RANDY RUHLMAN WINS FIRST TRANS-AM RACE AT LONG BEACH LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 10, 2004) -- Randy Ruhlman added the one thing missing from his Trans-Am resume Sunday at Long Beach: A victory. The driver of the No. 49 Preformed...
RANDY RUHLMAN WINS FIRST TRANS-AM RACE AT LONG BEACH
LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 10, 2004) -- Randy Ruhlman added the one thing missing from his Trans-Am resume Sunday at Long Beach: A victory. The driver of the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette won the Cytomax Challenge, part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
In so doing, Ruhlman joins the likes of Paul Gentilozzi, Robby Gordon, and Tomy Drissi as winners of their first Trans-Am races at Long Beach. It was also the first victory for a Chevrolet Corvette since August of 2002, and marked the first win for Derhaag Motorsports since 2001. The triumph also snapped a streak of six consecutive victories for Jaguar's XKR. Finally, the victory came in Ruhlman's 147th Trans-Am start.
Ruhlman took the lead for good, passing Greg Pickett on the backstretch six laps from the end of the 45-lap event. Pickett finished second in the No. 6 Cytomax Jaguar XKR. Michael Lewis (No. 12 Autocon Jaguar XKR) and 2004 Rookie of Year Philip Simms (No. 24 Simms Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) completed the top five.
"This weekend went picture perfect from start to finish," said Ruhlman from Greensboro, N.C. "We tested in Arizona last week and that really got the car dialed in. All the sessions went well. We knew we were going to have a tough time with the Jaguars. We had a difficult time with Greg Pickett, but he made one bobble and that's all it took.
"It's funny, when you race Greg Pickett, he just seems to find another gear," added Ruhlman. "I figured Greg was going to check out. I knew Paul (Gentilozzi) was strong, then he fell out. When Greg took over I thought it was over, but things fell our way, and we made it happen."
Pickett, who's company Cytosport sponsored this weekend's race through its Cytomax Sport Drink and Muscle Milk products, led from the start, and spent a total of nine laps at the front. Pickett had lost the lead to Paul Gentilozzi (No. 1 Jaguar R Performance XKR) on lap six. Klaus Graf (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) took the point on lap 10, but fell out the next lap with a gearbox problem. Gentilozzi regained the lead, but retired on lap 35 with a power-steering failure.
"This was a great weekend for Cytomax," said Pickett. "We had corporate guests here all weekend and they just had a ball. This helps us make for a successful launch of Cytomax Sport Drink and is the start of something for Trans-Am. This was a tough race. Early on I planned to run it as hard as I could and keep it straight. Paul (Gentilozzi) and Klaus (Graf) went a little bit quicker, so they went by, but they had some bad luck and this fell our way. I really have to take my hat off to Randy. I take some pride his victory because he was a former teammate of mine."
Lewis' car was nearly destroyed in a fire last year at Road America. His Autocon Racing team rallied in the off-season and got him back on track for the podium finish.
"Obviously our team had a lot of work to do over the winter," said Lewis, who hails from San Diego, Calif. "We really don't how many races we're going to be able to run this year, but this podium certainly helps. It's always great to come back to Long Beach. We consider this our home race. This one really came to us. We'll put it in the bank, move on and see what we can do about continuing on this year."
Hollywood stuntman Steve Kelso finished first in the GTA, in the class's first race with Trans-Am since 1997. Kelso drove the No. 9 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
The race ran in one hour, eight minutes and 27.153 seconds at an average speed of 77.625 miles per hour. Ruhlman won by 3.434 seconds. The race was slowed once by the caution from laps 28 to 32. Graf set the race's fastest lap (1:22.884).
The race will air next Sunday, April 17 on SPEED Channel at 1:30 p.m. EDT.