Corvette Driver Ruhlman Takes Third in 2004 Trans-Am Drivers' Championship, Gets Seventh Straight Top Five Finish at Laguna Seca
MONTEREY, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2004) Top Corvette driver Randy Ruhlman took third in the 2004 Trans-Am Series Drivers' Championship after a hotly contested battle at the Trans-Am race at Laguna Seca today. Coming into the weekend, past Champions Paul Gentilozzi and Tommy Kendall and Ruhlman all had a shot at the title in the closest points battle for the Drivers' Championship ever in Trans-Am history. Ruhlman and Gentilozzi put on the best show of the afternoon, with Ruhlman in the Corvette finishing fifth just behind the Jaguar of Gentilozzi, who secured his fourth Trans-Am Championship with his fourth place finish.
Randy Ruhlman's fifth in today's race gave him third in the 2004 Drivers' Championship, just 22 points behind the new Champion Paul Gentilozzi, and second place finisher, and also four time Trans-Am Champion, Tommy Kendall.
With just 20 points separating the top three contenders going into the weekend, Kendall started on the pole with Gentilozzi and Ruhlman starting just behind in fourth and fifth. Gentilozzi needed to finish fourth or higher if Kendall took the win. Ruhlman needed to finish ahead of Kendall and win the race (with Gentilozzi falling out early) for him to grab the Championship.
Ruhlman got a good jump at the start, but Gentilozzi fought hard and the two went back and forth, on and off the pavement. Gentilozzi getting back by Ruhlman into the Corkscrew, only to have Ruhlman shoot back battling to retake the position. The two jockeyed for position all race, and for Gentilozzi's Championship, in the most exciting battle of the race, while Gentilozzi's Jaguar teammate Kendall lead the race. The Trans-Am field at Laguna Seca included top Corvette factory driver Ron Fellows, who finished third in the race, and other past Trans-Am Champions, Boris Said, the second place race finisher, and Greg Pickett.
"It was a good clean hard race," said the top Corvette driver Ruhlman after the race. "I got by Paul and then we went back and forth. I would catch up and try to make a pass stick, but for Paul [Gentilozzi] that meant he would lose the Championship. He is always a good competitor, but there was even more incentive now, so he fought me hard. I knew exactly what the point situation was before the race, and decided I was just going to run the race the way I normally would. I would go out there and try to be up front and be in position to win if I could. Winning the Championship was a long shot, and with Kendall ahead I knew I couldn't win it alone. But I still tried to get Paul for position, you never know what is going to happen. It was fun running back and forth with him. He is a great driver and I congratulate him on his fourth Trans-Am Championship."
"We have come a long way this year with the Corvette. We have been up front all year and have run fast at every race. I think we have seven top five finishes in a row, so that says a lot about our program this year. The crew has done an excellent job, especially with so many races in a row, our performance since Portland has been flawless. And that is the team Derhaag Motorsports. I couldn't be happier with the progress we have made and the job they have done," finished Ruhlman.
Ruhlman was consistently fast in his #49 Preformed Line Products/ Coyote Closure Corvette this year, having scored seven straight, top five finishes, including three podiums: a second at Road America, another second at Toronto, and a third at Infineon. Additionally, Ruhlman was the pole sitter for the Road America race.
The Trans-Am race at Laguna Seca was Ruhlman's 146th start in Trans-Am. He was the leading Corvette driver in the Series and scored Corvette's highest finishes of the year. The race will be aired on same-day, two-hour tape delay on HDNet at 6 p.m. (PDT) and 9 p.m. (EDT). The race will also air on Spike TV's popular "Dangerous Curves" timeslot, Sunday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. (EDT, PDT).
Ruhlman was sixth overall in 2003 in the Driver's Championship in a Derhaag Motorsports Corvette. He was seventh overall in 2002 while driving for Tom Gloy Racing, with a second (and a 3rd in 2003) at Trois Rivieres and third at Miami. Ruhlman was awarded the 2002 BBS Wheels "Most Improved Driver of the Year". Randy Ruhlman is fifth overall in Top Ten finishes in Trans-Am history.
Ruhlman's Chevrolet Corvette is fielded this year by the Minneapolis-based Derhaag Motorsports, led by former Trans-Am driver Jim Derhaag. Derhaag himself made 150 starts as a driver in the Trans-Am Series before his successful move to full time ownership in 1998.
Preformed Line Products (PLP) is an international manufacturer and supplier of hardware and support systems for the communications and energy industries. Products include the COYOTE Closure and GUY-GRIP Dead-End used in the telecommunications, cable and energy industries. Manufacturing facilities are located worldwide in the USA, Canada, China, Brazil, Mexico, England, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Japan.