TRANS-AM ROOKIE GRAF DOMINATES AT PORTLAND; WINS FIRST RACE IN SECOND START PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 2005) -- Klaus Graf entered Saturday's Rose City 100 Trans-Am race at Portland International Raceway a rookie and left a veteran as the German...
TRANS-AM ROOKIE GRAF DOMINATES AT PORTLAND; WINS FIRST RACE IN SECOND START
PORTLAND, Ore. (June 18, 2005) -- Klaus Graf entered Saturday's Rose City 100 Trans-Am race at Portland International Raceway a rookie and left a veteran as the German graduate of Porsche Michelin Supercup competition won his first Trans-Am race in just his second start. Driving the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR, Graf became the first German national to win a Trans-Am race since rallying World Champion Walter Rohrl in 1988. He is also the first rookie to win a Trans-Am race since Butch Leitzinger in 2002.
Randy Ruhlman finished second in the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette and unofficially holds the points lead going into next weekend's event in Cleveland. Joey Scarallo recorded his best Series finish, a third, in the No. 06 Group A Wheels/Autotrend Chevrolet Corvette. Greg Pickett (No. 6 Cytomax Jaguar XKR) and Michael Lewis (No. 12 Autocon Jaguar XKR) completed the top five. Rudy Revak finished first in the GTA Class, driving the No. 99 Symmetry Nutritional Ford Taurus.
Graf won the pole, but started fifth due to Trans-Am's Fast Five® Qualifying inversion. He drove through the field and took the lead for good from team owner Paul Gentilozzi when Gentilozzi's Jaguar suffered a mechanical failure on lap 16. Graf wasn't seriously challenged from there.
"This feels great," said Graf. "At Long Beach, we had the pace down, but we couldn't finish the race. We focused on improving the car each session. I knew it was going to be tough in the race. It took me awhile to get my rhythm and set the brake bias. I ran behind Randy for awhile. Then I passed him in the Festival Curves and then Paul had a problem. I held my pace from there.
"This is very special, being accompanied by Walter Rohrl because he is a very, very famous driver in Germany," added Graf. "He's a World Champion in rallying and one of my heroes. He is one of the best race car drivers ever."
Ruhlman was pleased with his run.
"It was a good day," said Ruhlman, who won the season opener at Long Beach. "We were chasing the car most of the weekend, and frankly, we were a bit down in the mouth. We put the race set-up on this morning and we were pretty happy. Paul got the best of me on the start, and I just let him go. We were able to stick on Paul's bumper the whole time. I had a lot of fun running with Greg Pickett. Greg's tires went away, so we took second and just went from there."
Scarallo nursed his car to his first Trans-Am podium.
"We had big expectations this weekend," said Scarallo. "We started out the weekend really well. The guys have been doing a great job with the car. It was a big improvement over last year. We had trouble on the first lap in the Festival Corners and bent a suspension piece. If we'd had an in-car camera it would have looked like I was turning going down the straightaway. This was a hard-earned third place."
Philip Simms (No. 24 Simms Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) won the VP Fuels Trans-Am Hard Charger Award for making up the most positions in the Trans-Am field, while Gary Hagestrom (No. 34 Ott's Machine/Firm Feel Suspension Dodge Intrepid won the VP Fuels GTA Hard Charger Award. Tomy Drissi's eighth-place finish in the No. 5 Fantastic Four -- The Movie Jaguar XKR nets him the BFGoodrich Tires Anniversary Award, which awards four racing tires to the eighth-place finisher.
The 51-lap race ran in a record one hour, nine minutes and 5.480 seconds at an average speed of 85.984 miles per hour. The race was slowed twice by caution flags for a total of six laps. Ruhlman set the race's fastest lap, a record 1:14.591-minute effort. The Today's race will air on a tape-delayed basis, Sunday, June 26 at 1 p.m. EDT on SPEED Channel.