On this Day in Trans Am History: July 20, 2002
July 20, 2020
July 20, 2002
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli first visited Washington, D.C. in 2002 for the Capital Trans Am, the feature Saturday race at a temporary 1.661-mile track in the RFK Stadium parking lots.
Rookie Butch Leitzinger won the pole and led nearly all the way in Tom Gloy’s No. 88 Tommy Bahama Corvette, holding off the Jaguar XKR of Paul Gentilozzi. It was only the seventh Trans Am start for Leitzinger and record 179th for Gentilozzi.
Gentilozzi started sixth in the No. 3 Johnson Controls Jaguar XKR, worked his way up to second and then set his sights on the Pennsylvanian. Trailing by 2.232 seconds with only 11 of the 61 laps remaining, Gentilozzi, the defending and three-time series’ champion, cut the deficit to .685-seconds with three laps remaining.
Gentilozzi then made his bid with a bold pass in Turn 1. Putting all four wheels off the track, he nearly lost control before regrouping and settling for second, 1.023-seconds behind at the checkered flag.
“It’s a real joy to race for the Tommy Bahama team,” Leitzinger said after the race. “From the first session of the weekend, we didn’t have any problems. I’m a rookie in the series, so I don’t have a ‘book’ yet. For them to be able to come to a brand-new circuit like this and prepare a car for me that was so good right out of the box – it’s a real tribute to the team.”
While a Trans Am rookie, the 33-year-old second-generation driver had plenty of sports car experience, winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona three times. Ironically, one of his big breaks came when Gentilozzi gave him a ride for the 1994 Daytona classic, where he joined Gentilozzi, Scott Pruett and Steve Millen in an overall triumph in the GTS-class Nissan 300ZX.
Boris Said took third despite losing power steering in the early going in the No. 33 Applied Computer Solutions Panoz Esperante. He was followed by Stu Hayner’s Corvette, Tony Ave’s Esperante and Johnny Miller’s Jaguar.
Earlier in the season, Leitzinger edged Gentilozzi by .540-seconds at Mid-Ohio in late June, and was coming off a setback at Cleveland, where he was edged out by .266-seconds by Said. All three races were broadcast live by CBS Sports.
Leitzinger followed his D.C. triumph by winning the following race at Canada’s Trois-Rivieres. Said then took over, winning the final five races of the campaign – giving him eight victories in 12 races and a runaway capture of the season championship.
With his lone prior Trans Am experience a single race at Sebring in 1999, Leitzinger won three races, five poles and visited the podium seven times in 2002 – his last appearance in the series.