Road America: Penultimate round preview

TRANS-AM SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP COMES DOWN TO THE WIR AS SERIES READIES FOR HISTORIC ROAD AMERICA RUMBLE ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 17, 2005) -- No other venue on the 2005 schedule has played a more significant role in the history of the Trans-Am ...


ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 17, 2005) -- No other venue on the 2005 schedule has played a more significant role in the history of the Trans-Am Series than Road America. The 4.048-mile road course in the picturesque Wisconsin countryside has been a part of the Trans-Am Series legend every year since 1970. The track has hosted America's oldest continuously running road racing series 35 times since, the most of any venue, active or inactive, on which the Series has competed.

This year, as Trans-Am Series celebrates its 40th anniversary, that legend will continue, as the Trans-Am Series returns this weekend to Road America for the Rumble at the Road, Round 8 and the penultimate event of the 2005 season. The race is part of the Road America 500 weekend, which will also include the American Le Mans Series.

This event will be key to the outcome of this year's Drivers' Championship as only 12 points separate the top three in the chase. Meanwhile, the GTA Championship, the Rookie of the Year title and the Manufacturers' Championship could all be decided here.

Leading the charge in the drivers' points is Randy Ruhlman, who's held the top spot in the standings since his first Trans-Am victory at the season opener in Long Beach in April. Ruhlman also won at Cleveland, and backed that up with a podium finish at Portland. Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette), however, has some stiff competition and his first title is certainly not guaranteed. Yet, Ruhlman has a history of success here. He won his first Series pole here last year and finished second in the race.

Ruhlman's most significant title challenge comes from German rookie Klaus Graf (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR). Graf, with his victory last week in Denver, is now just one point behind Ruhlman in the title chase. Graf also won the Portland round, becoming the first German driver to win a Trans-Am race since Walter Roehrl in 1988. In addition, his 2005 statistics include two more podiums and three Jaguar Pole Awards. Graf leads the Rookie of the Year standings ahead of Hima Maher (No. 78 Centenniel Motorsports of Calgary Chevrolet Corvette) and needs only to finish 18th or better to clinch the Trans-Am rookie title, the first ever for a German driver.

Graf has also made a significant contribution to Jaguar's charging toward its fifth Manufacturers' Championship.

A Jaguar XKR needs to win this weekend's race at Road America to clinch its fifth Trans-Am Manufacturers' Championship. If it were to win here, Jaguar will hold at least 16-point lead ahead of Chevrolet going into the 2005 season finale at Montreal. The Trans-Am Series awards a maximum of 15 points per race to the winning manufacturer.

If a Ford Mustang were to win this weekend's race, Jaguar needs to finish 15 points ahead of Chevrolet going into Montreal. Though this could result in a tie in final manufacturers' points, Jaguar will have more victories to its credit this year. Trans-Am rules state that in the event of a tie in points, the championship will be awarded based on number of wins.

The dark horse all season long has been 1978 Trans-Am champion Greg Pickett. Pickett (No. 6 Cytomax/Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR) has seen quite of bit of success in 2005. By winning the Edmonton round, Pickett became the first driver in Trans-Am history to win a race in each of four decades of competition. Add to that four more podiums, and though he missed the Cleveland round due to a previous engagement, Pickett now sits third in points, just 12 markers out of first. Interestingly, Pickett made his Trans-Am debut here in 1975 and he won here in 1978, the year he won his sole Trans-Am title.

Though he had a difficult start to the season, Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Transporter 2 -- The Movie Jaguar XKR), has picked up his game immensely during the stretch. Finishing second at Denver, Drissi climbed to fourth in the standings, just 18 points out.

Joey Scarallo (No. 06 Cytomax/Toyo Tires Chevrolet Corvette) still has a shot at the title, sitting 27 points out, though late-season bad luck has slowed the young New Yorker's charge to Trans-Am glory. Scarallo joined a new team this year, driving for veteran Midwest short-track star and former Trans-Am driver Tony Ave.

Paul Gentilozzi (No. 1 Jaguar R Performance XKR) has historically been dominant here, winning twice (1999 and 2000). Gentilozzi recently made Trans-Am history by winning his 30th career race. The historic victory, at Toronto, moved Gentilozzi out of a tie with the late legend (and two-time Road America winner) Mark Donohue for first in all-time career Trans-Am victories. Donohue also posted back-to-back wins here, in 1970 and 1971.

2001 Road America winner Michael Lewis (No. 12 Autocon Engineering Jaguar XKR) will return to Trans-Am competition after taking a five-race hiatus. Tim Cowen (No. 75 Cowen Truck Lines Ford Mustang) and Barrington, Ill.'s Max Lagod (No. 83 Software Chevrolet Corvette) will also return to the Trans-Am Series here.

John Baucom will continue his successful run this year, driving the No. 86 Software Ford Mustang. Baucom finished a career-best second at Cleveland and was fifth in the most recent round at Denver.

Defending Road America GT-1 Class winner Cliff Ebben (No. 36 McMahon & Associates Chevrolet Corvette) will defend his crown this year. Paul Fix has finished first in GT-1 three times this year and comes into Road America seeking his first GT-1 title in the No. 77 Stop Flex/Pennzoil Ford Mustang. Moneca Kolvyn (No. 08 West Coast Hot Rods Chevrolet Monte Carlo) leads the GT-1 standings, sitting 24 points ahead of Fix. Jim Bradley (No. 0 Collector Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) and John Schaller (No. 03 Central Power Distributors Chevrolet Camaro) will also compete in GT-1 here.

The GT-1 Driver Development Program features 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.

Tim Barber (No. 98 Riverside Motorsports Park Ford Taurus) can clinch the GTA title here with an 18th-place or better finish in class. Roy Isley, who sits second in GTA points in the No. 46 Canadian Western Aggregate Chevrolet Monte Carlo, will also compete here, as will Hollywood stuntman Steve Kelso (No. 9 Red Line Oil/Ringers Resource Chevrolet Monte Carlo), and Denver GTA winner Guy Dreier (No. 13 Team Snappy Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo). Veteran short tracker Kurt Roehrig (No. 18 Roehrig Enders Suspension Chevrolet Monte Carlo) and three-time ASA champion Butch Miller (No. 52 ASILimited Chevrolet Monte Carlo) will take advantage of Trans-Am's new rules, allowing ASA-spec cars to run in its GTA Class.

GTA 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 year.

The Rumble at the Road, Round 8 of the 2005 Trans-Am Championship and part of the Road America 500 weekend, is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 19-21, 2005. Sunday's race, which starts at 10:25 a.m. CDT, will air Sunday, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. EDT on SPEED Channel.

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 consecutive year of competition in 2005.

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Klaus Graf , Paul Fix , Tony Ave , Tomy Drissi , Paul Gentilozzi , Randy Ruhlman , Max Lagod , Michael Lewis , Tim Cowen , John Baucom , Cliff Ebben , Tim Barber , Kurt Roehrig , Moneca Kolvyn , Steve Kelso , Hima Maher , Roy Isley , Guy Dreier , Mark Donohue
Teams HART