Leitzinger makes it back-to-back victories with Trois-Rivieres win; trims Said's lead in championship chase. TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec (August 4, 2002) -- Rookie Butch Leitzinger capitalized on the misfortune which befell his chief Trans-Am ...
Leitzinger makes it back-to-back victories with Trois-Rivieres win; trims Said's lead in championship chase.
TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec (August 4, 2002) -- Rookie Butch Leitzinger capitalized on the misfortune which befell his chief Trans-Am Series rival Sunday when he drove to his second straight victory at Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres.
Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette), a Trans-Am Series rookie making his eighth career start, took the lead from rookie Paul Menard (#99 Menards/Conseco/ Pittsburgh Paints Ford Mustang) -- who was making his first career Trans-Am Series start -- on the 27th of 66 laps. Leitzinger never relinquished his advantage on his way to the checkered flag, which allowed him to tie championship leader Boris Said for the series lead with three victories.
Equally important, Leitzinger moved within 14 points (198-184) of Said's championship lead when Said finished off the podium for the first time in seven starts this season. Although he qualified on the pole Saturday afternoon, Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) was plagued by brake problem in the latter stages of Sunday'r race, ultimately finishing ninth.
"The Tommy Bahama team has been giving me great cars to play with all year, and this one might have been the best of the season," Leitzinger said following his win. "I'd heard all weekend about how this track was a car-killer, so in the beginning, I was following Boris. I could tell he was taking it easy, and so I did, too.
"But when the pit stops came, I got out in front of him, and after that, it was like taking a horse to the barn," Leitzinger added. "The car just wanted to go and go, so I let it, and we had absolutely no problems."
Leitzinger's trip to the podium was his fifth straight, dating to a third-place finish at Lime Rock on Memorial Day weekend. Also included are victories at Mid-Ohio and Washington, D.C. and a runner-up result at Cleveland. For the third time this season, Leitzinger collected a $20,000 contingency bonus from Chevrolet for his victory.
While Leitzinger has been a frequent podium visitor of late, his fellow top-three finishers were delighted by their first podium performances in awhile. Randy Ruhlman (#49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette), a 12-year veteran making his 121st career Trans-Am Series start, capped a one-two finish for the Tom Gloy Racing team by finishing second.
It was the first podium finish of Ruhlman's career, topping his previous best of fourth place established at Homestead in 1998 and equaled at Long Beach and Atlanta in 1999.
"This feels fantastic," Ruhlman said. "It's been a long time coming. We've been at this for 12 years, and I've always loved coming to Trois-Rivieres, but it seemed like every time we'd come here, we'd always get bit.
"I thought it was going to happen again today when we had to pit on the very first lap to change a tire," continued Ruhlman, who was running 18th and last after three laps. "But the Tom Gloy Racing crew got us back out there without missing a beat, and after that, I just kept focusing on getting to the front.
"I can't truly say what a thrill it is to be sharing this one-two finish with Butch, who is a tremendous teammate. What a great job he has done all season."
Third place went to Tomy Drissi (#5 Rocketsports Racing Jaguar XKR), whose podium visit was his first since taking third place at Mosport in 2000. He exceeded a season-best result of sixth established at Mosport while recording his fourth top-10 effort of the season.
"At the start of the race, I think we had something for some of the cars in front of me," Drissi recalled, "but I made a couple of little mistakes early on, and after that, I figured I'd just better take care of the car and bring it home.
"Randy raced me really clean all the way around," Drissi said of Ruhlman, who passed Drissi for third place on Lap 61. Both then moved into podium position when then second-place Johnny Miller exited due to a mechanical problem two laps later. "Congratulations to Butch for doing a fantastic job."
Bob Ruman (#23 Cenweld Corp./McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette joined Ruhlman and Drissi in posting a season-best finish when he came home fourth, his best finish since third at Long Beach in 2000. Meanwhile, three-time and defending Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/Matrix One/Futaba Jaguar XKR) finished a creditable fifth following a wild ride.
Gentilozzi overcame an early pit stop for a tire change following contact with Stu Hayner (#02 Trenton Forging/Tom Bell Chevrolet Corvette) on Lap 4, then came back from subsequent penalties for violating the pit lane speed limit and passing under the caution flag to record his sixth top-five finish of the season and the record 92nd of his career.
Following his effort, Gentilozzi stands third in the championship with 174 points.
Several other drivers posted season-best results Sunday, including Simon Gregg (#59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette), who finished seventh; Claudio Burtin (#02 Linex Spray-On Truck Bed Liners Panoz Esperante), eighth; Mike Davis (#11 Applied Computer Solutions Ford Mustang), 10th; and Rich LaBarbera (#08 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Ford Mustang), 13th.
The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup continues with Round 8, on Aug. 16-17 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Point Standings Through Seven of 12 Rounds (unofficial): Boris Said 198, Butch Leitzinger 184, Paul Gentilozzi 174, Johnny Miller 152, Randy Ruhlman 136, Stu Hayner 134, Tony Ave 124, Mike Lewis 119, Tomy Drissi 115, Simon Gregg 99.
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