Portland: Round two preview

LEGENDS ARE SET TO DO BATTLE AS TRANS-AM ROLLS INTO PORTLAND FOR THE ROSE CITY 100 PORTLAND, Ore. (June 13, 2005) -- As the Trans-Am Series prepares for the second round of its 40th year of competition, excitement is in the air as the ...

LEGENDS ARE SET TO DO BATTLE AS TRANS-AM ROLLS INTO PORTLAND FOR THE ROSE CITY 100

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 13, 2005) -- As the Trans-Am Series prepares for the second round of its 40th year of competition, excitement is in the air as the V-8-engined machines are prepped to take on their first permanent road circuit of the season at Portland International Raceway. This year, as the roses reach full bloom, that legacy continues with the Rose City 100. The race, part of the G.I. Joe's presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland weekend, is scheduled to run on Saturday, June 18 at 4 p.m. PDT on Portland's 1.969-mile track.

Among the favorites for victory here is Randy Ruhlman. Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) is a stalwart of Trans-Am competition with 24 top-five and 80 top-ten finishes, as well as a pole in 147 starts to his credit. But the one thing that was missing from the veteran's long and illustrious racing resume was a win. That was, until the 2005 season opener, when Ruhlman had what he described as "picture perfect" race at Long Beach. In the end, Ruhlman climbed to the top step of the podium, and he's hoping that victory will carry some momentum into Portland.

"Needless to say after Long Beach, we're looking forward to getting going again," said Ruhlman. "We had a great run going last year, but we were bitten by a mechanical failure during the race. If we can duplicate the run we had going and our luck holds out, our chances are good. Winning Long Beach has given the whole team a morale boost. They're keyed up. We recently had a successful test, and that should translate into a competitive race in Portland.

"I really enjoy the circuit," added Ruhlman. "It's a nice long, fast track, but it's technical as well. Plus, the fans in the Pacific Northwest are fantastic. They are vocal and are really knowledgeable about Trans-Am racing. That fuels the competitive instinct in everyone in the field, including myself. We also have a large contingent of people from our sponsor, Preformed Line Products attending the race. They'll be in for an exciting show."

Yet, Ruhlman may have some competition for glory here as 1978 Drivers' Champion Greg Pickett is seeking repeat glory here. Pickett (No. 6 Cytomax Jaguar XKR) won here in 1984, driving a Roush Racing factory Mercury Capri and also has the distinction of having won the most poles here (five: 1978, '81, '82, '83, '84). Pickett, a former teammate of Ruhlman's, finished second at Long Beach and is looking to become the first driver in Trans-Am history to win a race in each of four decades of competition.

2004 Portland race winner Paul Gentilozzi certainly shouldn't be counted out. Though the defending and four-time Trans-Am champion's No. 1 Jaguar R Performance XKR was sidelined in Long Beach due to mechanical problems, Gentilozzi is always competitive. In fact, Gentilozzi drove from worst to first in last year's event due to technical infraction following qualifying.

Gentilozzi is tied with Mark Donohue for the most victories in Trans-Am competition: 29. That record could easily fall here, as Gentilozzi has a long history of success at Portland. Along with his 2004 victory, Gentilozzi also won here in 1992, and recorded two podiums: a third place in 1990 and a runner-up finish in 2001. Gentilozzi also leads nearly every Trans-Am performance category,

including podiums, top-five and top-ten finishes; fast race laps, career laps led, lead-lap finishes, career starts, and consecutive starts.

Up-and-coming German driver Klaus Graf (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) is looking to use the skills he honed in the Europe's Porsche Supercup Series to net his first Series win here. Graf, the first German national to compete in the Trans-Am Series since Walter Rohrl in 1988, is driving the second AJ-V8-motivated entry.

Fellow rookie Hima Maher (No 78 Centennial Motorsports of Alberta, Canada Chevrolet Corvette) will make his Trans-Am debut here, driving for veteran team Derhaag Motorsports. Maher has committed to running the balance of the 2005 Trans-Am season.

Meanwhile, 1999 Rookie of the Year and 2000 BBS Most Improved Driver Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Jaguar XKR) is ready to hit the Northwest after earning his first Series pole here last year.

Michael Lewis (No. 12 Autocon Engineering Jaguar XKR), who finished third in this year's Long Beach lid lifter, will also be a force here, as will defending Rookie of the Year Philip Simms (No. 24 Simms Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette). Max Lagod (No. 83 Hypermax Chevrolet Corvette), 2002 SCCA GT-1 National Champion Tim Cowen (No. 75 Cowen Truck Lines Ford Mustang), and Joey Scarallo (No. 06 Group A Wheels/Toyo Tires Chevrolet Corvette) will also be competitive.

The GT-1 ranks will be buoyed by Rookie of the Year candidate Moneca Kolvyn, who will make the short tow from British Columbia to drive the No. 08 West Coast Hot Rods Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Woodinville, Washington's Rob Holden will make his first Trans-Am start, driving the GT-1 class No. 2 Butson Racing Chevrolet Corvette.

The GT-1 class comprises Trans-Am-specification cars, but is reserved for up-and-coming teams from SCCA Club Racing's GT-1 division. The GT-1 Class winner is honored at each race this season, and features its own championship.

The GT America Class will also be well represented here, as Hollywood stuntman Steve Kelso returns looking for his second consecutive GTA victory this season. He will be joined by GTA newcomers Guy Dreier, Dave Cormier, Roy Isley and Portland's own Gary Hagstrom. The GTA entry list also includes Tom Wickersham, Dr. Art Muncheryan, Dale Hartman, John Condren, Stephen Schmalz, Brad Jones, Tim Barber, and Rudy Revak.

The GTA Class features V8-powered, tube-framed sedans. Eligible makes and models include Pontiac Grand Prix, Dodge Intrepid, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Ford Thunderbird and Taurus and Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The Class will be recognized with its own championship, as well as recognition in each race this season. The addition of the GT America cars turns Trans-Am into a three-class Series, which also includes the featured Trans-Am cars, as well as the GT-1 Driver Development Class.

The Rose City 100, Round 2 of the 2005 Trans-Am Championship and part of the part of the G.I. Joe's presents the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland weekend, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, June 17-18, 2005. Saturday's race will air on tape-delayed basis, Sunday, June 26 on SPEED Channel at 1 p.m. EDT.

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 40th continuous year of competition in 2005.

-ta-

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Klaus Graf , Paul Gentilozzi , Randy Ruhlman , Walter Rohrl , Max Lagod , Greg Pickett , Michael Lewis , Tim Cowen , Philip Simms , Brad Jones , Tim Barber , Dale Hartman , Steve Kelso , Hima Maher , Roy Isley , Guy Dreier , Mark Donohue