In Saturday's inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series points leader Tony Ave was poised for a top-five result before getting spun out on the final lap.
In today's Trans-Am race at Road America, Ave easily avoided any final-lap fireworks and led flag to flag en route to his second consecutive victory. The driver who currently hails from Maiden, N.C., but is a native of Hurley, Wis., had to wait 16 years to score his first career Trans-Am win at Miller Motorsports Park, but only two weeks to celebrate win number two.
The No. 4 Tony Ave Racing/Pro Motor Engines Chevrolet Corvette was clearly the class of the field throughout the 23-lap event. After starting from the pole, Ave jumped out to a healthy lead early on and pulled away until a full-course caution to retrieve Terry Giles' No. 85 Powerhouse Racing/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette from the Turn 12 gravel trap came out on lap 10 and bunched the field.
However, Ave managed to again build a healthy advantage on the ensuing restart. It appeared that Ave was conserving his equipment as the laps wound down, which allowed second place RJ Lopez to close up, but Ave's lead was never in jeopardy. He went on to win by 1.474sec. With the victory, Ave extended his lead in the championship to 52 points, 496-444, over Lopez after four of 10 rounds in the 2010 Trans-Am Series.
"It was really good," Ave said. "It shows that we've got our car sorted out. I can always qualify good, but we didn't have a great racecar. We seemed to have sorted that out. I ran it as hard as I could, just so I could see what our tire wear was like. I think we have a little bit to go yet. We need to work on the rear suspension a little bit. It's good. It's always good to have the points lead. It gives you a cushion, and the prize money doesn't hurt. For everybody who is helping us, it keeps them pumped up, too."
Lopez, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, scored his fourth consecutive podium result with a second-place ride in the No. 6 Disco 106/ECR Engines/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette. He is the only driver in the series to have finished inside the top three in every race thus far in 2010, and this runner-up result came following a race-long battle with defending series champion Tomy Drissi.
"That was just wild," said Lopez. "It was just so cool. Usually, when I'm driving, I'm thinking about not sliding the tires, being easy on my brakes, whatever, but I finally got into one of those battles that went on for laps and laps, where you're not even thinking about the car and conserving or whatever. You're just like, 'I'm going to go for him here. I'm going to go for him there.' You just forget about everything else that's going on within the car. It was just a blast."
At the conclusion of an eventful final lap, Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, took the final spot on the podium with a third-place result in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette. Her third-place trophy was a just reward for Ruman, who dropped all the way to the rear of field with a spin in Turn 14 on the third lap in the race.
Despite the setback, Ruman stayed in the fight and by lap 15, she had worked her way back to fifth in the running order. On the final lap, she battled past Rick Dittman's No. 24 RDE Chevrolet Corvette for fourth and then took third when Drissi's No. 5 Knight and Day Jaguar XKR took ill and failed to make it up the hill from Turn 5 to Turn 6. It was her second career Trans-Am podium and her first since finishing third at Road Atlanta last year.
"It feels great," Ruman said. "First of all, Happy Father's Day to my dad and thanks to my parents. I couldn't do it without them. It was a crazy race. I was upset that I spun. The car got light on me coming out of that last turn and I almost reeled it in, but it just got a little loose, a little light. I was surprised early on that it got light. I was kind of bummed but I just kept my head down, stayed focus, and tried to pick them off one by one.
"I was really happy when the double yellow came out, because that gave me a chance to catch up to everybody. I couldn't be happier with the McNichols/Cenweld/Goodyear Racing Corvette. It was a crazy last lap. My whole goal today was to stay patient and let the race come to me. I just didn't know I was going to have to go from 16th to third, but I'm real happy to be on the podium."
Dittman, of Evanston, Ill., wound up with a fourth-place result from the 93rd start of his Trans-Am career. It was Dittman's first Trans-Am appearance since 1999. Filling out the top five was John Schaller, of Fort Myers, Fla., in the No. 08 JRS Motorsports/Central Power Chevrolet Camaro. It was Schaller's second career top-five result in Trans-Am competition and his first since a fourth-place performance at Road Atlanta last year.
Drissi, of Hollywood, Calif., entered the weekend second in the championship standings, but slipped to third with an eighth-place performance. He now trails Ave by 79 points and Lopez by 27 markers. Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., moved to fourth in points with a sixth-place run today in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette.
Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of La Romain, Trinidad, is now fifth in the championship following a ninth-place performance in the No. 8 Trinrico Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR. Ramoutarsingh encountered a mechanical problem on the final lap of the race.
Next up for the 2010 SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series is a visit to the historic Lime Rock Park circuit in Lakeville, Conn., on July 3.