Rough going at the Infineon Raceway Trans-Am NASCAR Winston Cup Race Weekend Greensboro, NC (June 23) The roar of the engines was more exhilarating than ever as the double header races featuring the NASCAR Winston Cup and the BF Goodrich Tires ...
Rough going at the Infineon Raceway Trans-Am NASCAR Winston Cup Race Weekend Greensboro, NC (June 23) The roar of the engines was more exhilarating than ever as the double header races featuring the NASCAR Winston Cup and the BF Goodrich Tires Trans-Am Series got underway Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Both races proved to be rough and tumble style road racing with a good measure of bumping and passing leading some great racing and to many top runners finishing out of contention in both races.
As former road racer Robby Gordon was receiving his Winston Cup winning honors, the Trans-Am series took the grid for their 100-mile race on the 11 turn, 1.949-mile short course nestled in the scenic hilly terrain of the Sonoma Valley wine country. Randy Ruhlman, the 2002 winner of the BBS Wheels "Most Improved Driver of the Year", made his 131st career start in the Trans-Am series, campaigning the familiar #49 blue and white Preformed Line Products/Coyote Closure Chevrolet Corvette.
Ruhlman started his racing career at this track, [formerly named Sears Point Raceway], not only going to SCCA Driver's School here, but scoring track records in his first years in amateur Showroom Stock Corvette racing. His knowledge of the track showed as the weekend began with Ruhlman running sixth fastest in the Friday late afternoon and the Saturday morning sessions practices.
Practice began the hard work of setting up the Trans-Am car at Infineon Raceway. The team tried to avoid getting tricked by the ever changing nature of this notorious race track. "Setup in a TA car is always tricky, but this course can really bite you," said Ruhlman before qualifying. "This course has always been one of the most challenging to get a good setup. The amount of rubber on the track is a factor, but even hour to hour, the sun and track change things so much, that what felt awful in one session, could be fine in another. We tried to be smart about making needed changes, rather than chasing the setup."
By race time, late Sunday, the track condition was a big question after the NASCAR race left so much rubber on the track. Having only qualified ninth, the team felt they needed to make a few changes. As the green flag waved, it became immediately apparent that the changes were not the correct ones, and that the car's setup was far from ideal. "I had so much push and understeer that I couldn't carry any speed into the corners," said Ruhlman after the race. "I was having a lot of trouble even keeping up with guys who I usually pass with ease. We really missed the setup. It was tough driving too, since it was so much work. This is a very busy track. Through attrition and some hard work, we were able to move up and run in 8th."
"Near the end of the race, Tomy Drissi banged into me, and fortunately didn't take out the suspension. But he did get me hard enough to rip the jack post from the frame on the driver's side. But, more unfortunately, with five laps to go, I started to lose power, and by the end, we were definitely not running on all cylinders. The guys called me on the radio on the last lap and said, 'Try to nurse it along, if you don't think it is going to blow up. You're in 8th and there is no one behind you.' They called back about half a lap later, and said, 'Step on it, you've got someone coming up fast.' I had to call back and tell them, "I haven't lifted." I was just losing power that fast. I tried to block the last few turns, but once we got out of the last corner and onto the front straight, Mike [Davis] just pulled out and drove around me. We got a top ten out of it, but it was not pretty."
The Trans-Am race from Infineon Raceway was the fifth in the 2003 season, and can be seen in tape delay this coming weekend on SPEED Channel. Round six for the Trans-Am series takes the series to Burke Airport in Cleveland, Ohio with the CART series on Friday, July 4th. The Trans-Am race will be held late in the afternoon and will be followed by a huge lakefront fireworks display.
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.