Road America: Round seven preview

Paul Gentilozzi Ready To Make Trans-Am History at Road America ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 3, 2004) -- Road America has the longest-standing relationship with the Motorock Trans-Am Series, and that relationship continues this weekend as America's...

Paul Gentilozzi Ready To Make Trans-Am History at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 3, 2004) -- Road America has the longest-standing relationship with the Motorock Trans-Am Series, and that relationship continues this weekend as America's longest permanent road course will again witness the rumble of V-8 racing engines. This year's 35th Annual Rumble at the Road, Round 7 of the 2004 Trans-Am Series Championship, is part of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America weekend.

No other venue on this year's schedule has played a bigger role in the history of the Trans-Am Series than Road America. The 4.048-mile road course has been a part of the Trans-Am Series legend since 1970, having hosted 35 events, including two in 1977, the most of any venue, active or inactive, on which the Series has competed.

Paul Gentilozzi could make Trans-Am and Road America history this weekend as the driver of the No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR could tie the win record held by late Trans-Am legend Mark Donohue. Gentilozzi, who earned his 28th Series victory last weekend in Trois-Rivières, could mark off the magic number 29 at Road America.

Gentilozzi, who has two career Road America Trans-Am victories, led a sweep of the podium by Rocketsports Jaguars at Trois-Rivières, with Tomy Drissi (No. 5 TAXI -- The Movie Jaguar XKR) and Tommy Kendall (No. 11 Jaguar R Performance XKR) finishing second and third, respectively. The Rocketsports sweep was the first for the Lansing, Mich.-based team since 1991, when Darin Brassfield led Irv Hoerr and Gentilozzi to the checkered flag at Infineon Raceway. It also marked only the third time in Trans-Am history a team has swept the podium. The only other team to do it was Roush Racing, which swept the top five in 1986 at St. Petersburg.

The points race also heats up this weekend as Gentilozzi widened his points lead to 20 markers ahead of Jorge Diaz, Jr., who had a difficult weekend in Trois-Rivières, finishing 12th.

Meanwhile 2003 championship runner-up and former Gentilozzi teammate Johnny Miller returns to Trans-Am competition this weekend. Miller will drive a Chevrolet Corvette, a marque in which he began his professional racing career nearly 20 years ago. Miller will drive the No. 64 Eaton Chevrolet Corvette fielded by Derhaag Motorsports, and welcomes back longtime sponsor Eaton.

Miller finished second here last year, after setting a record pole speed (2:08.143 minutes/113.723 miles per hour) in qualifying. That race ended under caution, though, and Miller has some unfinished business here.

"We've always run well here and been up front," said Miller, who has two victories, 27 podiums, as well as 40 top-five and 67 top-ten finishes in 100 career Trans-Am starts. "We have been in a winning position a couple of times; this year I plan to make a win stick."

Miller said Road America suits his driving style. Posting a perfect lap every time is the key to success here.

"I just love the high speeds here," said Miller. "Man, we really fly. It's a long lap, and you attack the track as hard as you can. Road America is a technically challenging track. At more than four miles per lap, you can't drop your assault on the track in any corner or on any straightaway. You have to put the whole thing together if you want to win the race.

"I've missed competing in Trans-Am this year," concluded Miller, who also plans to compete in Round 8 at Denver. "Some uncertainty in the off-season made it difficult for us to run the entire season, but I truly miss the competition and the Series. I've competed in several other series this season, but I have a special place in my heart for the Trans-Am Series."

Finally, Trans-Am's only four-time titleholder, Kendall, comes into Road America with new resolve after earning his second podium this year in his Jaguar AJ-V8-engined race car. Kendall, who spun off course early in the Trois-Rivières run, went from 14th to finish third after the off, and now sits fourth in the championship, just 25 points behind Gentilozzi.

Kendall returned to Trans-Am competition this year with venerable Rocketsports Racing and Jaguar, driving the No. 11 Jaguar R Performance XKR. Kendall is helping to develop Jaguar's new production-based, overhead-cam, fuel injected AJ-V8 engine this year. Kendall has won three poles in 2004 and recorded best finish of second at Infineon Raceway.

Kendall said this year's race at Road America will be a true test of the new engine.

"We're hauling ourselves back into the points race," said Kendall, who has won three Trans-Am races here, more than any other active driver in the field. "The problems we've had earlier this year weren't mechanical problems in the engine. We aren't in the position where we need to baby the car. I feel I can run the car hard.

"Road America is our toughest race on paper," added Kendall, "but braking is a big thing there, too and our car is great under braking. I think we might surprise some folks here."

However, with 23 entries on the bill, Gentilozzi, Miller, Diaz and Kendall will certainly have their hands full at the tough road course. Drissi and Miller's Derhaag Motorsports teammate Randy Ruhlman (No. 49 Preformed Line Products Chevrolet Corvette) have both put together consistent seasons this year, sitting fifth and third, respectively in the championship.

The 35th Annual Rumble at the Road is scheduled for Friday and Saturday Aug. 6-7. The Trans-Am race is scheduled to start at 4:45 p.m. CDT on Saturday. The Trans-Am Series is part of a full weekend of racing, which also includes the featured Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, as well as the Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama, Formula BMW USA and Formula Dodge National Championship.

The race will be broadcast LIVE on HDNet, with tape-delayed highlights coverage on Spike TV's popular "Dangerous Curves" timeslot, Sunday, Aug. 15 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT, PDT).

The Motorock 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 39th year of competition in 2004.



Paul Gentilozzi (No. 3 Jaguar R Performance XKR) comes into Road America with a 20-point lead in the championship. Gentilozzi is seeking his third Trans-Am victory here after winning two straight in 1999 and 2000.

Gentilozzi, a three-time titleholder, can also net Rocketsports Racing its second consecutive win here, as well as the team's fourth Trans-Am victory here in six races. Rocketsports is also seeking its second consecutive Road America Trans-Am pole, as Johnny Miller qualified first and set the track record last year in a Rocketsports Jaguar XKR.

Jaguar XKR (2000, 2001 and 2003 winner) seeks its fourth Road America Trans-Am victory in last five Road America Trans-Am races. Jaguar can also earn its second pole here and its third overall.

Tommy Kendall leads all active Trans-Am drivers with three Road America wins (1990, 1996, and 1997).

Ford Mustang seeks its first Road America Trans-Am victory since 1999, while Chevrolet Corvette can net its first Road America Trans-Am win since 1984.

This year could continue a four-year Road America Trans-Am streak (2000-2003) without a repeat-winning driver (Paul Gentilozzi, Michael Lewis, Boris Said, Scott Pruett).

Pole winners statistically have little advantage at Road America. For the last nine years (1994-2003), a polesitter has not won the race. The last race-winning polesitter was Scott Sharp in 1993. Tommy Kendall was the fast qualifier in 1996, though he started fifth due to the inversion used that year.

Race History:

The Trans-Am Series has competed at Road America in every season beginning with 1970. That event event featured two races, one each for Over and Under 2 Liter, while the 1976 through 1979 races were two-class events (Category I and II). There were two races in the 1977 season.

Consecutive wins have been scored by Mark Donohue (1970 and 1971), Bob Tullius (1977 and 1978 Category I), Monte Shelton (1980 and 1981), Pete Halsmer (1986 and 1987), Tommy Kendall (1996 and 1997), and Paul Gentilozzi (1999 and 2000).

Tommy Kendall's 1997 victory tied him with Peter Gregg with three Road America wins, making him the leading Trans-Am race winner here.

Chevrolet's Camaro has scored overall wins in 1976 (Carl Shafer), 1983 (David Hobbs), 1991 and 1993 (Sharp), and 1998 (Stu Hayner). The Camaro also took a Category I win in 1977. Chevrolet's Corvette won overall in 1973, 1975, 1978, 1982, and 1984 and is the most successful model in Road America Trans-Am racing. Corvettes also took Category I wins in 1976 and 1979. Chevrolet's Beretta won in 1990 (Tommy Kendall). Chevrolet leads the marques with 14 Road America Trans-Am victories, including three in Category I.

Ford's Mustang first won in 1972 (Warren Tope), then in 1989 (Dorsey Schroeder), 1992 (Ron Fellows), 1994 (Dorsey Schroeder), 1995 (Boris Said), 1996 and 1997 (Tommy Kendall). That four-race win streak was ended by Stu Hayner's 1998 victory. The Mustang again won in 1999 with Paul Gentilozzi. Ford Motor Company's Mercury brand also won four-straight races here, from 1985-1988 with Roush entries winning five straight, 1985-1989.

Jaguar's XKR has won three (2000, 2001, and 2003) Road America Trans-Am races. Jaguar's XJS also won in 1977 and 1978.

The last 24 Road America Trans-Am races (1980-2003) have had victory margins of less than one minute, with the last 19 at under 30 seconds. The Road America Trans-Am record closest victory margin was set in 1998 by Stu Hayner's 0.333 of a second victory, ahead of Bill Saunders.

Twelve (34.29%) of the 35 overall Road America Trans-Am race winners have started from the pole. The record for lowest starting position by an overall Road America Trans-Am race winner was set by Monte Shelton in 1980 when he won from 10th.

Kendall won from the "inverted" starting position of fifth in 1996 after qualifying first.

The average starting position for race winners here is 2.53.

Seven events here been won "flag to flag" from the pole position: 1975 (Jerry Hansen), 1981 (Monte Shelton), 1982 (Jerry Hansen), 1983 (David Hobbs), 1986 (Pete Halsmer), 1988 (Scott Pruett), and 1993 (Scott Sharp). Ludwig Heimrath led the entire race on the way to victory in 1977, but started second, as did 2001 winner Michael Lewis and 2003 winner Scott Pruett.

At the other extreme, seven "current format" Road America races (1980-2003) have had a minimum of either three leaders or three lead changes: 1980 (four leaders, three lead changes), 1987 (three, two), 1989 (three, three), 1990 (two, three). The two most competitive races to date are: 1992 (four leaders and four lead changes) and 1998 (three leaders, five lead changes).

Tommy Kendall is the leading active pole winner here, earning three (1990, 1995, 1996).

Johnny Miller won the pole in 2003 driving a Rocketsports Jaguar XKR and became the first Road America Trans-Am repeat polesitter of the new millennium as he also took the pole in 2000.

Chevrolet leads the marques with 19 poles/fast qualifying efforts, including two in Category I . Corvette leads the models with 11 poles, including seven "overall" poles, tied with Camaro for "overall" honors.

Chevrolet leads the marques with 16 Fast Laps, including four in Category I. The 10 overall Chevrolet Fast Laps were earned by Camaros (six), Corvettes (five) and Beretta (one) with Category I Fast Laps achieved by Corvettes (three) and Camaro (one).

Ford's Mustang leads all models with seven Road America Trans-Am fast race laps.

"Sweeps" of the win, fast qualifying, and fastest race laps have taken place 11 times: Jerry Hansen (1972 and 1982), Tommy Kendall (1990 and 1996), Mark Donohue (1971), Carl Shafer (1976 Category II), Greg Pickett (1978 Category II), Monte Shelton (1981), David Hobbs (1983), Dorsey Schroeder (1989), and Scott Sharp (1993).

Trans-Am racing has taken place at Road America in every season since the beginning of Driver Championship awards in 1971 and the championship-winning driver has won a race at Road America in 17 of the 37 (including 1976-79 two-category) seasons.

Fast Facts:

What: 35th Annual Rumble at the Road, Round 7 of the 2004 Motorock Trans-Am Series Championship

When: Friday and Saturday Aug. 6-7, 2004
Race Day: Saturday, Aug. 7, at approximately 4:45 p.m.

Distance: 25 laps/101.20 miles or 75 minutes time certain, whichever comes first

Where: The race will be run on a 4.048-mile, 14-turn permanent road course

<pre> Schedule:

Friday, Aug. 6, 2004 11:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Trans-Am Practice 1:15 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. Trans-Am Autograph Session 4:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Trans-Am Qualifying 4:40 p.m. Trans-Am Post Qualifying Press Conference

Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004 8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Trans-Am Final Practice 1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Trans-Am Drivers' Autograph Session (Location TBA) 4:45 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Trans-Am Race (25 Laps/101.20 miles or 75 Minutes, whichever comes first) 6:15 p.m. Trans-Am Post-Race Press Conference


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About this article
Series Trans-Am
Drivers Boris Said , Scott Sharp , Ron Fellows , Scott Pruett , Pete Halsmer , Paul Gentilozzi , Johnny Miller , Randy Ruhlman , David Hobbs , Dorsey Schroeder , Tom Kendall , Greg Pickett , Michael Lewis , Darin Brassfield , Stu Hayner , Ludwig Heimrath , Peter Gregg , Mark Donohue , Jorge Diaz
Teams HART