Miami: Round ten preview

Pruett seeking third Trans-Am title as Motorock Tour is ready to rock Miami MIAMI -- Although Miami's Grand Prix Americas venue around Bayfront Park is fairly new to the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup, this year's race...

Pruett seeking third Trans-Am title as Motorock Tour is ready to rock Miami

MIAMI -- Although Miami's Grand Prix Americas venue around Bayfront Park is fairly new to the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup, this year's race will mark a turning point for America's oldest continuously running road racing series. In fact, as the rumble of V-8 racing engines punctuates the warm breezes of Biscayne Bay, the cacophony of sound will be picked up a notch as history will be made. The event, scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 26-28, is Round 10, the penultimate event of this year's championship.

Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Motorock/Jaguar R Performance XKR, will attempt to secure his third Trans-Am championship with a fifth-place finish or better here. That honor will be sweet indeed for the veteran of sports car racing, the Champ Car World Series and NASCAR Winston Cup competition, as it will come on the heels of him earning Rocketsports Racing this year's Team Owners' Championship, and helping Jaguar to clinch its third manufacturers' title.

"Winning this one for Jaguar would be sweet," said Pruett, who has already contributed to the Manufacturers' Championship for Jaguar and clinched the Team Owners' title for Rocketsports this year. "The team has done such a great job all year to keep me at the front. We've crossed two hurdles already by winning the Manufacturers' and Team Owners' Championships. Now it's time to meet the final challenge, and win the drivers' title."

Pruett indeed has had a season envied by many. Buoying his seven wins in nine races this season, are eight podiums, eight top-five and eight top-10 finishes. In his Trans-Am career, Pruett has recorded 21 victories, tying Bob Tullius for fourth on all-time win list; 38 podiums, 39 top-five and 44 top-10 finishes in 57 starts. Pruett has also won seven poles this year, making his career total 27, third on the all-time fast qualifier list.

"This has just been a dream season," added Pruett, who finished third in his last Miami Trans-Am start on a different circuit in 1994, one of his two Trans-Am championship seasons. "Although I can clinch the title here, I can't take that for granted. My philosophy this year has been to come into every race looking for the win, and let the points take care of themselves."

However, Pruett's teammate Johnny Miller isn't ready to let his championship hopes slip away. Miller, who drives the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR, is seeking his first Trans-Am championship this season, one of his best on record. Miller, currently second in points, earned his second career Trans-Am victory this year at Lime Rock, after winning the pole. This year, Miller has seven podium finishes in nine starts. In his career, Miller has 26 podium finishes, 39 top fives, 66 top tens, and four poles in 99 starts.

"Miami is a very challenging track," said Miller, who finished eighth here last year. "It has different types of pavement, including concrete, asphalt and painted asphalt, so it's a challenge from the standpoint of grip. However, my car was excellent last year, and the fans and the locale really had me pumped up. The fans down here love the Trans-Am Tour. They really make the race a lot of fun.

"If Scott has a bad day, it can change the complexion of everything," added Miller of his championship hopes. "You don't wish bad luck on anyone, and definitely not your teammate, but I just want to win."

Jorge Diaz, Jr. (No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR) is looking for his first Trans-Am victory at Miami, a feat that would allow him to clinch the Rookie of the Year title. Yet, the affable Puerto Rican driver has higher hopes, and plans to hold on to his third place in the Drivers' Championship hunt.

"I ran second for 17 laps last year at Miami before my cooling system failed," said Diaz, who has two podiums, four top-five and nine top-ten finishes this year. "I feel very good about the race. It will be a lot more fun this year. There are a lot of Latino fans that will come out, and that will definitely give me a big boost. This gives me a big advantage.

"We're trying to be a bit more aggressive now," added Diaz. "We're trying to keep that third place in the championship. This year, we came to try to get Rookie of the Year. But we have set our sights higher, and if we keep the car underneath us, we can attain that goal, and that would be awesome."

Meanwhile, fellow rookies Bobby Sak and Joey Scarallo will attempt to keep Diaz honest, while Stu Hayner hopes bad luck experienced in last year's event won't repeat itself. Hayner, in fact, led 11 laps of last year's race before mechanical problems left him on the sidelines and 2002 Drivers' Champion Boris Said in victory circle. Florida natives Jon "Chevy" Leavy, Kenny Bupp, Michael Cohen and Jeff Emery are set to compete, as are Tomy Drissi, Michael Lewis, Randy Ruhlman, Simon Gregg, and John Baucom. Garrett Kletjian, Peter Rogal, George Nolte, Marvin Jones, and Rick Lee complete an already impressive entry list.

However, the Motorock Miami 100 is going be much more than a race--it will be an event; and one for the history books. Kicking off Motorock's "cars, stars and guitars" concept, the Trans-Am Tour event will feature the Rocket Man himself, Elton John, in concert the Saturday before the event, as well as other musical acts as part of the race weekend.

The Motorock Miami 100 is scheduled to start at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, following the Champ Car World Series race. The race will air on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel on Friday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m.

The Trans-Am Series features closed-fendered, production-based, V-8-powered sports cars, competing on permanent road courses, and temporary street and airport circuits throughout North America. The Trans-Am Series is America's oldest continuously running road racing series and celebrates its 38th anniversary in 2003.

Motorock is the creation of a popular culture brand that blends the enthusiast markets of cars, stars and guitars. It is a yearly series of destination live events that showcase the excitement of motorsports, music and lifestyle while delivering a unique new form of broadcast entertainment programming.

What:    Motorock Miami 100--Battle by the Beach Round 10 of the
2003 Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich®  Tires Cup  championship

When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-28, 2003
Race Day: Sunday, Sept. 26, at 4 p.m.

Distance: 87 laps/100.05 miles or 75 minutes, whichever comes first
Where: The race will be run on the 1.15-mile, 13-turn temporary street course

Miami Moments:

* With a fifth-place finish or better here, Scott Pruett (No. 7 Motorock Jaguar XKR) will clinch his third Trans-Am Drivers' Championship. Interestingly, Pruett will become the second driver in Trans-Am history to win three titles, driving three different marques: Merkur XR4Ti in 1987, Chevrolet Camaro in 1994 and Jaguar XKR this season. The only other driver to match that feat is Pruett's team owner Paul Gentilozzi (Chevrolet Corvette in 1998, Ford Mustang in 1999 and Jaguar XKR in 2001).

* With a victory here, Pruett will take sole possession of fourth on the Trans-Am Tour all-time win list. Pruett enters Miami in a tie, with 21 victories, with Bob Tullius. The late Mark Donohue leads the career win category with 29.

* A Pruett victory would also move him to just one win away from Ron Fellows in third on the all-time street-and-temporary win list with nine victories. Tommy Kendall leads that category with 14 triumphs.

* With a pole here, Pruett will tie Gentilozzi for second on the all-time pole list with 28 fast times. Kendall leads this category with 39 poles.

* Johnny Miller (No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) will make his 100th career Trans-Am start here. It will also be his 98th consecutive start.

* Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products/COYOTE Closures Chevrolet Corvette) equaled his career-best Trans-Am Tour finish here last year of third. Ruhlman also finished third at Trois-Rivières this year and last season.

* No driver in this year's field has a chance at a repeat victory here. Kendall won the inaugural Miami event in 1994, while Boris Said won last year's event. Neither is entered in the Motorock Miami 100.

* The Tour first competed in Miami in 1994 at a different venue. Kendall won the pole in his Roush Ford Mustang and led every lap to win the 54-lap event over Dorsey Schroeder in a Gloy Racing Ford Mustang. Schroeder set the race's fast lap. Eventual 1994 Trans-Am champion Pruett finished third in a McCall Racing Chevrolet Camaro.

* Eleven current drivers have competed here prior to this year: Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Stuck on You, The Movie Jaguar XKR), Jon 'Chevy' Leavy (No. 18 Leavy Racing Enterprises/MOR Printing Chevrolet Camaro), Jorge Diaz, Jr. (No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR), Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools/The Crank Jaguar XKR), Ruhlman, Simon Gregg (No. 59 Ultama Swimwear Chevrolet Corvette), Bob Ruman (No. 23 McNichols/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette), Stu Hayner (No. 2 GMAC Commercial Finance/Trenton Forging Chevrolet Corvette), Miller and Pruett. Only Ruhlman, Pruett and Hayner raced here in the 1994 inaugural event.

* Last year's race showed three drivers lead (Hayner, 35 laps; Said 33, Lewis, 5) and produced five lead changes, the most of the 2002 season.

* Thirteen of 22 starters last year finished, or 59.09%, marking the lowest finishing percentage of 2002.

* The Miami race saw only one of the six Jaguar XKRs entered finish in the top 10, with Miller finishing eighth.

-trans am-

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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Boris Said , Scott Pruett , Tomy Drissi , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , Dorsey Schroeder , Bob Ruman , Michael Lewis , Simon Gregg , Bobby Sak , John Baucom , Kenny Bupp , George Nolte , Marvin Jones , Garrett Kletjian , Rick Lee , Jeff Emery , Stu Hayner , Bob Tullius , Mark Donohue , Tommy Kendall , Jorge Diaz