NTB Trans-Am: Gentilozzi, Saunders Make it a 1-2 Rocketsports Finish at Mid-Ohio
14 June 1998LEXINGTON, Ohio: Paul Gentilozzi and his Rocketsports' teammate Bill Saunders produced a picture-perfect, side-by-side 1-2 finished at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, recording Gentilozzi's seventh-career NTB Trans-Am Series victory and fourth win in five 1998 races as Saunders scored his first career podium finish.
Gentilozzi, driving the No. 3 AutoLink Chevrolet Corvette, started on the pole and led comfortably until Saunders, in the No. 8 AutoLink Corvette, surged through the field from his eighth-place start to steal the lead on lap 30 of the 45-lap, 101.25-mile contest. Saunders' lead was short-lived, however, as Gentilozzi reclaimed the top spot on lap 36 and held on to the end, finishing a scant 0.065-second ahead of Saunders to record the second-closest finish in the NTB Trans-Am Series' 33-year history while Brian Simo, in the No. 2 Valvoline Ford Mustang Cobra, finished third.
"Our team has worked very hard, and we're so far into our development window that we come to each race with the same spring combination and just make minuscule adjustments to the shocks," said Gentilozzi. "Mid-Ohio is a drivers' track, and it takes a real rhythm and precision to drive well here. It's a real technical exercise for the crew to make the car work well here, and the car was terrific today."
The early going of the 1:15:33.668 contest all belonged to Gentilozzi as he seemingly had the race well in hand, but a ferocious battle raged behind him as the 37-car field shuffled dramatically following a start based on Drivers' Championship points instead of qualifying times after rain washed out the qualifying sessions.
One of the drivers rapidly making his way through the pack was Stu Hayner, who moved his No. 58 Westward Ho Casino Camaro up from a 20th-place start to second, past outside-pole starter John Miller IV, on lap seven, only to be repassed by Miller IV's No. 64 PLC Direct Camaro four laps later. Hayner would not be held back, however, and pushed his way back to the runner-up position on lap 20. Two laps later Hayner's car began to fade after being used up in the early going and he dropped to fourth mid-way through the race en route to his final 16th-place finish after recovering from a late-race spin.
As Hayner faded Saunders and Simo were on the move, and the duo passed Miller IV for third and fourth, respectively, on lap 21. Saunders then took control and was past both Simo and Hayner on lap 22 and began reeling in leader Gentilozzi, leaving the contest behind him a battle for the final podium position.
Although Simo held the third position for the final 20 laps of the race, he faced constant pressure from Hayner and Miller IV, who were themselves under attack from Bruce Qvale, who had moved his No. 44 Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports Mustang Cobra up to fifth when the entire field was bunched on lap 41 for the second of two full-course cautions resulting from cars stuck in gravel traps.
When the 2.25-mile, 13-turn circuit went green with two laps to go, Simo, Miller IV and Qvale were all able to hold their positions to finish third, fourth and fifth, respectively, while Lou Gigliotti advanced to finish sixth, followed by Bob Ruman, Randy Ruhlman, Peter Shea and Chris Neville. Ruman's 16th to seventh-place drive also earned him the DynoMax Turn On The Power Award for turning in the race's best drive, while Ruman's crew chief Mark Wilsdon was awarded the Craftsman Crew Chief Of The Race Award.
After five races, Gentilozzi holds a 40-point lead over Miller IV, 156 to 116, followed by Simo and Neville, 97; Qvale, 96; Ross Thompson, 91; Saunders, 89; Ruhlman, 67; Leighton Reese, 66; and Gigliotti, 65.
LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Results from Sunday's 45-lap, 101.25-mile NTB Trans-Am Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out.
1. (1), Paul Gentilozzi, Lansing, Mich., Chevrolet Corvette, 45. 2. (8), Bill Saunders, Dallas, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette, 45. 3. (6), Brian Simo, Carlsbad, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 4. (2), John W. Miller IV, Johnson City, Tenn., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 5. (5), Bruce Qvale, San Francisco, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 6. (12), Lou Gigliotti, Garland, Texas, Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 7. (16), Bob Ruman, Munroe Falls, Ohio, Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 8. (11), Randy Ruhlman, Greensboro, N.C., Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 9. (15), Peter Shea, Newport Beach, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 10. (3), Chris Neville, Scottsdale, Ariz., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 11. (4), Ross Thompson, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Ford Mustang Cobra, 45. 12. (33), Bill Gray, Springdale, Ark., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 13. (23), Craig Shafer, Somerset, Pa., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 14. (14), Brian De Vries, East Grand Rapids, Mich., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 15. (36), Kerry Alexander, Indianapolis, Ind., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 16. (18), Stu Hayner, Yorba Linda, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro, 45. 17. (13), Bruce Barkelew, Columbia, Mo., Ford Mustang Cobra, 44, Crash. 18. (22), John Halbing, Dallas, Pa., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 44, Crash. 19. (19), Rick Lee, Reno, Nev., Ford Mustang Cobra, 44, Crash. 20. (26), Claude Poirier, Peterborough, Can., Chevrolet Camaro, 44. 21. (39), Dick Greer, Columbus, Ohio, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 44. 22. (24), Simon Gregg, Jacksonville, Fla., Ford Mustang Cobra, 44. 23. (35), Ned Yeaton, Delray Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Camaro, 44. 24. (9), Max Lagod, Barrington, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 44. 25. (7), Leighton Reese, Minnetonka, Minn., Pontiac Grand Prix, 43. 26. (37), Ed Hinchcliff, Ypsilanti, Mich., Ford Mustang Cobra, 43. 27. (27), Glenn 'Coach' Andrew, Farmersburg, Ind., Pontiac Grand Prix,41. 28. (38), John Restemeyer, Calgary Alberta, Canada, Chevrolet Camaro, 41. 29. (28), Mark Pielsticker, Oakland, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro, 40. 30. (10), Michael Lewis, San Diego, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 34, Susp. 31. (21), Rick Dittman, Prairie View, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 33, Mech. 32. (25), Don Meluzio, York, Pa., Chevrolet Camaro, 31, Motor. 33. (32), Bruce Nesbitt, Chicago, Ill., Ford Mustang Cobra, 27, Cooling. 34. (31), Paul Alderman, New Castle, Del., Ford Mustang Cobra, 27. 35. (34), Dan Furey, Columbus, Ohio, Chevrolet Corvette, 12, Crash. 36. (20), Don Sak, West Bloomfield, Mich., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 10, Trans. 37. (17), Frank Cioppettini, Morristown, N.J., Chevrolet Camaro, 6,Steer.
Time of race: 1 hour, 15 minutes, 33.668 seconds.
Average speed: 80.398 miles-per-hour
Margin of victory: 0.065-second (second-closest in series history)
Fastest race lap: Paul Gentilozzi, 1:25.864 (94.335 mph), lap 36
Lap Leaders: laps 1-3, No. 3 Gentilozzi; laps 30-36, No. 8 Saunders; laps
37-45, No. 3 Gentilozzi.
NTB Trans-Am Series Drivers' Championship Point Standings
Position, Driver, Car, Points 1, Paul Gentilozzi, Chevrolet Corvette, 156 2, John W. Miller IV, Chevrolet Camaro, 116 3, Brian Simo, Ford Mustang Cobra, 97 4, Chris Neville, Chevrolet Camaro, 97 5, Bruce Qvale, Ford Mustang Cobra, 96 6, Ross Thompson, Ford Mustang Cobra, 91 7, Bill Saunders, Chevrolet Corvette, 89 8, Randy Ruhlman, Ford Mustang Cobra, 67 9, Leighton Reese, Pontiac Grand Prix, 66 10, Lou Gigliotti, Ford Mustang Cobra, 65 11, Max Lagod, Chevrolet Camaro, 56 12, Peter Shea, Ford Mustang Cobra, 50 13, Michael Lewis, Ford Mustang Cobra, 49 14, Bruce Barkelew, Ford Mustang Cobra, 49 15, Bob Ruman, Chevrolet Camaro, 48 16, Brian De Vries, Chevrolet Camaro, 47 17, Greg Harrison, Ford Mustang Cobra, 38 18, Stu Hayner, Chevrolet Camaro, 37 19, Rick Lee, Ford Mustang Cobra, 33 20, C. David Seuss, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 32 21, Frank Cioppettini, Chevrolet Camaro, 29 22, John Halbing, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 29 23, Craig Shafer, Chevrolet Camaro, 29 24, Don Sak, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 25 25, Rick Dittman, Chevrolet Camaro, 23 26, Simon Gregg, Ford Mustang Cobra, 19 27, Jerry Simmons, Chevrolet Camaro, 19 28, Ray Genick, Chevrolet Camaro, 17 29, Claude Poirier, Chevrolet Camaro, 15 30, Bill Gray, Chevrolet Camaro, 14 31, Don Meluzio, Chevrolet Camaro, 13 32, Steve Hodge, Chevrolet Camaro, 13 33, Jon Leavy, Chevrolet Camaro, 12 34, Kerry Alexander, Chevrolet Camaro, 11 35, Kenny Bupp, Chevrolet Camaro, 10 36, Glenn 'Coach' Andrew, Pontiac Grand Prix, 9 37, Mark Pielsticker, Chevrolet Camaro, 9 38, James Briody, Chevrolet Camaro, 7 39, Ted Sullivan, Chevrolet Camaro, 7 40, Dino Crescentini, Chevrolet Camaro, 6 41, Dick Greer, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 5 42, Paul Alderman, Ford Mustang Cobra, 5 43, Joseph Freda, Chevrolet Camaro, 4 44, Ned Yeaton, Chevrolet Camaro, 3 45, Bruce Nesbitt, Ford Mustang Cobra, 3 46, Albert Ruiz, Ford Mustang Cobra, 3 47, Frank Sanchez, Chevrolet Camaro, 2