."
On the last lap incident with Reese, Miller said, "It was one of those racing incidents. It was the last lap, we both wanted to win, but there was antifreeze and oil all over the track. Leighton came alongside me on the restart. We leaned on each other a bit, and my car pushed badly into the first turn. Leighton went way wide to late apex the next turn, and I looked inside him. When I got on the brakes, they locked up in the oil and I just slid straight. When Leighton came across the front of the car, I couldn't avoid him. I'll apologize to Leighton if that's what he needs to hear. I didn't mean to hit him; I don't race that way, and Leighton knows that. But when you have a last-lap shoot out on a slippery track, cars are going to get together, and a lot of them did. We weren't the only ones."
The weekend had several high points, including Miller winning his first career pole on Friday, having set a track record with a 2:03.999 second, 107.42 mph lap. After the race, Miller was penalized half his points and half his prize money for the incident with Reese. "We applaud SCCA for now having a specific policy on contact," said Miller. "Obviously, we're not happy to be on this end of it, but we may be on the other end at some point in the future. We'll take our lumps now and move on to Charlotte. That's close to a home track for us, and we expect to be right back at the front contesting for the win."
The next round of the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series is the Grand Prix of Charlotte on April 1st, at Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.