Washington DC: Series inaugural event preview

Said's pursuers hope to close gap at Capital Trans-Am 100. CLEARWATER, Fla. (July 16, 2002) -- With three victories and five podium finishes in as many starts during the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup season, Boris Said has...

Said's pursuers hope to close gap at Capital Trans-Am 100.

CLEARWATER, Fla. (July 16, 2002) -- With three victories and five podium finishes in as many starts during the 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup season, Boris Said has very much had his own way through the first half of the campaign.

Said's rivals, however, may be able to draw some encouragement from the fact that they'll all be starting from scratch at Round 6, the inaugural Capital Trans-Am 100, this Saturday, July 20 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C.

The first-ever Capital Trans-Am 100 will be contested on a temporary road course constructed on the site of RFK Stadium, longtime home of the National Football League's Washington Redskins. None of the expected 23 drivers in the field has any previous experience on the 1.7-mile, seven-turn circuit, which will host Trans-Am drivers for 60 laps (100.8 miles) as one of the featured events of the inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix.

CBS Sports will provide live coverage of the Trans-Am event, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET, and if recent history is any indication, the Capital Trans-Am 100 will provide an exciting finish.

The two closest races of the Trans-Am Series season have both been broadcast on CBS Sports, as rookie Butch Leitzinger drove to a 0.540-second victory over three time and defending Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi at Mid-Ohio in late June, before Said edged Leitzinger by 0.266 seconds at Cleveland last weekend.

Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante) is off to a great start in pursuit of his first career Trans-Am Series driving championship. He comes to the nation's capital off a victory in last weekend's Trans-Am on the Tarmac Presented by Microchip at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. It was Said's third victory of the season and his fifth podium finish in as many starts. His earlier victories came back-to-back at Mosport and Lime Rock in May.

In six previous full or partial Trans-Am seasons, Said's best finish is sixth, in 1995 and '96. His three victories this season equal his career total in 46 starts entering the campaign.

With 152 points, Said holds a 27-point edge over Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls/Microchip/ MatrixOne/Futaba Jaguar XKR), who stands second in the championship with 125 points. Gentilozzi is bidding to become only the second driver in the Trans-Am's 37-year history to win four championships, joining Tom Kendall (1990, '95, '96 and '97). Gentilozzi reigned as Trans-Am champion in 1998, '99 and last year.

With a recent run of three consecutive podium finishes, Leitzinger (#88 Tommy Bahama/Tom Gloy Chevrolet Corvette) has moved into a tie with veteran Johnny Miller (#64 Automation Direct/Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) for third place in the championship, each with 117 points.

Leitzinger, who has made only six career Trans-Am Series starts, leaves Ohio with a mixture of fondness and regret after scoring his first career victory at Mid-Ohio in late June and following with a runner-up performance at Cleveland. Miller has been a model of consistency for the past 1½ Trans-Am seasons, constructing a streak of 17 top-10 finishes, the longest active streak in the series, dating to his victory in the 2000 season finale at San Diego. His season-best finish to date is second at Mosport.

Rounding out the lead quintet in the championship is Tony Ave (#53 Trilithic Panoz Esperante), who stands fifth with 92 points. Ave led a race-high 20 laps at Cleveland and was positioned for a possible podium finish until making contact with the crippled car driven by Paet Hidalgo late in the race. Ave ultimately finished 12th.

Stuart Hayner (#02 Trenton Forging/Tom Bell Chevrolet Corvette), meanwhile, has joined Said and Leitzinger as one of the hottest drivers in the Trans-Am Series championship. He has finished fifth or better in each of his past two starts, is coming off a third-place effort at Cleveland, his first podium performance of the season, and is one of three drivers tied for sixth in the championship with 90 points.

Hayner shares his position with Michael Lewis (#12 AmeriSuites Jaguar XKR) and Randy Ruhlman (#49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette). That trio stands just a single point in front of Justin Bell (#40 XtremeLens Chevrolet Corvette), who comes to Washington ninth in the championship with 89 points. Bell, the 2001 AmeriSuites Rookie of the Year, finished a strong fifth at Cleveland, his best result since taking third at Mosport in Round 2.

The Capital Trans-Am 100 represents the midpoint of the 12-race 2002 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup season. After a weekend off the series continues with the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3-4, at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada. The race will air live on SPEED Channel, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.

-scca pro racing-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Tony Ave , Justin Bell , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Stuart Hayner , Tom Kendall , Michael Lewis , Paet Hidalgo , Tom Gloy