Pruett strikes back at Infineon, re-takes points lead SONOMA, Calif. -- The pendulum officially came full circle Sunday at Infineon Raceway as Scott Pruett dominated the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrichÂ® Tires Cup race, Round 5 of this year's...
Pruett strikes back at Infineon, re-takes points lead
SONOMA, Calif. -- The pendulum officially came full circle Sunday at Infineon Raceway as Scott Pruett dominated the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup race, Round 5 of this year's championship. The driver of the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR proved earned his third victory this season, and unofficially retook the points lead from teammate Johnny Miller.
Miller (No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) suffered a flat tire late in the event after contact with Memo Gidley (No. 3 ACE Hardware Stores Jaguar XKR) and finished 12th. Interestingly, Miller took the points lead earlier this season when he won at Lime Rock, while Pruett finished 12th.
Boris Said (No. 33 ACS/GE Access/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang) was second, followed by Michael Lewis, who earned his second podium finish this season in the No. 12 Westward Tools/The Crank Jaguar XKR. Gidley, making his first career Trans-Am Series start, finished fourth, ahead of New Zealander Kayne Scott, a many-time Tranzam Series champion, making his first start in the Series in the No. 01 Megatech/KIT Car Wax Chevrolet Corvette. Tranzam runs Trans-Am Series-spec cars in New Zealand and Australia.
Along with his third victory this season, Pruett won the BFGoodrich® Tires Take Control Award for leading the most laps, and the $2,000 Flowmaster American Thunder Challenge Award for winning the Jaguar Pole, leading the most laps, setting the fastest lap and winning the race. The victory is also Pruett's 17th in his career, tying him with Willy T. Ribbs and Dorsey Schroeder for seventh on the all-time win list. Pruett needs just 12 more victories to tie the record number of wins held by the legendary Mark Donohue.
"It's just great to roll off of the trailer with a great race car," said Pruett, who led every lap from the pole. "We made two shock changes, and that was it. It was great. Any time during the race, we could pick up the pace. We wanted to conserve the tires, in case Boris had anything for us at the end.
"The Winston Cup race was disappointing," added Pruett, who finished 34th in that event after tangling with Kurt Busch.
Said said winning his first Winston Cup pole on Friday made it difficult to focus on the Trans-Am Series car. Said also competed in the NASCAR Southwest Tour race here Saturday.
"Scott beat me today," said Said. "Some days you're the cat. Some days you're the mouse. When I got the Winston Cup pole, my head wasn't really into my car and I couldn't do a good enough job setting it up. It was too soft. Scott had a little more car than we did. Second is still a pretty good finish. We're coming off a great weekend."
Lewis was happy with his second podium finish this year. Lewis finished second at Mosport earlier in the season.
"Boris came shouldering by early in the race," said Lewis. "I held him up for one lap and then he was on his way. I had nothing for these guys. I think once everything got a little bit hot, we could match them, but they were six seconds ahead by then.
"My plan about both of these guys collapsing with 10 laps to go (both Pruett and Said competed in the Winston Cup race earlier today) didn't work out," laughed Lewis, who only competed in the Trans-Am Series event over the weekend. "Otherwise, it was a great weekend."
The race was slowed by two caution flags for a total of seven laps. The race ran in a record one hour, 12 minutes and 42 seconds at an average speed of 83.764 miles per hour. Pruett set the fastest race lap of one minute, and 14.921 seconds at an average speed of 95.621 mph. Both are records as this year's event marks the first time the Trans-Am Series has run on the 1.949-mile NASCAR course at Infineon Raceway.
The race will air on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED Channel on Friday, June 27 at 8 p.m.
The next event for the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup, Round 6 of this year's championship, is scheduled for July 4 at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport, as part of the U.S. Bank Presents the Cleveland Grand Prix Champ Car World Series race.
Notebook: SONOMA, Calif. -- Defending Trans-Am Series champion Boris Said joined fellow Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup drivers Scott Pruett and Johnny Miller, doing multiple driving duties over the weekend at. Said competed in all three scheduled major events. He finished second in Saturday's NASCAR Featherlite Tour event and the sixth in the Winston Cup Series race, his best finished to date in that series, prior to his xx finish in the Trans-Am Series event.
"I have run multiple series before and I've done well," said Said, who finished second in the Trans-Am season opener in St. Petersburg, and won Round 2 at Long Beach. "The real challenge for this weekend will be changing from car to car for every hot session on the track. Each of the cars is very different--just like dating three different girls. They all have special needs and you have to be responsive to each.
"This is the kind of weekend I like," added Said, driver of the No. 33 ACS/GE Access/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang "I won't get bored."
Pruett (No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR) finished 34th in the Winston Cup event, while Miller (No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR) was 24th in the NASCAR run, his first, in the No. 5 Kodak Pontiac owned by Morgan-McClure Motorsport.
2000 Trans-Am Series Drivers' Champion Brian Simo stood by as a relief driver for Bill Elliott on Sunday. Elliot broke his left foot in a crash earlier this season.
n Trans-Am Series graduate Robby Gordon got off the schneid Sunday and won his second-career Winston Cup Series race. Gordon, driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the Winston Cup Series, won in his sole Trans-Am Series start, in 1992 at Long Beach, driving a Roush Ford Mustang.
Meanwhile, Trans-Am Series veteran Ron Fellows finished seventh in the Winston Cup race, driving the No. 1 Chevrolet in relief of Jeff Green. In Fellows' 96 career Trans-Am Series starts, he has 19 victories, 60 top-10 and 72 top-five finishes. Fellows competed in the Trans-Am Series from 1995-1997.
n Qualifying for the Winston Cup Series race was also a Trans-Am Series affair, as Said, winner of last year's Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich® Tires Cup Drivers' Championship, showed he is equally impressive in a stock car as in a sports car Friday, by winning the pole. Said toured the 1.949-mile road course in a record one minute, 16.522 seconds at an average speed of 93.620 miles per hour.
Said was substituting for the injured Jerry Nadeau in the Winston Cup Series race, driving the No. 01 Army Pontiac Grand Prix. Said, who earned his first Winston Cup pole, led a trio of Trans-Am Series veterans in qualifying, as Gordon was second fastest, ahead of Fellows.
"I have to con Jay Frye out of a car for Daytona,"added Said, who through his pole-winning effort automatically qualifies to compete in the Budweiser Shoot Daytona 500 qualifier next year. "But right now, I have to qualify the Southwest Tour car and later, the Trans-Am Series car, so I still have a lot of work to do today."
Gordon competed with Fellows at Long Beach 1992.
* Said racked up an amazing number of miles at Infineon Raceway over the weekend.By competing in three races, Said took part in eight practice sessions and ran in three qualifying events. All told, the veteran road racer completed 360 total laps of the 1.949-mile road course. That equates to 701.64 miles during his three days of competition.
The totals for each series are: Trans-Am Series (19 laps), Winston Cup (127 laps) and Southwest Tour (127 laps).
* New Zealander Kayne Scott made his Trans-Am Series debut this weekend in the No. 01 Megatech/KIT Car Wax Chevrolet Corvette. The veteran Kiwi driver is a multiple-time champion in the Tranzam Series, which contests races with Trans-Am Series spec cars in New Zealand and Australia.
* Sunday's grid changed slightly from qualifying as the cars of George Nolte (No. 43 www.Nolte.com/BG Products Ford Mustang) and Marvin Jones (No. 45 M&L Jones Racing LLC/BG Products Qvale Mangusta) were sent to the back of the grid for violating Trans-Am Series Rule 2.15.2: "Tire Declaration...Four tires will be used for all qualifying sessions and to start the race. If a team is unable to start on at least three of those tires, they will forfeit their starting position..." the team elected to change four tires before the race. John Baucom (No. 86 MAP Quality Engineering/Bully Dog Technologies Jaguar XKR) was also sent to the back of the field for an unapproved engine change, a violation of Rule 2.16.2: "Engine Declaration: The declared engine must be used for the entire event...If a team changes engines after qualifying, that team forfeits its starting position and must start at the back of the grid..." The engine in Baucom's Jaguar broke a piston during the morning warm-up session. Baucom started just behind Jorge Diaz, and ahead of Jones and Nolte.
* Gary Blalock, race tire engineer for Trans-Am Series spec tire supplier BFGoodrich® Tires, said he is pleased with tire performance during the weekend. Blalock also reported that Revolution Motorsports teammates Stu Hayner (No. 2 Trenton Forging/GMAC Chevrolet Corvette) and Bobby Sak (No. 10 Revolution Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) ran 75 (hard) compound tires in the left rear wheels of their cars. Meanwhile, Miller elected to run the 75-compound tires on both rear wheels. Every other team in the field ran 200 (medium) compound tires on all four wheels.
"We have had 120-mile tires run 15-flat times, and that's better than we expected," said Blalock. "The good teams will set their cars up to make up for the weight change as the fuel burns off. When the car burns off nearly 250 pounds of fuel, it will tend to oversteer. The smart teams will start with a tight setup, so the car will be perfect in the middle of the race, and a little loose at the end."
* Pruett did a little tire comparison over the weekend. "We have less horsepower, but we make that up in horsepower, but mostly in tires," said the two-time Trans-Am Series champion. The tires are bigger and wider and that makes a big difference there. After about 10 laps you have to be right on top of a Winston Cup car here because it's just sliding around.
"The last time we were here, we were on Goodyears," said Pruett. "Now, we're on BFGoodrich Tires, and I think that has been a significant move forward for the sport because of the longevity and the performance of these tires. We ran on tires that more than 100 miles on them this morning and we were still run 14.1s and 14.0s, and those are competitive times."
* Rookie Trans-Am Series driver Joey Scarallo fulfilled a goal this week at Infineon Raceway, to meet his childhood hero Darrell Waltrip and thank him for helping him through an extremely tough time in his life 10 years ago.
When Scarallo was 13 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. While bedridden, awaiting surgery, Waltrip, who was then a full-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver, called Scarallo to wish him good luck.
"I remembered that kid," said Waltrip, who now does color commentary for the Winston Cup broadcasts on FOX TV. "I spoke with him, encouraged him and even prayed with him. In fact, I got my Bible study group to pray for him as well.
"It's good to see him doing so well," added the three-time Winston Cup champion.
"It was great to finally meet him in person," said Scarallo. "I was very sick when he spoke with me. I had always been a fan, and hoped to be like him some day. He really encouraged me.
"Now, I'm fulfilling my goal of being a professional race car driver," added the driver of the No. 06 ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette. "I am privileged to have met him."
* Because of their multiple responsibilities this weekend and the distance between the NASCAR and Trans-Am Series pits, logistics were key for Pruett, Said, and Miller. A host of vehicles, including a tow truck and the Trans-Am Series Jaguar X-Type Safety Car helped ferry the three from the frontstrech to the Trans-Am Series paddock. All made it just in time for each Trans-Am Series session.