Ruhlman's Fast Trans-Am Weekend at Portland Ends in Disappointment
Portland, Ore (June 19, 2004) -- Top Trans-Am driver Randy Ruhlman was on a roll in the Preformed Line Products/Coyote Closure Chevrolet Corvette at Portland International Raceway this weekend. Running second in both practice sessions for this weekend's Trans-Am race and starting fourth for the 51 lap race, Ruhlman came back from an early spin and ran on pace to grab a podium position. Sadly though, he was forced to watch from the sidelines, as his motor simply expired midway in the race, bringing with it a disappointing end to a weekend on track that gave notice: Ruhlman and his team are back in top form and are again a force to content with.
Ruhlman started next to former Trans-Am Champion and 1992 and 1993 Trans-Am teammate Greg Pickett. Ruhlman got off to a good clean start, as his car began to come in to handling. Things got a bit dicey when Ruhlman was hit squarely in the rear wheel on Lap Nine by a Rookie driver, was spun and fell back to ninth place. Working his way back during the next few laps, Ruhlman was turning faster times than the field, keeping up with the blistering pace set by the pair of leaders, Kendall and Gentilozzi. Ruhlman moved up quickly, on par to catch the third place cars by Lap 30.
But it was not to be for the 2002 BBS Wheels "Most Improved Driver of the Year", when on lap 24, the motor lost pressure and Ruhlman's day was ended prematurely. Ruhlman said afterwards, "This really hurts. We had an absolutely great car, the best I have ever had at Portland. I could turn those fast times all day and not hurt the tires. There was so much time left to catch up that I just knew I could catch the front. And with Paul [Gentilozzi] and Tommy [Kendall] pressing each other so much, you could see that they were using up their tires. And that is where we are so good, at the end of the race with a good setup and good tire management. I just have to get to the end of the race now. By the end, Paul had totally lost his tires, and Kendall blew a motor, so this was a real blow for us, too. The podium was truly right there."
"Actually, aside from the end and the engine failure, it was a great weekend at Portland. We were pretty dominate in both practices and had a good qualifying. We definitely gave notice to the Trans-Am field, WE ARE BACK!!! This was probably the best run I have had here, since I was an amateur and ran here in Showroom Stock in the mid-80's. The car handled really well, and I was able to get the power to the track and go faster than I ever have in the Esses in the back," continued Ruhlman.
"My guys and our team have worked so hard, and that work is definitely paying off. The data showed that the only one faster than us was Gentilozzi in almost all sections of the track. We have obviously made some big improvements on our setup since last year. Jim Derhaag, our owner, is taking care of our motor situation and we will be ready for them at Sears Point/Infineon next weekend, when we run after the Nextel Cup race," concludes Ruhlman.
The Albertsons Trans-Am 100 at Portland International Raceway ran the scheduled 51 laps on the 1.969-mile permanent road course. Delayed television coverage is on HDTV network at 11AM PDT on Sunday, June 20th. A thirty minute show, "Dangerous Curves" on Spike TV, will feature race highlights and is scheduled for a Sunday June 27th afternoon broadcast.
Randy Ruhlman finished sixth overall in the Driver's Championship in 2003 in a Derhaag Motorsports Corvette and was seventh overall in 2002 driving for Tom Gloy Racing with a second (and a 3rd in 2003) at Trois Rivieres and third at Miami. He was named the 2002 "BBS Wheels Most Improved Driver of the Year. Randy Ruhlman is sixth overall in Top Ten finishes in Trans-Am history.
Ruhlman's Chevrolet Corvette is fielded this year by the Minneapolis-based, Derhaag Motorsports team, led by former Trans-Am driver Jim Derhaag. Jim Derhaag himself made 150 starts as a driver in the Trans-Am Series before his successful move to full time ownership in 1998. The team has fielded many successful drivers, including top Trans-Am drivers Justin Bell, Kenny Wilden, Tony Ave, Dorsey Schroeder, Chris Neville and Darin Brassfield.