Miami: Race report

Said wins third Trans-Am race in a row at Miami; can clinch series title at Road Atlanta next weekend. MIAMI (October 6, 2002) -- Boris Said and Stu Hayner are friends, so when Hayner's car suffered a mechanical failure while in the lead on ...

Said wins third Trans-Am race in a row at Miami; can clinch series title at Road Atlanta next weekend.

MIAMI (October 6, 2002) -- Boris Said and Stu Hayner are friends, so when Hayner's car suffered a mechanical failure while in the lead on the first turn of the final lap in Sunday's Grand Prix Americas Trans-Am 100, Said felt badly.

"For about two seconds," Said commented after inheriting that advantage. "Stu's a good guy and he deserved to win today. But I've lost races that way.

"You've gotta have luck in racing, and we had it today."

Hayner's heartbreak was Said's stroke of good fortune, as Said collected his third consecutive Trans-Am Series victory in Sunday's 10th of 12 rounds in the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship. In so doing, Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) moved into a strong position to clinch his first career Trans-Am driving championship when the series travels to Road Atlanta for its penultimate round next Friday.

With two races and a maximum of 68 championship points available, Said holds a 58-point (296-238) lead over three-time and defending Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/Matrix One/Futaba Jaguar XKR) in the chase for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup. Gentilozzi finished 12th Saturday, a season-worst result, adding 18 points to his 40-point deficit to Said entering the weekend.

Said clinches the BFGoodrich Tires Cup by exiting Road Atlanta with a 34-point lead over Gentilozzi or Butch Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette), the only drivers still mathematically alive in the championship chase. Leitzinger stands third with 232 points.

"This was a big day for the championship," Said observed. "There's no way we can lose it now.

"We're going to Road Atlanta, my favorite track in the world, and I'd have to be the biggest idiot in the world to throw the championship away now."

Said finished 2.983 seconds ahead of 2001 AmeriSuites Rookie of the Year Award winner Justin Bell in the 73-lap event. Bell (Justin Bell Motorsports GT Driving Experience Chevrolet Camaro) returned from a three-race absence to record his second podium result of the season.

"Watching the SPEED Channel broadcasts [of Trans-Am races] wasn't that much fun," Bell said of his sabbatical. "I've been keeping track of what's going on from the sidelines, but this is much, much better. I'm very pleased for the guys on the [Derhaag Motorsports] team. It was a fun race.

"The Trans-Am Series is in its ascendancy," Bell added. "Let's hope everyone gives it the credit it deserves. We had a great show today."

Veteran Randy Ruhlman (Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) finished third, only his second podium finish in 124 career Trans-Am Series starts, and one off his career-best result established earlier this year at Trois-Rivieres.

"I've gotta give credit to everyone on the team, especially [team owner] Tom Gloy," Ruhlman said. "The heat was really getting to me, but Tom got on the radio with me during the second half of the race and talked me through the tough spots.

"We had a good car, and I thought we could challenge for the win until Boris put a move on me that I didn't know could be accomplished with a race car," said Ruhlman, referring to a mid-race pass by Said. "I'm proud to be up here with him and Justin, and really, really happy for the team."

Hayner (#02 Trenton Forging Chevrolet Corvette) finished fourth, followed by Tony Ave (#53 Trilithic Panoz Esperante). Hayner recorded his sixth top-five finish in his past seven starts, dating to fifth at Mid-Ohio in Round 4. Ave's finish was his third top-five result of the season and his best since fifth at Washington, D.C. in Round 6.

Leitzinger was sixth, followed by local favorite Jon Leavy (#18 Murray's Speed and Custom/Troy Industries Chevrolet Camaro) of Miami, who finished seventh in his first start of the 2002 Trans-Am Series season.

Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship leaders (unofficial, following 10 of 12 events): Boris Said, 296; Paul Gentilozzi, 238; Butch Leitzinger, 232; Johnny Miller, 215; Stuart Hayner, 205; Randy Ruhlman 200; Tony Ave, 179; Michael Lewis, 165, Tomy Drissi 164; Simon Gregg, 141.

-scca pro racing-

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Tony Ave , Justin Bell , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Michael Lewis , Simon Gregg , Jon Leavy , Tom Gloy , Stu Hayner