Cleveland: Round three preview

POINTS BATTLE HEATS UP AS THE TRANS-AM SERIES PREPARES TO TEAR UP THE TARMAC AT THE CLEVELAND GRAND PRIX CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 21, 2005) -- With two races in the books and two first-time winners still savoring their victories, the Trans-Am ...

POINTS BATTLE HEATS UP AS THE TRANS-AM SERIES PREPARES TO TEAR UP THE TARMAC AT THE CLEVELAND GRAND PRIX

CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 21, 2005) -- With two races in the books and two first-time winners still savoring their victories, the Trans-Am Series invades Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport this weekend for the Trans-Am on the Tarmac and Round 3 of the championship. The race, part of the 24th Annual Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank weekend, is scheduled to run on Saturday, June 25 at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Cleveland's 2.106-mile airport circuit.

The Trans-Am Series has a long history at Cleveland's 10-turn course, set up on the runways and taxiways of Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport. The Series has competed here 14 times since 1988. This year at Cleveland, Trans-Am will continue to celebrate its 40th consecutive year of competition.

Cleveland native Randy Ruhlman comes into his "home track" leading the championship points. Thus far this season, Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) netted his first Trans-Am victory, at the Long Beach opener, and finished second last weekend in Portland. He currently holds an eight-point lead in the title chase. However, just 15 points separate the top five in the standings. Ruhlman finished fourth here last year.

Greg Pickett, who sits second in points, was forced to sit out the Cleveland race due to a previous commitment. Pickett (No. 6 Cytomax Jaguar XKR) finished second at Long Beach and was fourth at Portland.

Just nine points behind Ruhlman in third sits Trans-Am rookie Klaus Graf. Graf (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR), with his first Trans-Am victory in Portland, became the first German national to win a Trans-Am race since World Champion rallying ace Walter Rohrl in 1988. Graf is seeking to become the first German Trans-Am Drivers' Champion in 40 years of Trans-Am competition.

Yet, the most significant milestone this weekend may belong to four-time and defending Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi. Gentilozzi (No. 1 Jaguar R Performance XKR) will make his 200th Trans-Am start this weekend at Cleveland. That achievement could be further accentuated by a win, which would move Gentilozzi out of tie with Mark Donohue for first on the all-time win list with 30 victories. Gentilozzi won last year's race, his fourth victory here, after starting last, and he remains the only entered driver with a shot of a multiple win here. Gentilozzi crashed his primary car in qualifying last year, forcing his Rocketsports Racing crew to travel to his East Lansing, Mich. shop to retrieve a show car, which had no engine or transmission and was used primarily for auto shows and press events. His crew spent all night preparing the car. Starting last, Gentilozzi drove through the field, taking the lead for good on lap 26.

Joey Scarallo is hoping to back up his first Series podium at Portland here. Scarallo (No. 06 Group A Wheels/Autotrend Chevrolet Corvette) finished fifth here last year. Scarallo sits fifth in the Drivers' Championship, just 15 points out of the lead. Scarallo joined Trans-Am and short-track veteran Tony Ave's new team this year and hopes that relationship will net big dividends. Meanwhile, Mike Davis rejoins the Series this weekend at Cleveland. Davis (No. 10 Applied Computer Solutions Ford Mustang) will do double duty, competing in both the World Challenge and Trans-Am races.

Ohio native Bob Ruman will also return to the Series this weekend. Ruman, from Munroe Falls, Ohio, drives the No. 23 McNichols Co./Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Fellow Buckeye and 2002 GT-1 National Champion Tim Cowen will also compete here, driving the No. 75 Cowen Truck Lines Ford Mustang.

2004 Rookie of the Year Philip Simms (No. 24 Simms Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) will attempt to back up his fifth-place charge at Portland here. Simms started last at Portland due to a shunt in qualifying, and drove through the field for the top-five result.

Paul Fix (No. 77 StopFlex Ford Mustang) and John Baucom (No. 86 MAP Quality Engineering/Software Toolbox Ford Mustang) also return to Trans-Am duty this weekend, as does Max Lagod (No. 83 Hypermax Diesel Turbo Systems Chevrolet Corvette).

Hima Maher (No. 78 Centennial Motorsports of Alberta, Canada Chevrolet Corvette) will make his second Trans-Am start this weekend, while rookie Romanian national Csaba Bujdoso (No. 93 Checkered Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro) will make his Trans-Am debut.

The Trans-Am on the Tarmac, Round 3 of the 2005 Trans-Am Series and part of the part of the 24th Annual Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by U.S. Bank weekend, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, June 25-26, 2005. Saturday's race will air on tape-delayed basis, Sunday, July 3 at 3 p.m. EDT on SPEED Channel.

The Trans-Am Series features closed-fendered, production-based, V-8-powered sports cars, competing on permanent road courses, and temporary street and airport circuits throughout North America. The Trans-Am Series is America's oldest continuously running road racing series and celebrates its 40th consecutive year of competition in 2005.

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Klaus Graf , Paul Fix , Tony Ave , Paul Gentilozzi , Randy Ruhlman , Walter Rohrl , Max Lagod , Bob Ruman , Greg Pickett , John Baucom , Philip Simms , Csaba Bujdoso , Mike Davis , Hima Maher , Mark Donohue