Lime Rock: Round four race report

Johnny Miller nabs Lime Rock prize LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- Johnny Miller has made it clear he was sick of being a bridesmaid this season. On Monday, Miller--who has finished on the podium in the first three races of the 2003 Trans-Am Series for...

Johnny Miller nabs Lime Rock prize

LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- Johnny Miller has made it clear he was sick of being a bridesmaid this season.

On Monday, Miller--who has finished on the podium in the first three races of the 2003 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup championship--finally got his trip to the altar, at Lime Rock Park, and won the rain-soaked Trans-Am 100, part of the Mohegan Sun Presents the Lime Rock Park Grand Prix. In the process, the driver of the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR, gave Jaguar its first Lime Rock victory, and he took the points lead in this year's Drivers' Championship.

Miller, who handed Jaguar its first Lime Rock pole on Saturday, lost the lead to Stu Hayner (No. 2 Trenton Forging/GMAC Commercial Finance Chevrolet Corvette) at the start of the race when his windshield fogged up. Miller rebounded on lap 13, and took the lead when Hayner spun off course in turn two. He wasn't headed from there and won by 1.506 seconds.

"I absolutely couldn't see a thing," said Miller, who recorded his second-career victory Monday. "We went about five laps about dead blind. I just followed the trail of mist behind Stu. After about five laps, the dew cleared, and we were able to run." Miller added to his perfect weekend, where he was fastest in both of the practice sessions he took part in. Miller won the Flowmaster American Thunder Challenge for winning the pole, leading the most laps and setting the race's fastest lap. He also earned the BFGoodrich® Tires Take Control Award for leading the most laps.

"We just had a great car," said Miller. "It was flawless."

Rookies Bobby Sak (No. 10 Revolution Motorsports Jaguar XKR) and Jorge Diaz, Jr. (No. 8 Puerto Rico Grand Prix Jaguar XKR) finished second and third, respectively, marking best-career finishes for both.

Sak took second after contact with Brian Simo (No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR) on lap 33 and held of Diaz during a one-lap dash to the finish after the race's final caution.

"We didn't want to see that last caution," said Sak. "We had a shot at it. The car was awesome. I was hoping for rain and got it."

Diaz overcame early windshield wiper problems and a late spin to finish third.

"I think this was an awesome race," said Diaz. "This was my first race in the rain. One of wipers broke, and we had to pit to fix it. We then had to work traffic to get back through the pack. I couldn't be happier."

Hayner finished fourth, ahead of former Lime Rock Park winner Paul Newman, who recovered from an early spin to record the top five.

The race ran in one hour and 15.49 minutes at an average speed of 80.446 miles per hour. It was slowed three times for 12 laps. The race became a timed race and ran within the 75-minute window due to inclement weather

Miller now unofficially leads the points with 117 markers, ahead of former points leader Scott Pruett, who spun late in the event and finished 12th. Diaz, Hayner and Michael Lewis complete the top five in points.

The next race, Round 5 of the 2003 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup Championship, is scheduled for June 22 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Notebook:

* Driver Johnny Miller has long claimed Lime Rock Park owed him something. He cashed it all in Saturday as the driver of the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR earned his first pole of 2003 and gave Jaguar its first pole at the 1.53-mile, eight-turn permanent road course, for Monday's Mohegan Sun Presents the Lime Rock Park Grand Prix. For his efforts, Miller received two bonus championship points, and the Jaguar Pole Award, a performance-based initiative that rewards drivers who win the pole at each Trans-Am Series events this season.

* Actor Paul Newman, along with teammate Michael Brockman, returned to Trans-Am Series competition during the Lime Rock Park Grand Prix, Round 4 of this year's championship. Newman drove the No. 78 Chevrolet Corvette, while Brockman wheeled the No. 87 Chevrolet Camaro.

Newman, making his return to the Series after a nine-year hiatus, is driving a car painted in a very similar style to the Nissan 300ZX Turbo he drove to victory here in 1986. The red, white and blue Vette was driven to Rookie of the Year honors by Butch Leitzinger last year. Newman has a storied history at Lime Rock. Of his two five Trans-Am Series victories, one came at the 1.53-mile, eight-turn permanent road course in 1986. In all, the Connecticut native has 13 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 68 Trans-Am Series starts.

Of his fifth-place finish Monday, Newman remained a man of few words.

"I would have preferred to finish second," said Newman with a laugh.

* 2000 Trans-Am Series Drivers' Champion Brian Simo drove Rocketsports Racing's No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR during this Monday's race.

Simo, no stranger to Lime Rock Park, made his first career Trans-Am Series start here in 1993 and won from the pole in 1999.

Paul Gentilozzi ended a Series record 183-race start streak this weekend when he turned the wheel of his No. 3 Jaguar XKR over to Simo. Gentilozzi began the streak on October 11, 1987 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga.

* Sam Posey, winner of the 1969 edition of Monday's race, returned to Lime Rock over weekend as Honorary Grand Marshal for the Trans-Am Series race. Posey is a veteran of Formula One, Can-Am, Indy 500, IMSA, Formula 5000 and Le Mans, as well as the Trans-Am Series.

Posey is also responsible for designing many of the buildings at Lime Rock, including the control tower. Posey grew up just five miles from Lime Rock Park, and was the first driver to break the one-minute mark here. That feat was accomplished in 1967, in a McLaren he owned.

* Tire Engineer for Trans-Am Series' spec tire supplier BFGoodrich® Tires Gary Blalock said Lime Rock poses unique challenges to the competitors. Blalock brought 460 g-Force T/A® tires to Lime Rock in two dry compounds--200 (medium) and 75 (hard)--and a one full wet compound.

"The top teams last year were successful using hard compound left-side tires and medium right-side tires," said Blalock. "The track surface is old and it results in fast tire wear. The fast guys last year were running hard-compound left-side tires, and we'll make that same recommendation this year, unless it's really cold or it rains.

"The teams that have raced there before have adopted a NASCAR philosophy, but with the idea of turning right rather than turning left," added Blalock. "They throw away that one lefthander. They setup the car with wedge and try to make it want to turn right all of the time. There is therefore a lot of abuse on the left-hand tires."

Due to wet conditions, all teams reported using full-wet compound tires during Monday's race.

* Monday's race marked the first full-wet race for the Trans-Am Series since Road America in 2001.

* Due to wet conditions Monday, the race ran in a 75-minute window. The race was originally scheduled for 66 laps, and had no time limit.

* Garrett Kletjian, a veteran of Formula 2000 cars, made his Trans-Am Series debut this weekend at Lime Rock, along with teammate Peter Rogal.

Kletjian, driver of the No. 20 UNICCO Chevrolet Corvette, plans to compete, along with the Trans-Am 100 at Lime Rock, in two races this season, at Trois-Rivières and Puerto Rico, while eyeing the 2004 rookie of the year title. In fact, Kletjian is so enamored with the Trans-Am Series; he gave up a fully funded NASCAR Busch North ride to race with America's oldest continuously running road racing series. Rogal drove the No. 36 Jaguar XKR this weekend.

* Two Tire Warehouse Central employees, Aron Dabrowski and Kenny Conway, were named honorary pit crew members for Monday's race. Dabrowski joined the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR team and driver Scott Pruett, while Conway assisted the No. 10 Trenton Forging/GMAC Commercial Finance Chevrolet Corvette team with driver Stu Hayner.

-scca pro racing/trans am-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Scott Pruett , Brian Simo , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Paul Newman , Michael Lewis , Bobby Sak , Peter Rogal , Michael Brockman , Garrett Kletjian , Stu Hayner , Sam Posey