KENDALL CLINCHES HIS FOURTH TRANS-AM DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP; WINS 10TH-STRAIGHT RACE OF THE SEASON AT ROAD AMERICA
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Tom Kendall made a spectacular ninth to first dash with five laps remaining to win his 10th-consecutive Trans-Am race of the season, topping Brian Simo, in the No. 22 Valvoline Mustang Cobra, by 23.531 seconds to clinch his third-straight and fourth career Trans-Am Drivers' Championship title at Road America.
Kendall, driving the No. 11 All Sport Body Quencher Ford Mustang Cobra, started the rain-soaked 25-lap, 100.0-mile race third but was in the lead by turn 10 on the first lap after making a sensational pass on the outside of the "carousel" as leader Dorsey Schroeder slipped and slid his way through the inside of the turn. Kendall's pass earned him the CIPA Mirrors Pass of the Race Award.
"I wanted to force the issue early on before the race settled in," said Kendall. "I was able to get by Dorsey (Schroeder) in the Carousel because the outside of the turn has more grip in the wet than the inside. Dorsey was on the inside so I rolled the dice and moved to the outside. Dorsey was wiggling and started to go wide but I was able to stay steady and get around him."
Once in the lead, Kendall was on cruise control as the track began to dry, building a lead of almost 10 seconds when he went in to pit on lap 20, dropping back to ninth and setting up a dramatic three-lap charge, slicing his way to the front past drivers who remained on rain tires.
"It did not occur to me as the race ran down that the others would not stop to change to dry tires," said Kendall. "I was waiting for everyone else to stop and my tires were going away fast. I knew that if we stopped we should be in good shape because everyone would stop and my crew is so good. Finally Dorsey stopped and so did I. I could have stopped four laps earlier; my tires were gone. When I came out I could not believe that I was over 40 seconds behind. I thought that everyone else had stopped and thatI was 40 seconds ahead--my crew kept telling me, 'No, you're behind, Brian (Simo) didn't stop,' so I really had to go hard."
Kendall regained the lead with two laps to go and sailed to the win, becoming the first driver in any road racing series to score 10-straight victories. Finishing third behind Simo was Paul Gentilozzi, in the No. 5 RISO Chevrolet Camaro, followed by Jon Gooding and John Miller IV.
"It was great racing but it was a tough deal starting in the rain," said Simo. "When the track dried I was committed to staying out. When Tom went in I tried to put as much distance between him and myself, but at the end my tires were shot. I was told that Tom was catching me at 10 secondsa lap. I did the math in my head and I knew that he would get me--driving with rain tires going away is a real ugly feeling, and I just couldn't push any harder."
Simo's effort earned him the DynoMax Turn on the Power Award, and Rick Dittman, in the No. 24 Fel-Pro M&D Auto Camaro, was the Raybestos Rising Star of the Race and the OPTIMA Batteries Quick Charger of the race, advancing 14 positions to finish seventh from his 21st-place start.
After 10 races of the 13-race 1997 Trans-Am Championship, Kendall has clinched the Drivers' Championship with 337 points, 107 points ahead of Schroeder, with 230. Jon Gooding is third with 228 points, followed by Simo, 212; Gentilozzi, 206; Greg Pickett, 203; Mike Borkowski, 190; Miller IV, 159; Bill Saunders, 141; and Michael Lewis, 135.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Results from Saturday's 25-lap, 100.0-mile SCCA Trans-Am race at Road America, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out.
1. (1), Tom Kendall, Santa Monica, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 25. 2. (2), Brian Simo, Carlsbad, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, 25. 3. (5), Paul Gentilozzi, Lansing, Mich., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 4. (7), Jon Gooding, Longwood, Fla., Ford Mustang Cobra, 25. 5. (12), John W. Miller IV, Johnson City, Tenn., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 6. (4), Greg Pickett, Alamo, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 7. (21), Rick Dittman, Prairieview, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 8. (19), Leighton Reese, Eden Prairie, Minn., Pontiac Grand Prix, 25. 9. (1), Dorsey Schroeder, Osage Beach, Mo., Ford Mustang Cobra, 25. 10. (11), Max Lagod, Barrington, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 11. (8), Mike Borkowski, Middlebury, Conn., Ford Mustang Cobra, 25. 12. (13), Dino Crescentini, Torrance, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 13. (17), Peter Shea, Newport Beach, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro, 25. 14. (18), Don Sak, West Bloomfield, Mich., Oldsmobile Cutlass, 24. 15. (20), Ray Irwin, Rockton, Ill., Chevrolet Camaro, 24. 16. (10), Bill Saunders, Dallas, Texas, Chevrolet Camaro, mech. 17. (15), R.J. Valentine, Hingham, Mass., Chevrolet Camaro, mech. 18. (22), Jim Briody, Cherry Hill, N.J., Chevrolet Camaro, 19. 19. (16), Bob Ruman, Monroe Falls, Ohio, Chevrolet Camaro, mech. 20. (9), Alessandro Zampedri, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Chevrolet Camaro, mech. 21. (23), Jim Moyer, Kokomo, Ind., Chevrolet Corvette, 13. 22. (14), Bruce Nesbitt, Chicago, Ill., Ford Mustang Cobra, mech. 23. (6), Michael Lewis, San Diego, Calif., Ford Mustang Cobra, mech.
Time of race: 1 hour, 15 minutes, 5.030 seconds. Average speed: 79.910 miles-per-hour Margin of victory: 23.531 seconds Fastest race lap: Tom Kendall, 2:13.245 (108.071 mph), lap 23 Lap leader: laps 1-19, Tom Kendall; laps 20-23, Brian Simo; laps 24-25, Kendall
Points leaders: 1. Kendall, 337 (Clinches fourth Drivers' Championship); 2. Schroeder, 230; 3. Gooding, 228; 4. Simo, 212; Gentilozzi, 206.
CIPA Mirrors Pass of the Race: Tom Kendall OPTIMA Batteries Quick Charger: Rick Dittman Raybestos Rising Star: Rick Dittman DynoMax Turn on the Power Award: Brian Simo