TOPEKA, Kan. (October 13, 2007) – Tony Ave, of Mooresville, N.C., collected his first SCCA National Championship by dominating the GT-1 race at the 2007 SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by AT&T. Defending Champion Philip Simms, of Orlando, Fla., finished second, followed by Michael Lewis, of Poway, Calif., in third.
With the sun hanging low in the sky, the green flag waved on the GT-1 race at Heartland Park Topeka. Defending GT-1 National Champion Simms immediately jumped into the lead in his No. 11 Goodyear/Simms Motorsports Jaguar XKR, but polesitter Ave retook the lead in Turn Three. Simms managed to keep pace with Ave’s No. 44 Bodin Masonry/Pro-Motor/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette for several corners afterwards, but when the two crossed the stripe to commence lap two, Ave had already pulled out nearly two seconds on Simms. Ave continued to effortlessly extend his gap to Simms throughout the race, crossing the finish line with a 9.835-second margin of victory at the checkered flag.
“It feel’s great,” Ave said. “I must have made him [Phil] spend some more money this year or something, because he was pretty fast down the straightaway all week.
“I was really worried about the start, because Phil’s good at the start. He definitely beat us to the first corner. Sometimes you can try a desperation move, but I knew it was probably going to be between one of us. I did not think it was too smart to get carried away. But then, I had a bit of a run going into three and slid inside of him there. I locked the brakes up and we almost hit. If he hadn’t given me the room, we would have touched right there. He avoided the wreck I almost started. Then we kind of got going and my car was better than his and I was able to pull away. My car seemed really good. However, when the sun went down, there was a big difference. I started sliding all over. But, we had the best car today. We had a great time.”
Finishing second, Simms has yet to finish outside the top-three in his four Runoffs starts.
Holding down third place nearly the entire race, Lewis lost the final podium spot on the penultimate lap to the No. 49 BGR Inc. Chevrolet Corvette of William Grey. Lewis reclaimed third place in the final corner of the race, when Grey’s Corvette spun in Turn 14 and became stuck in the wet grass.
Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Bryan Long, of Peoria, Ill., completed the top five. Bernard Bupp Jr., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing eight positions during the race at the wheel of his No. 8 Hamilton Safe & Security Systems Chevrolet Camaro.
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by AT&T, The Pinnacle of American Motorsports, will crown Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing National Champions for the 44th-consecutive year in 2007. The best amateur drivers from across North America convene on Heartland Park Topeka’s 2.5-mile road course each fall in what is considered the “Olympics” of motorsports. This year’s event begins with four days of qualifying, Oct. 8-11, and concludes with three days of racing, Oct. 12-14.