ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 4, 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.
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