Portland: Round two preview

Experience Will Rule as Motorock Trans-Am Series Returns to Portland PORTLAND, Ore. (June 14, 2004) -- Excitement has long been a legacy of Motorock Trans-Am Series racing at Portland International Raceway. This year, as the roses reach full ...

Experience Will Rule as Motorock Trans-Am Series Returns to Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (June 14, 2004) -- Excitement has long been a legacy of Motorock Trans-Am Series racing at Portland International Raceway. This year, as the roses reach full bloom, that legacy will continue as the Trans-Am Series returns to Portland for the Albertsons Trans-Am 100, during the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, June 18-20. The race is part of the 98th annual Portland Rose Festival.

Portland's 1.969-mile permanent road course has never failed to thrill, and during Trans-Am's last event here, in 2001, it didn't disappoint. Seven lead changes, rubbing fenders, bruised egos and a charge through the field punctuated that race. In the end, Tommy Archer gave the Dodge Viper its first victory in Trans-Am competition and he recorded his third-career win.

This year, returning champions Paul Gentilozzi (No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR), Greg Pickett (No. 6 Cytosport Jaguar XKR) and Tommy Kendall (No. 11 Jaguar R Performance) are all seeking success here. The statistics speak for themselves. Between the three of them they have a staggering 66 victories, 423 top-10, 238 top-five, and 161 podium finishes in a combined 434 starts.

And experience will definitely rule this year, as Trans-Am Series makes its 21st visit to Portland since its first race here in 1975.

"I plan to win the pole and lead every lap," said Gentilozzi with the air of assurance that only comes from 17 years of experience. "At the beginning of the season, I decided I would pick and choose the races based on my affection for them. I have a great affection for both Portland International Raceway and the city of Portland. The race track has consistently generated interest in the city, and the race boasts great crowds. It's always been an exciting race.

"I have had some wonderful races here in the past, both in Trans-Am and IMSA GTS," added Gentilozzi, who won the Trans-Am race here in 1992. Gentilozzi earned Trans-Am driving titles in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and 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. "My prediction this year is for another wonderful event."

But Gentilozzi may have his hands full this year. Pickett, who finished second, a record .322 of a second behind Gentilozzi in the season opener at Long Beach, has experienced the most success at Portland. In addition to his victory in 1984, Pickett has finished on the podium here four times and has recorded seven top-five and 10 top-ten finishes in 12 starts here. Pickett, who won the 1978 Drivers' Championship, is looking to become the only Trans-Am driver to win a race in each of four decades of competition.

"We have a little surprise for Portland," said Pickett. "Portland is a big horsepower track, and we now have a little help in the horsepower department with a new engine. It's also important to have the right braking and handling. We purchased a new Rocketsports chassis in the off-season and I think we proved in Long Beach how competitive that car really is.

"I really like Portland," added Pickett. "The fans in the Pacific Northwest love Trans-Am racing. They need to come see this race. Portland is a great venue and this is going to be a great race."

Meanwhile Trans-Am's only four-time titleholder, Kendall, has returned this year with his sights set on returning to his former glory. Kendall is arguably the best-known driver in Trans-Am's recent history. Beside his four Drivers' Championships (1990, '95, '96, '97), Kendall is the only driver to win three-straight Trans-Am titles, and he owns the record for the most victories in a season, 11 straight in 1997.

Kendall also holds the Trans-Am pole record with 40 fast-qualifying efforts. In all, Kendall has 26 victories, 53 podiums, 63 top fives, 72 top tens and 23 fast race laps. Kendall has also competed in IROC competition six times and has made 11 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup starts.

Kendall needs just four more wins to eclipse the late Mark Donohue's record Trans-Am win mark.

But his experience hasn't yet paid dividends at Portland.

"My experience hasn't done me a whole lot of good here because I haven't won a race at Portland," said Kendall, who's best Portland finish, second, came in 1995. "Count me a rookie when it comes to Portland. It's one of only two tracks on which I've competed that I haven't won in something, Sebring being the other one.

"That irks me a little bit," added Kendall. "I love going to Portland. The fact remains that I haven't won here, and I want to change that fact."

Kendall also had a few words for Gentilozzi.

"His goals aren't compatible with mine, because I plan to sit on the pole and lead every lap," laughed Kendall, who is driving the only car in the field equipped Jaguar's stock-block, overhead-cam, fuel-injected AJ-V8 engine here. "We're making good steps forward on the new engine. They had been conservative with the engine at Long Beach. It's a little more aggressive now, in terms of performance. What we saw at Long Beach was the lap times for the two-valve, carbureted cars were quicker. I expect to close that gap."

The Portland race will also be a family affair for Mike Davis' ACS Express Racing Team. Davis, driver of the No. 10 New Century Mortgage/GE Access/ACS Ford Mustang, is fielding a car for his son, Brandon, who will make his Trans-Am debut at Portland. The elder Davis is a veteran of Trans-Am competition with 36 races under his belt. Brandon Davis is a graduate of SCCA Club Racing.

Jorge Diaz, Jr. is ready to back up his successful run to the 2003 Rookie of the Year title with a win at Portland. Diaz returns to the No. 8 Puerto Rico Grand Prix Jaguar XKR this year with a higher purpose: win the Trans-Am championship. Diaz is dedicating his 2004 season to his sister, Monique, who is recovering from cancer.

Jorge Diaz, Jr. is ready to back up his successful run to the 2003 Rookie of the Year title with a win at Portland. Diaz returns to the No. 8 Puerto Rico Grand Prix Jaguar XKR this year with a higher purpose: win the Trans-Am championship. Diaz is dedicating his 2004 season to his sister, Monique, who is recovering from cancer.

Meanwhile, 1999 Rookie of the Year and 2000 BBS Most Improved Driver Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Jaguar XKR) is ready to hit the Pacific Northwest, while 2002 BBS Most Improved Driver Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) has always been competitive at Portland.

2003 BBS Most Improved Driver John Baucom (No. 86 MAP Quality Engineering Ford Mustang) is also hungry for his first Trans-Am victory. Baucom finished a career-tying best fourth at the Long Beach opener in his newly re-skinned Ford Mustang.

2002 SCCA GT-1 National Champion Tim Cowen has announced he plans to dedicate his 2004 racing efforts to the Trans-Am Series, and will kick off his season at Portland. Cowen (No. 75 Cowen Truck Line Ford Mustang) is scheduled to compete at four races this year--Portland, Infineon, Cleveland and Road America--with another possible race to be announced later.

Vincent Ashton (No. 9 Ashton Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro) and Philip Simms (No. 24 Simms Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) will make their sophomore Trans-Am starts here. Other drivers to watch include veterans Max Lagod (No. 83 Hypermax Chevrolet Corvette), Wayne Hartzler (No. 87 J&W Trucks Chevrolet Camaro), as well as Joey Scarallo (No. 06 Toyo Tires/ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette). Moneca Kolvyn, from British Columbia, plans to make her fifth Trans-Am start in the No. 73 West Coast Hot Rods Chevrolet Monte Carlo here.

The Albertsons Trans-Am 100 is scheduled to take place Friday and Saturday, June 18-19. Qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday, while the 51-lap race is set for Saturday at 3:45 p.m.

-transam-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Tommy Archer , Paul Gentilozzi , Randy Ruhlman , Max Lagod , Greg Pickett , Tim Cowen , John Baucom , Wayne Hartzler , Vincent Ashton , Brandon Davis , Mike Davis , Moneca Kolvyn , Jorge Diaz