Pruett wins Road America, nets Jaguar Manufacturers' Crown ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Scott Pruett continued his dominating run toward his third Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship, recording his sixth victory the 2003 season ...
Pruett wins Road America, nets Jaguar Manufacturers' Crown
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Scott Pruett continued his dominating run toward his third Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup championship, recording his sixth victory the 2003 season Sunday at Road America. In the process, the driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR allowed Jaguar to clinch its third Manufacturers' Championship. The British carmaker previously won the manufacturers' crown in 1978 and 2001.
Pruett's closest pursuer in the championship, Johnny Miller, finished second in the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR, ahead of Michael Lewis, driving the No. 12 Westward Tools/The Crank Jaguar XKR. Justin Bell, making his first start this season in the No. 59 Ultama Swimwear Chevrolet Corvette, drove through the field to finish fourth, followed by Stu Hayner, who battled a severe vibration throughout the event, to finish fifth in the No. 2 GMAC Commercial Finance/Trenton Forging Chevrolet Corvette.
Pruett took the lead at the start, and never gave it up during the 25-lap contest, which ended under caution. For his efforts, Pruett won the BFGoodrich Tires Take Control Award for leading the most laps and set the fastest race lap of 2:09.558 at an average speed of 112.481 miles per hour.
Pruett was one of two drivers running BFGoodrich Tires' 75 (hard compound) tire on the left-rear wheel of his Jaguar. Pruett said this was part of his conservative approach to the event at the 4.048-mile road course.
"I was in a situation, where I had to drive harder than Johnny," said Pruett. "I was sliding. He could catch me in turns one and two. I was a little better in a couple areas like the Carousel, because I could afford to run a little bit harder. That was the choice we had to make. We knew we could go green to checkered, so we had to play it conservative. It worked out for us."
With the victory, Pruett padded his lead in the Drivers' Championship.
"This year has been awesome," said Pruett, who returned to the Trans-Am Series this year after an eight-year hiatus, during which he competed in the Champ Car World Series and NASCAR. "I've come full circle this year. When I raced in the Series before, I was using it as a stepping stone. Now, I'm here because I love to drive and it's where I want to be. It's been a lot of fun and I'm with a great program at Rocketsports."
However, hadn't a caution flag waved on lap 23 of the event--for off-course excursions by Cliff Ebben (No. 68 Chevrolet Corvette) in turn one, Brian Kubinski (No. 22 Chevrolet Corvette) in turn six, and Bob Ruman (No. 23 Chevrolet Corvette) in turn one--the results may have been much different for Miller. Miller was hunting down Pruett in the waning laps, and was waiting for his moment to pounce.
"I think I had something for Scott," said Miller, who recorded his sixth podium of the season, including a win at Lime Rock. "I was a bit quicker in turns one and two, but it was a give-and-take deal. On the last restart (on lap 19), we were cruising. Once I got clear of traffic, we were boogying. I had to be decisive, because if you get up under somebody, you can loosen them, but you also lose all the air to your radiator. You only get one shot. I was looking for a place, and then the caution came out. It was a good race, and we had a good race car."
Meanwhile, Lewis said he was happy all of the right things came his way.
"We got a couple of people at the start, which is critical when you start eighth," said Lewis, who earned his third podium this season. "We were up to sixth and got by another guy, then some people had some problems. It all worked out for us. Something really went our way, which didn't happen in qualifying."
Unofficially, Pruett now has a 44-point lead on Miller in the Drivers' Championship.
The race ran in one hour, eight minutes and 46.903 seconds at a winning average speed of 88.279 miles per hour. The race was slowed by the caution flag three times during laps 10 through 11, 18 through 19 and 23-25. Miller earned one bonus point on the Fast Five Lap--lap four here. The Fast Five Lap awards one bonus point to all drivers within five seconds of the leader at each race this season.
The next Trans-Am Series race is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 31 at the Centrix Grand Prix of Denver. That race will air on tape-delayed basis on SPEED on Monday (Labor Day) at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
The Trans-Am Series is America's oldest continuously running road racing series and celebrates its 38th anniversary in 2003.
* Justin Bell returned to Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup this weekend at Road America, after making eight starts last season and running the full schedule two years ago. The 2001 Trans-Am Series Rookie of the Year drove the No. 59 Ultama Swimwear/Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. In 19 Trans-Am starts, Bell has two victories, seven podiums, nine top-five and 14 top-10 finishes. "I'm sad that Simon's health doesn't allow him to do this race, but obviously I'm very grateful he's chosen me to stand in as his replacement," said Bell, who is filling in for Simon Gregg, who is undergoing minor elective surgery. "Not racing in Trans-Am this year has really left me with a personal void. The last two seasons in the Trans-Am Series were the most enjoyable in my racing career."
* Interestingly, Bell won a thrilling STRANA Tonka Truck race held prior to Saturday's Trans-Am qualifying session.
* Gregg received a get-well card after the weekend in the form of an autographed green flag. Dee Duncan, Trans-Am Series Marketing Services Manager/Administrative Services Manager, passed the green flag around in this Friday's drivers' meeting.
* Two drivers elected to use the BFGoodrich Tires' 75 (hard) compound g-Force T/A tires in Sunday's race. Both Max Lagod (No. 83 Hypermax Chevrolet Camaro) and points leader Scott Pruett (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) used the harder tires on the left-rear wheels of their respective cars. Interestingly, in Round 6 at Cleveland, Lagod's choice to run hard tires earned him his second career podium.
* Defending and two-time SCCA National GT-1 Champion Tim Cowen was sporting a new look here at Road America. Cowen re-bodied his No. 75 Cowen Truck Lines Ford Mustang just after Round 6 in Cleveland with the newest spec Mustang bodywork. In fact, the veteran driver's crew chief, George Lee, hinted the team nearly didn't have the car ready for this weekend. "We just rolled it off the scales on Tuesday," said Lee of the red and yellow car. "We just made it here."
* Also sporting new livery this weekend was rookie Joey Scarallo. Scarallo repainted his No. 06 ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette after the last Trans-Am Series event in Trois-Rivières.
* Paul Menard, who was driving the No. 3 Jaguar XKR normally wheeled by three-time Trans-Am Series champion Paul Gentilozzi, celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday. Menard drove the newly painted blue, yellow and red Jaguar this weekend for sponsors Menards and Johns Manville. Gentilozzi, who is not competing for the championship this year, choosing to run a part-time schedule, spent the weekend in Montreal with his Champ Car World Series team.
* Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Stuck on You Jaguar XKR) and Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools/The Crank Jaguar XKR) did double duty over the weekend, as they were entered in both the Trans-Am Series and American Le Mans Series races at Road America. Drissi and Lewis teamed with Guy Cosmo in the No. 12 Riley & Scott Mk. III C/Lincoln in Sunday's ALMS event, which took place after the Trans-Am Series race.
* Had it not been for some help from fellow Corvette team Revolution Motorsports, rookie Joey Scarallo may have had to leave Road America early. Scarallo, driver of the No. 06 ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette, suffered a differential failure during Thursday's test session. Revolution came to the rescue, allowing the fledgling team to "borrow" one of their spares. Scarallo also received some help from Rocketsports Racing, as the veteran team helped Scarallo with his race preparations at their Lansing, Mich. shop prior to the race weekend.
* Baucom Motorsports welcomed three new sponsors to their team this weekend at Road America. MAP Quality Engineering, Northwest Analytical and Software Toolbox backed the No. 86 Jaguar XKR with driver John Baucom. "We are pleased to have MAP Quality Engineering, Northwest Analytical and Software Toolbox as marketing partners with us for both Road America and Denver" said Baucom Motorsports spokesman Scott Matre. "We really feel that this is a marketing partnership that will bear fruit for all involved. The Trans-Am series has long had a history of an established fan base and corporate involvement in the industrial information marketplace, Banner Engineering, Cutler-Hammer, and of course, Automation Direct have all experienced results from their involvement."
* Bobby Houghton, crew chief on polesitter Johnny Miller's No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR made wholesale changes on the car prior to Saturday's qualifying session. In fact, the veteran head wrench was just about ready to go shopping. "We were ready to go to Menards to buy a kitchen sink because that's about the only thing we hadn't thrown at the car."
* Jorge Diaz, Jr. who turned a 2:08.846-minute lap in the No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR, timed third in Saturday's qualifying session, but was disqualified in post-qualifying technical inspection. Diaz's car violated Rule 2.10 in the 2003 Trans-Am Series General Regulations & Technical Specifications: "Ground Clearance." Diaz therefore forfeited his time and will started 20th, ahead of Glenn Andrew and Dan Furey. Diaz also forfeited one bonus point awarded for qualifying third.
* Greg Pickett, who timed 10th on Saturday for Sunday's race started 19th due to a four-tire change in his No. 6 Cytomax Exercise and Recovery Drink Jaguar XKR. Pickett was cited under Rule 126.96.36.199: "Tire Declaration Form" in the 2003 Trans-Am Series General Regulations & Technical Specifications, which states: "...four tires will be used for all qualifying sessions, and to start the race. If a team is unable to start the race on at least three of their marked tires, they will forfeit their starting position..."