Leitzinger Holds Off Multiple Late-Race Challenges To Claim First Career Win In Trans-Am Buckeye 100 LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 29, 2002) ^Ã– Rookie Butch Leitzinger of Tom Gloy Racing refused to wither under oppressive heat and the ...
Leitzinger Holds Off Multiple Late-Race Challenges To Claim First Career Win In Trans-Am Buckeye 100
LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 29, 2002) ^Ö Rookie Butch Leitzinger of Tom Gloy Racing refused to wither under oppressive heat and the determined challenges of his three closest pursuers Saturday, and as a result, he claimed his first career Trans-Am Series victory in the Trans-Am Buckeye 100 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama Chevrolet Corvette) started from the pole and led 41 of the race^Òs 45 laps, but his victory was not as dominant as that might suggest. Following a late-race restart necessitated by an off-course excursion by Craig Shafer (#39 Somerset Door and Column Chevrolet Camaro) in the Mid-Ohio carousel, Leitzinger was forced to hold off the victory bids of a trio of Trans-Am veterans, headed by three-time and defending series champion Paul Gentilozzi, also the winner of the past three Trans-Am races contested on Mid-Ohio^Òs 2.238-mile permanent road course.
The final three laps saw Leitzinger, Gentilozzi, series points leader Boris Said and Johnny Miller ^Ö who entered the day second in the championship ^Ö run nose-to-tail through several of Mid-Ohio^Òs 13 turns before Leitzinger finally generated enough breathing room to finish 0.540 seconds ahead of Gentilozzi. Said finished third, 0.975 seconds back, while Miller was fourth, 1.441 seconds off the pace.
^ÓThose guys are definitely racers,^Ô Leitzinger said of his pursuers. ^ÓThey raced me real clean and it was a lot of fun, but obviously, I^Òm spent.
^ÓMy team did a perfect job all weekend,^Ô added Leitzinger, who became the first rookie to win a Trans-Am event since Justin Bell^Òs (#40 Allied Machine and Engineering/XtremeLens Chevrolet Corvette) victory at Houston last year. ^ÓThey hit the setup perfectly.
^ÓI think both Boris and Paul were faster than I was through the back sections of the course, but we set up our car to be fastest at the places where we thought we^Òd have opportunities to pass, and that seemed to be a good strategy.^Ô
In addition to moving from eighth to fourth place in the race for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup with 87 points, Leitzinger also claimed a $20,000 contingency award from Chevrolet by virtue of his victory, Chevy^Òs first of the 2002 Trans-Am season.
Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/MatrixOne/Futaba Jaguar XKR) earned his first podium result since winning the season opener at Long Beach, and moved into second place in the championship in the process. He also extended Trans-Am career records with his 177th start, 57th top-three finish, 89th top-five finish and 118th top-10 result.
^ÓIt feels like it^Òs been an eternity,^Ô Gentilozzi said of his absence from the podium, which in reality lasted only two events. ^ÓWe had a bit of a dry spell, which is unusual for us. We^Òre on our way back, but we^Òre not there yet.
^ÓWe had a helluva car today, we just didn^Òt have quite enough,^Ô added Gentilozzi, who is chasing a record-tying fourth Trans-Am championship this season, to complement series titles he won in 1998, ^Ò99 and last year. ^ÓBut it sure was fun. Today is indicative of what Trans-Am racing is all about. It had to be great for the fans; it sure was exciting in the car.
^ÓYou can^Òt drive any harder than that. If anyone had made a mistake [at the end] it would have cost him at least a position, but no one did.^Ô
Said^Òs (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) third-place performance extended his streak of podium finishes to four in as many starts this season, including back-to-back victories in Rounds 2 and 3 at Mosport and Lime Rock, respectively. He maintains the championship lead with 120 points, 19 ahead of Gentilozzi, who stands second with 101.
^ÓWe ran a good race,^Ô he said afterward. ^ÓI was happy when I saw the yellow flag [for Shafer^Òs incident]. It seemed like one of those finally went my way after so many times when they^Òve gone against me.
^ÓThe last four laps were a riot. That^Òs what Trans-Am racing is all about. I wish it [the race] would have been 10 laps longer.^Ô
Miller^Òs (#64 Automation Direct/Eaton/Cutler Hammer Jaguar XKR) fourth-place finish kept him among the top three in the championship with 97 points, four behind Gentilozzi. Stuart Hayner (#02 Trenton Forging/Tom Bell Chevrolet/Precision Anodizing and Plating Chevrolet Corvette) finished fifth, a season best, exceeding seventh at Mosport.
Following Said, Gentilozzi, Miller and Leitzinger in the championship standings is Tony Ave (LAC Motorsports Panoz Esperante), whose sixth-place finish Saturday moved him to fifth in the championship, with 76 points.
The 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup continues with Round 5 from Cleveland^Òs Burke Lakefront Airport on Saturday, July 13. The race will be the second of three Trans-Am events to air on CBS Sports this summer, with air time scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.
-scca pro racing-