Long Beach: LAC Motorsports preview

Ave and LAC confidently head to Long Beach. INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- This may be his first full season in the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup, but Tony Ave, driver of the ...

Ave and LAC confidently head to Long Beach.

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- This may be his first full season in the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup, but Tony Ave, driver of the #53 LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante, is feeling pretty confident as he heads to The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend.

Ave's confidence comes from his own racing experience on the street circuit as well as his comfort level with his team. "I know I have the best crew chief on pit lane," Ave says, praising LAC Motorsport's Nicholas Short.

Ave's experience at Long Beach includes a pole position start in the 1996 Trans-Am Series race and a top five finish in the Toyota Atlantic Series in 2001. That confidence and experience will have to stand up to some tough competition, a fact Ave quickly points out. "I know this... Paul Gentilozzi and all the guys who work for him build a lot of horsepower, and Gentilozzi appears to have done an exceptional job with the new Jaguar body. I also know how good the Tom Gloy Riley & Scott car is, and I know how good his guys are. Once they put Butch Leitzinger in that car, they'll be tough too."

Facing up to all that tough competition, success can only be sweeter, Ave reasons. "With the Panoz test we did last week, and considering all the variables we can control, I'm optimistic for the LAC Motorsports Team's chances." And one other thing helps, he adds, "I really like racing there."

Ave will be behind the wheel of the exotic-looking Panoz Esperante in its second full season of competition in the series. Maiden voyage jitters are in the past for America's newest sportscar, which will be challenged by seasoned Jaguars, Corvettes and Mustangs in its sophomore year. Kerry Alexander, owner of LAC Motorsports, drove the car in its first competition just a year ago at Long Beach.

Sunday's Johnson Controls 100 marks the opening of the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup, and the start of the 37th consecutive year of the most consistent and competitive North American Road Racing. Ave takes on defending series champion Gentilozzi, along with 2001 Rookie of the Year Justin Bell, former champion Brian Simo, Boris Said, Johnny Miller, 2001 Long Beach winner Lou Gigliotti, Leitzinger and other notable drivers when the green flag waves Sunday, April 14 at 3:45 PM Pacific Time. The racers will muscle their way around the 1.97 mile 11-turn street circuit for 51 laps in an event that will be broadcast on SPEED Channel Saturday, April 20 at 5 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

-lac-

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Brian Simo , Tony Ave , Justin Bell , Johnny Miller , Lou Gigliotti , Tom Gloy