Mid-Ohio: Series race report

Diaz Jr. Takes Mid-Ohio Trans-Am Win LEXINGTON, Ohio (May 31, 2009) -- Jorge Diaz Jr., of San Juan, Puerto Rico, led the second half of Sunday's Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series Round Four race to capture his third-career series win at ...

Diaz Jr. Takes Mid-Ohio Trans-Am Win

LEXINGTON, Ohio (May 31, 2009) -- Jorge Diaz Jr., of San Juan, Puerto Rico, led the second half of Sunday's Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series Round Four race to capture his third-career series win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, part of the Ohio Valley Region SCCA Race of Champions weekend. Tomy Drissi, of Los Angeles, finished a close second, followed by Simon Gregg, of Ponte Verda Beach, Fla.

Driving the No. 2 JD Racing Jaguar XKR, Diaz Jr. tucked in behind polesitter Tony Ave at the start and the trio of Ave, Diaz Jr. and Drissi started a three-car breakaway from the rest of the field. On lap 10, Drissi moved to second in the Keyhole and began to work on the back of Ave's No. 10 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford Mustang.

Drissi worked on Ave for the next 10 laps, with the top three cars separated by less than a second the entire way, but with the scent of burning gear oil becoming evident. On lap 21, Diaz Jr. got a run on Drissi exiting the Keyhole to take second, and as the trio entered the Carousel, Diaz Jr. got to the inside of Ave's Mustang to take the lead.

Drissi quickly moved his No. 5 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Jaguar XKR past Ave, who began to fall off the pace with a broken rear differential, identifying the source of the oil smell.

Diaz Jr. pulled out to a lead of as much as 3.7 seconds, but, with the ebb and flow of traffic, Drissi was right back in the hunt in the closing laps. The two were nose-to-tail coming off the final corner with two laps to go, but Drissi could never quite make his move, finishing just 0.390-second behind.

Diaz Jr. averaged a record 95.905 mph in the race that went green the entire way and set a new race lap record of 1:23.515 (97.333 mph) around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile circuit en route to victory.

"We played it smart at the beginning," Diaz Jr. said. "Tomy Drissi was extremely fast at the beginning. I was trying to get Tony Ave and then I said 'wait a minute, let them fight' and I sat back and watched them for a while. Once they did all the fighting they were going to do, I said 'okay, now it's my turn, it's my turn to go.'"

In holding off Drissi's late-race charge, Diaz Jr. was also awarded the Flowmaster Star of the Race award.

"I was trying to be a little bit conservative at the end and play it safe," Diaz Jr. added. "I figured this was not the time to spin out. I could see him in my mirrors and I knew the lap times he was turning. If it was a longer race, we would have had another battle. But it was a perfect race in the end for us."

Drissi's second-straight runner-up finish, coupled with Ave's eventual DNF, put him solely atop the Drivers' Championship standings. In the closing laps, with Diaz Jr. within striking distance, the new point leader received some sage advice over his radio.

"When we had five laps to go and I was definitely catching [Diaz Jr.], I started taking some big chances to go a half a second faster," Drissi said. "With two or three laps to go, my team said 'Tomy, you're in the lead for the Championship. Try to pass him, but don't do anything stupid.' And now we have a decent points lead."

Gregg scored his first podium finish in his 74th start, running in the top five for the majority of the day in his No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. The son of two-time Trans-Am Champion Peter Gregg was excited with his result.

"I'm glad to finally get onto the podium after so many years of trying," Gregg said. "The crew and the team have really done a good job and today, everything lined up for me. Mid-Ohio is one of the most challenging tracks. It's got a lot of history. I've been coming here a long time and it's definitely one of my favorites. It's one of the toughest. I think if you can run good here, you can run good anywhere."

Rookie Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of Trinidad, recovered from an early spin in his No. 8 Trinico Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR to finish fourth. Jon "Chevy" Leavy, of Tamarac, Fla., finished a career-best fifth in his No. 18 Murrayauto.com/Troy Ind. Chevrolet Camaro after starting 16th, and last, after a qualifying mechanical issue. The run earned Leavy the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for advancing the most positions throughout the race.

Pete Mohrhauser (Chevrolet Corvette), Edison Lluch Sr. (Chevrolet Corvette), R.J. Lopez (Chevrolet Corvette), Glen Jung (Mazda RX-7) and Jerry Kinn (Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top 10.

Ave entered the race in the point lead after earning his third pole of the season, but he once again felt the sting of bad luck during the race.

"Once they went by, I was just trying to finish with it," Ave said. "I was going as fast as I could but it was bad in the slow bits because the car wouldn't turn and then it just broke.

"I can't remember a streak of races like this and I don't want to remember this one when it's over. That's just the way it goes, I guess. It sucks."

Drissi's consistency has him atop the standings at the season's halfway point, with 106. Ave's laps led and qualifying points have helped him remain second, with 98, followed by top rookie Ramoutarsingh (71), Klaus Graf (68) and Gregg and Jung (each with 67).

Jaguar's fourth-straight win extended its Manufacturers' Championship lead to 17--37 to 20 over Chevrolet. Ford is third, with 10 points.

The Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series next travels to Portland International Raceway for Round Five--the Fluge Global Adventures Rose Cup Classic, in two weeks time. For more series information, please visit www.sccatrans-am.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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