Holds off Doug Peterson for round five victory
Amy Ruman, in the #23 McNichols Chevrolet Corvette, started on pole position at New Jersey Motorsports for the RacingJunk.com 100, Round 5 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship, a position that she held for the duration of the race, despite multiple challenges from defending Champion Doug Peterson. The win, her first since the 2012 season, places Ruman within 2 points of Peterson for the Championship lead going into the rest of the 2014 season.
“This week has been all about my team, my mom, my dad, everyone that works so hard for me, McNichols, everyone that lets me do what I do,” said Ruman. “I can’t thank everyone enough for all the effort they give me week in and week out. It felt great to start on pole and lead the race, back-to-back wins in New Jersey is pretty cool too—so I guess I really like Thunderbolt track here.”
The race began with Ruman on pole with Peterson, in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, alongside and the #59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette of Simon Gregg in third position.
Ruman was quick to build a lead during the early laps; but it was Jim McAleese, starting fourth in the #03 Chevrolet Corvette who put on a show during the early laps, shooting up through the field, passing both Gregg and Peterson on the restart on lap 9, the consequence of a brief full course yellow during the start of the race.
McAleese would hold the position for nine laps but was never able to truly pursue Ruman; as he was locked in a battle for position with Peterson. Peterson who ran nose-to-tail with McAleese often attempted to overtake McAleese through turn one, only to have the window closed on multiple occasions. Peterson finally got the best of McAleese on lap 18, powering ahead, and resuming his pursuit of Ruman.
The three would hold that position up to lap 26, when the course went under yellow once more due to a large oil slick in turn six. On the restart, Peterson closed the gap between himself and Ruman, with each driver running their best times of the race.
Ruman was able to fend off Peterson until the checkered flag, in turn capturing her second consecutive victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park, despite finishing the last eight laps of the race without power steering.
“It was an endurance race,” said Ruman. “I knew Peterson would be there when we got the yellow, he was probably being conservative with his tires; I was trying to be as conservative as possible with mine too. At the end, I knew he’d be gunning for me; I didn’t anticipate the power steering problems. I was ok on the straights; but in the corners he caught up with me, so I had to get back on the gas as fast as I could. I don’t know how much longer I could have done that; but you know, I’ve been working out, so we’re good!”
Peterson would finish second, enough to retain his points lead, but only just; as Ruman now remains only two points down from the reigning TA Champion.
“We’re focusing on trying to win this Championship; it’s really a goal of ours,” said Ruman. “I’m excited that we’re back in the hunt for it. It’s basically a new season; I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans and exciting for us. There are six races to go and anything can happen!”
McAleese held on to finish third in the race, his highest finish on the year, while Simon Gregg would come in fourth and Kerry Hitt, in the #19 Advanced Composite Products, finished fifth.
In TA2, defending Champion Cameron Lawrence came away victorious for the second straight race powering the #1 Trick Titanium Chevrolet Camaro up from seventh to first over the first 19 laps of the race but was locked in an intense battle with Adam Andretti, in the #44 ECC Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, for much of the race.
Andretti started the race on pole with Bob Stretch, in the #98 Fix Rim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro, alongside, and Kevin Poitras, in the #73 Mike Cope Racing Chevrolet Camaro, starting in third.
Meanwhile, Lawrence, starting in seventh, launched his way up through the field, moving up to second position in three laps—almost instantly beginning his pursuit of first position, and Adam Andretti. A pursuit delayed, but aided, by the early full course yellow.
Once the race restarted, Lawrence resumed and began to challenge Andretti for position, challenging lap after lap until finally overtaking the #44 car through turn six on the 18th lap of the race. Andretti, now the pursuer, continued to apply pressure to the defending Champion; but Lawrence was able to hold off Andretti through another restart and the duration of the race for the victory.
“It’s been a lot of work all weekend long,” said Lawrence. “We knew it was going to be a long, hot race; and we didn’t have the qualifying we were looking for, but we drove our way to the front and had a good long battle with Adam. It was a lot of work, but we were able to make it happen.”
“Both our cars (his and Andretti’s) were about equal, and I think we both knew it was going to come down to the end. We had some lapped traffic break down in our favor, but it was a good race and I’m glad to bring home another victory for Miller Racing.”
Andretti would finish second, enough to move up to second in the point standings as well—Lawrence remains the points leader in his Championship defense.
Andretti’s teammate, AJ Henriksen, in the #73 ECC Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, finished third, his first ever Trans Am podium in what was a strong outing for the ECC team. Meanwhile, Mike Cope Racing finished strong as well with teammates Brain LaCroix and Kevin Poitras finishing fourth and fifth.
The TA3 class was also the site of tightly contested races that resulted in victories for Jason Berkeley in the International Group and Ernie Francis, Jr., in the American Muscle Group.
Francis began the day in first position, in the #9 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro, within the American Muscle Group but was passed by Chuck Cassaro, in the #76 StackData/ Aeromotive/ Metallica Ford Mustang during the first lap—a position Cassaro would hold for the first four laps and the laps under the first full course caution. However, Francis, Jr., would overtake the defending TA3 Champion on the restart and hold him off for the duration of the race for his first ever Trans Am victory, becoming the youngest race winner, on record, in Trans Am history.
“We ran a consistent race,” said Francis, Jr. “I’ve got to thank the team and my dad for helping me get this first win in Trans Am. It was great to have everything go right and see our hard work pay off.”
Rob Bodle, in the #16 Carribean Food Delights Ford Mustang, finished third in the group.
Jason Berkeley, driving the #67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette, began the day in first position for the International Group, a position he would hold for most of the race. However, the New York native found his hands full during the last third of the race as Russ Snow, in the #20 Carbotech Chevrolet Corvette, overtook him for the lead, having moved up through the field after starting dead last. Berkeley would follow the #20 car for eight laps until finally pulling ahead for the win with only four laps to go. Snow would end up finishing third, as the #20 car slowed and Trans Am newcomer Joe Aquiliante would finish second in the #32 Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Corvette.
“The guys did a great job for me all weekend,” said Berkeley. “Russ’ crew did a great job as well getting his car up to speed. The second full course caution made it tough for us, and Russ got a good break in traffic—fortunately for us he wasn’t able to bring it home, but we’ll take the win.”
Going into Round 6 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship, the 3Dimensional Services Group Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Doug Peterson remains the TA class points leader with 132 points, followed by Ruman with 130 and Gregg with 122. In TA2, Lawrence increased his tally to 155, with Andretti in second with 125 and Poitras in third with 115. Russ Snow holds the International Group lead with 113 to Tim Gray’s 75 and Berkeley’s 70, while Cassaro continues to lead the American Muscle Group with 128 to Ernie Francis, Jr.’s 116 and Rob Bodle’s 99.