GRAF WINS FOURTH TRANS-AM POLE; TAKES POINTS LEAD AT ROAD AMERICA ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 20, 2005) -- Klaus Graf has proved over and over again this season that he has qualifying mastered in the Trans-Am Series. The German rookie made that...
GRAF WINS FOURTH TRANS-AM POLE; TAKES POINTS LEAD AT ROAD AMERICA
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 20, 2005) -- Klaus Graf has proved over and over again this season that he has qualifying mastered in the Trans-Am Series. The German rookie made that point again Saturday as he won his fourth Trans-Am pole this season for tomorrow's Rumble at the Road at Road America. In the process, Graf (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) earned three bonus points and took the championship lead from Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette).
Michael Lewis qualified second in the No. 12 Autocon Engineering Jaguar XKR and earned one bonus point, ahead of Max Lagod (No. 83 EzeCom.com/eCommerce Software Chevrolet Corvette). Ruhlman was fourth and will start on the outside pole, next to Greg Pickett, who was fifth in the No. 6 Cytomax/Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR. Pickett will start first in tomorrow's race due to Trans-Am's Fast Five program, which inverts the top five in qualifying.
Graf turned in a 2:09.159-minute time (12.828 miles per hour) and was more than one second faster than Lewis. Graf now has a two-point lead in the Drivers' Championship. He also edged closer to the Rookie of the Year title, and now needs only to take the green flag tomorrow and complete a lap to clinch the title.
"The lap was pretty good," said Graf who earned his fourth Jaguar Pole Award this season. "I had one corner where I think I may have left something out there, but, other than that, the lap was really good. I was pleased. We have a good car. We started off with some problems with the setup, but Rocketsports is always really good at working its way into the weekend and this was no different."
"This is really a beautiful track," added the Dornhan, Germany resident. "This is my first time visiting Road America. It is a really high-speed track and that is what I like. It reminds me of the old Nordschleife at the Nurburgring. I'm looking forward to the race."
"I need to be patient tomorrow," concluded Graf. "There are a lot of gravel traps and a lot of places to get into trouble here. My eye is on the overall championship, but we'll have to see how the race goes. It's just a matter of being patient, making it to the end and have a good finish."
Lewis, making his third start this season, essentially "steals" a bonus point as he isn't competing for the championship this year. Lewis, who is doing double duty this weekend, running both the ALMS and Trans-Am events, will start fourth tomorrow.
Lagod, who lives just outside Chicago, is also making his third start this season. Lagod will remain third for the start of tomorrow's race.
"This is my favorite track," said Lagod. "This is the closest track to home and we've been coming here since 1988. We had some overheating issues earlier in the year. We got that licked before the weekend. We have a lot of time and a lot of memories here."
Short-track legend Kurt Roehrig won the GTA pole in the No. 18 Roehrig Enders Suspension Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Roehrig is taking advantage of new rules, which allow ASA-spec cars, with minor modifications, to run in Trans-Am's GTA Class. Interestingly, Roehrig made his return to Trans-Am racing this weekend as he served as Tommy Kendall's crew chief during the four-time titleholder's first championship run in 1990.
"I started off road racing many years ago before I went short-track and oval-track racing to make a living," said Roehrig. "Now, it's time to come back and do some road racing. I have a midlife crisis going here and I'm going back to the beginning."
2003 GT-1 National Champion Cliff Ebben timed first in the GT-1 Class, driving the No. 36 McMahon Group/Baumgart's Tire & Wheel Chevrolet Corvette.
"We had some bad luck yesterday," said Ebben, "We lost an engine two laps into practice. But we changed it and everything has gone great today."
Final practice is scheduled for today at 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow's race is scheduled to start at 10:20 a.m. CDT. The race will air on SPEED Channel on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. EDT.