Ave takes 6th Trans-Am win at Road Atlanta
Newly crowned series champion Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., picked up his sixth career SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series victory on Friday afternoon at Road Atlanta, coming out on top in a seesaw battle with polesitter Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C.
Driving the No. 4 Boden Masonry/Lamers Racing/McMahon Group/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette, Ave vaulted from third on the starting grid and into the lead on Lap 1 of the 36-lap race. His lead would be short-lived however, as Skeen reclaimed the lead on Lap 5 and appeared to be well on his way to victory in the No. 81 ECR Chevrolet Corvette.
Unfortunately for Skeen, disaster struck on Lap 26 when he spun after encountering traffic in an inopportune spot in Turn 10, giving the lead back to Ave. From there, Ave – who clinched the 2010 Trans-Am championship in Thursday’s qualifying session – cruised to an easy victory.
“We got the lead right away and the car seemed like it was running like it had been on the practice day,” said Ave. “But when I got into the Esses and every time I turned to the right it would just stumble and not run very good. Coming out of (Turn) 7 it would do that every other lap. He was faster because of that. Finally, he got close enough to me and he drove by me coming down the straightaway like I was tied to a rock. I was worried if it was even going to finish, and it kind of maintained about that pace.
“I drove it as hard as I could just to try to hopefully stay with him and then he had a problem. We had such a big gap on third that I just had to drive around. It was a testament to the team; Larry and Debbie Beebe, for letting me drive their car after I sold the one I raced with all year. We’ve had a perfect year with the Pro Motor horsepower and Lamers and everybody that helps us out. I can’t say enough for those guys and Bob Monette helps. I’ve just got a lot of friends that help us do it, so I’m glad it worked out.”
Despite the spin, Skeen recovered to finish second in the final race for Agee Racing, which is retiring from Trans-Am competition. The second-place result was the best of the season for Skeen, and it enabled him to win 2010 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year honors.
“We were just running along there and trying to save fuel, save the brakes, have something for the end and holding the gap to Tony,” Skeen said. “We came into (Turn) 10a, I was behind a lapped car and I just got onto the brakes a little bit harder than I usually do. I locked them up and that was enough to do a 180 and let Tony by. It’s disappointing. It feels like we got robbed. We were running up front and kind of controlling the pace and now here we are with another second place. We’ll take it.
“This is a tiny little team. Agee Racing has only does three races this year. We’re on a very limited budget, running an older car and doing the best we can. Every time we’ve been out, we’ve been fast. We set the pole here, we’ve set lap records earlier in the year and here, so we’re really happy to get the results we’ve had and go out on a good note with the car. I hope all the best for Agee selling the car and good luck to whoever runs it next.”
For the second consecutive Trans-Am Series race, Doug Harrington, of Kemah, Texas, was rewarded for his perseverance throughout the race with a third-place result in the No. 00 PinnacleAutosport.com Chevrolet Corvette. This time, Harrington capitalized on a mechanical failure on the No. 17 The Pita Pit/The Grotto at Capone’s Chevrolet Corvette driven by Bobby Sak, of Kalamazoo, Mich. Sak was poised for his first podium result of the year before the last-lap misfortune.
“It feels great,” said Harrington of his third-place run. “There’s something to be said about just trying to hang in there and stay on the track, make the race, let things happen as they go, not lose focus and not wear your car out along the way. It feels really good. I didn’t really expect to get here today, but I’m definitely excited about it and happy. My guys really did a good job of thinking about things and trying to get me set up for the track and for the way I drive. It seemed to work.”
Finishing fourth was Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman finished fifth or better in all but one of her Trans-Am Series starts in 2010 and finished fifth in the final championship standings.
Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., also closed out his year on a high note with another top-five result by finishing fifth in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. It was Gregg’s seventh top-five run of the year and he finished fourth in the final driver standings.
Today’s race featured the new Trans-Am 2 and Trans-Am 3 classes, which raced on an exhibition basis in preparation for a full-time run in 2011. Bob Stretch, of Arlington, Texas, drove the No. 98 NewWheel.com Chevrolet Monte Carlo to the TA3 victory, while Jeff Dernehl, of Woodstock, Ga., was the lone TA3 racer in the field in the No. 03 Mazda RX-7 and finished 10th overall.
1. (2) TA, Tony Ave, Maiden, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 36.
2. (1) TA, Mike Skeen(R), Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -30.098.
3. (10) TA, Doug Harrington, Kemah, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -49.225
4. (6) TA, Amy Ruman, Kent, Ohio, Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -51.516.
5. (7) TA, Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette, 36, -1:28.736.
6. (13) TA, Bobby Sak, Kalamazoo, Mich., Chevrolet Corvette, 35, -1 lap.
7. (5) TA, Glen Jung, Osteen, Fla., Mazda RX-7, 35, -1 lap.
8. (9) TA, John Baucom, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Mustang, 34, -2 laps.
9. (13) TA, Bob Monette(R), Alpharetta, Ga., Ford Mustang, 34, -2 laps.
10. (18) TA3, Jeff Dernehl, Woodstock, Ga., Mazda RX7, 32, -4 laps.
11. (14) TA, Michael Lewis, Poway, Calif., Jaguar XKR, 31, overheat.
12. (12) TA, Paige Monette(R), Milton, Ga., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 22, Off Course.
13. (15) TA2, Bob Stretch, Arlington, Texas, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 22, -14 laps.
14. (16) TA2, Gregg Rodgers, Southlake, Texas, Pontiac G8, 22, -14 laps.
15. (23) TA2, Tony Amico, St Petersburg, Fla., Chevrolet Monte Carl, 22, -14 laps.
16. (19) TA2, Charles Barnes, Plano, Texas, Porsche GT3 Cup, 20, -16 laps.
17. (3) TA, RJ Lopez, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, Chevrolet Corvette, 18, Mech.
18. (20) TA2, John Gary, Grapevine, Texas, Pontiac GTO GTA, 18, -18 laps.
19. (17) TA2, Jay Marshall, Brooksville, Fla., Chevrolet Impala, 10, Off Course.
20. (11) TA, Zach Monette(R), Milton, Ga., Ford Mustang, 7, Mech.
21. (15) TA2, Scott Ferguson, Fort Worth, Texas, Porsche GT3 Cup, 5, Mech.
22. (8) TA, Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, Calif., Jaguar XKR, 3, Mech.
23. (22) TA2, George Lutich, Palm Harbor, Fla., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 2, Mech.
Time of race: 50 minutes, 05.029 seconds.
Average speed: 109.544 mph
Margin of victory: 30.098 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-4, #4 Tony Ave; laps 5-26, #81 Mike Skeen(R); laps 27-36, #4 Tony Ave
Fastest race lap: #4 Tony Ave, 1:21.341 (112.415 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #81 Mike Skeen(R), 1:19.321 (115.278 mph)