- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

The sweltering start to the District's first auto race in 80 years left the drivers exhausted but delivered thrilling action down to the final laps.
Pole-sitter Butch Leitzinger led the Trans-Am Series race at the Cadillac Grand Prix nearly from start to finish before holding off a second-half push from Paul Gentilozzi to win.
And when Leitzinger got doused with a jug of water before taking the podium, he needed it; the closed cars got hotter than 150 degrees, according to the dashboard thermometer in Gentilozzi's car.
"It'll be fun tonight after I get some beers in me and think about it," the exhausted Leitzinger said after taking a long tug from his sports drink.
The Grand Prix victory was the second of the season for Leitzinger, making him only the second multiple race winner of the series. Boris Said, who spent the first half of the race running in second place, has won three events this year and finished third yesterday.
Gentilozzi probably lost all hope of catching Leitzinger when he got loose on one of the sharp turns of the third from final lap. Gentilozzi drove over the rumble strips and nearly slid into the lap car of Simon Gregg before getting his Jaguar XKR back in line.
"I wanted to make a move," said Gentilozzi, who collected his fifth top-five finish of the season. "I ran real deep and committed to the turn, and Simon committed to the turn, too. I almost pole-vaulted into the median."
Before Gentilozzi's run, Said, who started second, tried to make a run of his own at Leitzinger. But the veteran likely lost all hope of contending on the 10th lap of the 61-lap race when he lost his power steering. He nearly closed the gap on the 18th lap with Leitzinger holding a one-second lead, but Said finally took a long pit stop on the 20th lap.
Leitzinger lost the lead briefly when he pitted his Corvette on lap 23 but soon reclaimed his lead, with Gentilozzi taking second from Said just one day after Said had called the 52-year-old driver "washed up."
Said also blamed his finish on the decision to use harder tires on the back of his car as opposed to the soft ones employed by the other drivers.
"That hurt us," he said, calling the move a mistake. "And this isn't the track where you want to lose the power steering. I couldn't do much with Paul I just let him go. There's too many turns without power steering."
Leitzinger's Corvette was dominant, accelerating out of the corners and extending his lead every time Gentilozzi or Said pulled within a second.
"He did a good job in traffic," said Gentilozzi, who late in the race turned the fastest lap of 1:11.797. "When I would catch him, he'd get off the corner so well. I couldn't pass him."
Said maintained his series lead with 178 points. Leitzinger moved within two of second-place Gentilozzi, who has 153. The series champion wins the BF Goodrich Tires Cup.
The first caution of the race came out early when a car hit the concrete wall on the third lap. Lou Gigliotti's No.25 Corvette smacked the wall after getting clipped from behind, and it took five laps to get the irate Gigliotti's car extinguished and towed off the track.
The next caution came on the 24th lap. Bob Ruman buried his Corvette in a tire wall and moved the concrete barrier behind him. The impact sent a number of tires flying over the safety catch fences built into the concrete. After the forklift carted off Ruman's car, the race started back up on the 28th lap.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide