ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sept. 20, 2009) - Cliff Ebben, of Appleton, Wis., captured his first-career Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series win Sunday at the season finale race at Road America, outlasting a number of competitors that encountered trouble along the way. Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of La Romain, Trinidad, and Kenny Bupp, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., completed the top three.
Ebben started fifth in the No. 36 Lamers Racing/McMahon Group Ford Mustang, and ran there for the first portion of the race, as second-starting Jorge Diaz Jr. took the lead and set sail in his No. 2 JD Racing Jaguar XKR.
Diaz Jr. opened up a lead of more than six seconds before he pulled off on lap 13 of the 23-lap, 93.104-mile race with a flat tire. Diaz's retirement promoted R.J. Lopez into the lead with his No. 06 WabashPower.com/Mobil 1/Goodyear Chevrolet Corvette, but he had polesitter Tony Ave filling his mirrors with the No. 10 McMahon Group/Pro-Motor Chevrolet Corvette.
After a lap-15 restart following a caution to remove Jordan Bupp's Corvette from the Turn 14 gravel, Ave made a move on Lopez between Turn Five and Six. The two made contact and Lopez became the second leader to pull off with a flat tire.
Ave's lead was short-lived as his car began to fade, and Ebben moved into the lead on lap 16 heading into Turn Five.
Ebben, too, had his own mechanical issues with brakes as the race wore down, and Ramoutarsingh, who started seventh in the No. 8 TRINRICO Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR, closed on the leader. On lap 21, Ramoutarsingh made his move in Turn 12, but spun exiting the corner, leaving Ebben out front on his own.
Ramoutarsingh fell back to fourth, but benefitted from a last-lap incident between Bupp and Simon Gregg to move back into second, 15.458-seconds behind the winner.
Ebben's average speed of 107.336 mph was the fastest Trans-Am race ever at Road America in the series' 38th appearance.
"At the beginning, I was just trying to keep the pace and keep a good car going until the end of the race," Ebben said. "As the race went on, the car got worse and worse, but everybody else had issues. Tony [Ave] must have been having some sort of a problem and I was able to just drive by him.
"I had hardly any brakes for the last five laps or so and there was really nothing I could do. I was just going to let [Ramoutarsingh] go by and hope that it was the end of the race. When I saw him spin behind me, I was relieved!
"It's really neat to win. I never thought I'd get a win. I hoped maybe a top five or something, but it's great to win."
Ebben's drive was rewarded with the Flowmaster Star of the Race award and a $1,000 bonus.
Ramoutarsingh closed the season out with a third and second place finish, and clinched the Rookie of the Year honor. Not only was the race dramatic, but his making the grid was dramatic as well, as just hours before the race, the young driver from Trinidad crashed heavily in qualifying, forcing his Rocketsports Racing crew to make significant repairs in short order
"The crew did an incredible job," Ramoutarsingh said about the repairs. "I've seen them do amazing things before but that was just unbelievable. I can't thank the entire Rocketsports family enough and the Gentilozzi family. I cannot thank Jorge Diaz enough either. He loaned me the parts to help put the car back together and I would not have been able to race without that."
Ramoutarsingh might have had his first-ever race win, had he not spun attempting to pass for the lead.
"I thought my crew chief said that it was the last lap, but it wasn't," he added. "I went into Canada Corner hard, and my nose was inside, meaning I could not track out on the exit. So I pinched it down and the car came around. We were about three seconds faster than him at the time.
"The season absolutely met my expectations. The one thing I would have changed is I would not have spun my car in 12 and would have likely won the race today to finish my rookie season. But, you've got to have something to look forward to next year."
Bupp started 13th in the No. 3 Murray's Speed & Custom/Hamilton Safe Chevrolet Camaro and steadily moved up before waging a fierce battle with Gregg's No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. The pair moved into second and third, before a last-lap incident shuffled the order.
"Simon [Gregg] and I go way back," Bupp said. "We won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001 together in AGT. We've been buddies for a long time. Simon took the position going into one, but he went wide. I got inside of him and he got loose in three, which allowed me to get beside him down the straight. I got by and got to the inside going into Five. He got in a little too deep, hit the left rear corner of my car, knocked me sideways, went off the track and back on and hit me in the front. But we were both able to motor in and finish third and fourth!"
"Childress motors made me a good driver today," he added. "We had an electrical issue in qualifying, but got it sorted out and the car was great in the race. At 72 years old, this is too good to be true to finish on the podium in a Trans-Am race."
Gregg recovered to finish fourth. Jerry Kinn, of Anchorage, Alaska, finished a career-best fifth in his No. 7 Carls Jr. Chevrolet Corvette.
Denny Lamers (Ford Mustang), David Fershtand (Ford Mustang), Tomy Drissi (Jaguar XKR), Jordan Bupp (Chevrolet Corvette) and Ave completed the final top 10.
Fershtand earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award, advancing 12 positions from start to finish in his No. 05 Fershtand Race Prepared Mustang.
Drissi, who clinched the Series Championship at Watkins Glen one Round ago, was running third behind Diaz Jr. and Ave before an exhaust bracket broke, forcing him to pit and lose a lap in the No. 5 James Cameron's Avatar Jaguar XKR.
Diaz Jr. set a new track record for the fastest race lap, turning a 2:07.609 (114.199 mph) before his flat tire.
Drissi won the 2009 Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Championship with a total of 191 points in seven races. Ave finished second, with 152, followed by Gregg (138), Ramoutarsingh (123) and Jung (102). Jaguar clinched the Manufacturers Championship after the Watkins Glen round, topping Chevrolet, Ford and Mazda in that order.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Results from Sunday's Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series Round Seven race at Road America with finishing position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car, laps complete, laps behind winner or reason out (if any).
1, (5), Cliff Ebben, Appleton, WI, Ford Mustang, 23,
2, (7), Daniel Ramoutarsingh (R) , Trinidad, Jaguar XKR, 23,
3, (13), Kenny Bupp Jr., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Chevrolet Camaro, 23,
4, (10), Simon Gregg, Ponte Verda Beach, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 23,
5, (12), Jerry Kinn, Anchorage, AK, Chevrolet Corvette, 23,
6, (14), Denny Lamers (R), Appleton, WI, Ford Mustang, 23,
7, (21), David Fershtand (R), Fort Worth, TX, Ford Mustang, 22, -1
8, (3), Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, CA, Jaguar XKR, 22, -1
9, (9), Jordan Bupp (R), Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 22, -1
10, (1), Tony Ave, Maiden, NC, Chevrolet Corvette, 18, Mechanical
11, (18), Glen Jung (R), Osteen, FL, Mazda RX-7, 17, Fire
12, (16), Kyle Kelley (R), Huntington Beach, CA, Chevrolet Camaro, 17, -6 laps
13, (4), RJ Lopez (R) , Bal Harbour, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 15, Tire
14, (2), Jorge Diaz Jr, San Juan, PR, Jaguar XKR, 13, Tire
15, (20), Ron Tambourine (R), Lake Forest, IL, Mazda RX-7, 11, Mechanical
16, (23), Jon Leavy, Tamarac, FL, Chevrolet Camaro, 10, Mechanical
17, (6), Amy Ruman (R) , Kent, OH, Chevrolet Corvette, 4, Mechanical
18, (8), Edison Lluch Sr, Loyas PR, Chevrolet Corvette, 4, Mechanical
19, (17), Jim Bradley (R), Gaston, IN, Chevrolet Corvette, 4, Withdrew
20, (19), Carl Jensen (R), Loxahatchee, FL, Chevrolet Camaro, 3, Withdrew
21, (22), Buddy Cisar (R), Bellevue, NE, Chevrolet Camaro, 3, Mechanical
22, (11), Michael Skeen (R) , Charlotte, NC, Chevrolet Corvette, DNS
23, (15), William Rozmajzl (R), Bristol, CT, Oldsmobile Cutlass, DNS
Average race speed: 107.336 mph (record)
Fastest qualifier: Tony Ave, 2:05.981 (115.675 mph), Record
Fastest lap: Jorge Diaz Jr., 2:07.609 (114.199 mph), Record
Sunoco Hard Charger: David Fershtand
Flowmaster Star of the Race: Cliff Ebben
Attached: Image of Cliff Ebben leading Daniel Ramoutarsingh at Road America
Credit: Mark Weber