Road America: Tony Ave raceday notes

Ave resurrects fifth place finish after pit road penalty. ELKHART LAKE, WISC. - A close call in the pits at Road America cost Tony Ave, driver of the ...

Ave resurrects fifth place finish after pit road penalty.

ELKHART LAKE, WISC. - A close call in the pits at Road America cost Tony Ave, driver of the #53 LAC Motorsports/Trilithic Panoz Esperante, a podium finish and perhaps a win in the Johnson Controls 100, round 8 of the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup. Ave captured his third top five finish of the season at his home track.

Ave, who started fourth and finished fifth, felt he had a car capable of winning the race, despite being down on speed in the straightaway. "I got around Paul Gentilozzi going into turn one, and then I passed Boris Said, but he got back by."

On the restart after a 25-minute red flag period for Kenny Wilden's second lap crash, Ave was poised to pounce on the lead. "I moved into second place and Boris and I were just walking away from the field at that point. I opted to just ride behind him and figured we could sort things out later."

When you don't have the most powerful engine on the track, you have to rely on other factors to make up speed. In Ave's case, being well acquainted with Road America was an obvious advantage. "Coming into this weekend I was concerned about our straightaway speed, but once the race started, I was drafting with Boris. Our car was handling well and I knew a few things to do to get through some spots quicker. We were running in second place and in really good shape."

But after Said and Ave pitted on lap seven, Ave ended up needing to make up more ground that he wanted. "I got too far into the pit box and Stu (Hayner) didn't quite get all the way into his box, so when I pulled out, I brushed his fueler, and was assessed a stop and go penalty. When I came out of the pits after the stop and go penalty, I was back in 20th, and had to come up through the field," he explains.

"This is our first pit penalty, and I feel so bad about it, because this could have been the race to win for LAC Motorsports and Trilithic." he says. Ave began the arduous task of working his way through the field, and was relieved to see a full course caution help him reel some of the leaders back within sight on lap 19.

"By that time I had worked my way up to 10th position and was running faster laps than most of the cars in front of me. Mike Lewis was blocking me, but then the two cars in front of him crashed, and he got into my side, and I just got around everybody I could to finish fifth," he adds.

Ave's finish helped him maintain his hold on seventh place in the championship points battle with 145 points. He and the LAC Motorsports Team face the rest of the Trans-Am Series regulars travel to a new venue on the streets of Denver for Round 9 of the Trans-Am Series for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup on Sept. 1.

"We had a car that was going to win this race, but now we'll go on to Denver knowing we have what it takes to run at the front of the field, promises Ave.

-lac-

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Tony Ave , Paul Gentilozzi
Teams HART