GENTILOZZI GOES FLAG TO FLAG FOR LONG BEACH NTB TRANS-AM SERIES WIN LONG BEACH, Calif.(April 5, 1998)--Paul Gentilozzi, making the professional racing debut of the new fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, led flag-to-flag to score his fourth ...
GENTILOZZI GOES FLAG TO FLAG FOR LONG BEACH NTB TRANS-AM SERIES WIN
LONG BEACH, Calif.(April 5, 1998)--Paul Gentilozzi, making the professional racing debut of the new fifth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, led flag-to-flag to score his fourth career NTB Trans-Am Series victory with a 6.536-second margin over Stu Hayner on the Long Beach street circuit.
Gentilozzi, driving the No. 3 AutoLink Chevrolet Corvette, made the most of his pole position start to lead flag-to-flag, and was never seriously challenged throughout the 52-lap, one-hour-timed NTB Trans-Am contest, while John Miller IV finished third, followed by Chris Neville and Bill Saunders.
"We got started late building the Corvette and we had to put in hundreds of hours in the last few weeks to get ready, but we worked hard and here we are," said Gentilozzi. "This track is really my favorite place to race. I won my first Trans-Am here, and I know the circuit very well. It's a track with a real personality, and I know all of the bumps and subtleties that are here year after year."
While Gentilozzi cruised for the win, a spectacular battle raged behind him for the remaining podium positions, with six drivers--Hayner, Miller IV, Neville, Saunders and Dino Crescentini--contesting the second through fifth positions.
From the green flag, second-place qualifier Miller IV, in the No. 64 PLC Direct Camaro, had his mirror full of Hayner's No. 58 Westward Ho Casino Camaro, dropping as far back as fifth before making a mid-race charge to challenge Hayner in the late going.
"In the early going it I didn't want to overrun the car," said Miller. "I wanted to be sure I'd have a solid car at the end of the race."
Hayner, meanwhile, had to deal with the hard-driving Brian Simo in the No. 2 Valvoline Ford Mustang Cobra, who held the runner-up position until falling to Hayner on lap 34, eventually dropping out of race contention three laps later when he overshot turn four after locking up his brakes and made contact with the tire barrier.
"Brian (Simo) and I had some great racing today," said Hayner. "We were doorhandle-to-doorhandle several times. "I was having a great time today, more fun than I've had racing in a long time. Toward the end I saw a big blue Camaro filling my mirrors and I was just thinking 'who is this guy?'. I've never raced against John (Miller IV)."
Neville, in the No. 40 Safariland/Morwear Camaro, Saunders, in the No. 8 AutoLink Corvette and Crescentini, in the No. 15 Autospecialty Camaro dueled throughout the 1:00:59.390 race, with the trio swapping positions several times before Crescentini dropped out after brushing a wall on lap 31, bringing out the second of two full course yellows that resulted in no injuries but helped to produce an average race speed of 82.68 mph.
The race also marked the debut of the new NTB Trans-Am Series spec BFGoodrich g-Force T/A radial tire.
"I've raced on just about every brand of tire made," said Hayner. "I've never raced on a tire that was so consistent throughout a race. The track deteriorated much more than our tires did."
Hayner's runner-up effort earned him the DynoMax Turn On the Power award, while Max Lagod, in the No. 83 HyperMax Camaro, scored the Cipa Mirrors Pass Of the Race award for improving 15 positions throughout the race, finishing seventh from his 22nd place start.