KLAUS GRAF SECURES THIRD TRANS-AM VICTORY AT ROAD AMERICA TAKES POINTS LEAD, CLINCHES ROOKIE AND MANUFACTURERS' TITLES ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 21, 2005) -- Klaus Graf continued his late season drive toward his first Trans-Am championship Sunday...
KLAUS GRAF SECURES THIRD TRANS-AM VICTORY AT ROAD AMERICA TAKES POINTS LEAD, CLINCHES ROOKIE AND MANUFACTURERS' TITLES
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 21, 2005) -- Klaus Graf continued his late season drive toward his first Trans-Am championship Sunday at Road America by completing a perfect weekend with a victory in the Rumble at the Road. The German driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR dominated the event and, in the process, he took the points lead going into the season finale next week at Montreal. He also became the first German Rookie of the Year in Trans-Am history and he helped clinch the Manufacturers' Championship for Jaguar, its third consecutive and fifth overall.
Graf, who won the Jaguar Pole on Saturday, took the lead from Greg Pickett (No. 6 Cytomax/Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR) on lap six of the 25-lap event and he set sail, beating team owner Paul Gentilozzi (No. 1 Jaguar R Performance) by a record .087 of a second. Pickett was third.
Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) finished fourth and now sits second in the championship, just 12 points behind Graf. Tomy Drissi, who changed an engine in the No. 5 Transporter 2 -- The Movie Jaguar XKR and started 16th in the race, finished fifth.
"This has just been a fantastic weekend," said Graf. "It's an honor to be part of clinching the Manufacturers' Championship for Jaguar. The team always comes first and it has been one our main goals this year. Winning the Rookie of the Year title is also a good thing. Now, my primary goal is to win this overall championship. We have one race to go, at Montreal. I need to play it more carefully there, even though that's not really my style.
"It was tough to do this photo finish at the end with Paul. He can be scary sometimes," laughed Graf. "I didn't really know what he was up to, but I kept my foot on the throttle."
Gentilozzi earned his second podium this season after winning in Toronto. Gentilozzi started second in the race, but drove through the field to grab the photo-finish runner-up effort.
"Klaus let me close in at the end so it would make a good picture, but I did think about it coming up the hill: If I gas it, I'll bet I'll scare the heck out of him,'" quipped Gentilozzi. "I was looking forward to telling him he was number one as I was going by. I've always had really high regard for Klaus' skills as a driver. As we close in on the end of the season, it's just wonderful to have the kind of competition we've had. Greg has brought with them a whole new level of competition this year. I'm honored to have him back. Next year, we'll buy him one of those workout bikes so he can do all of the races."
Pickett earned his fifth consecutive and sixth overall podium in seven starts this season. Pickett led the first five laps of the race before losing the point to Graf.
"Klaus is a really, really fast guy, as is Paul," said Pickett. "We're not planning to compete at Montreal, but the car is headed that way if anyone wants to run it there. We have been just so fortunate this season and I'm really looking forward to being back in Trans-Am next year. We're working with Paul and the Champ Car folks over the winter to see if we can bring this Trans-Am championship back up to were it belongs, as the premiere road racing championship in North America. It's just been a real pleasure to be here."
Steve Kelso won the GTA Class in the No. 9 Ringers Resource/Red Line Oil Chevrolet Monte Carlo, while Tim Barber clinched the GTA Drivers' Championship in the No. 97 Riverside Motorsports Park Ford Taurus. Cliff Ebben won his second consecutive Road America GT-1 crown, driving the No. 36 McMahon Group/Baumgart's Tire and Wheel Chevrolet Corvette.
The race ran in a record 58 minutes, 36.772 seconds at an average speed of 103.595 miles per hour and was slowed once by the caution flag for two laps. The event will air on Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. EDT on SPEED Channel. The next Trans-Am race, the 2005 Trans-Am season finale, is scheduled for Aug. 26-27 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.