Diaz and Halsmer victorious in Trans Am race at Watkins Glen
July 8, 2012
Out of the 22 car field at Watkins Glen, Pete Halsmer and Jorge Diaz, Jr. made their way through the pack and onto the podium. Besides winning their respective divisions, they both had to fight off furious rallies from defending TA and TA2 champions Tony Ave and Bob Stretch.
This was Jorge Diaz, Jr.’s first race back in Trans Am this year. Diaz started in first position with his #8 Diaz Racing Jaguar XKR and never relinquished his position. The feat was not a particularly easy one, as Tony Ave provided constant pressure on the eventual race winner.
The two-time defending champion started with a vengeance, passing five cars in the first lap. Ave was forced to start last on the TA grid due to not practicing in his #4 Lamers/PME Engines Corvette. Ave had planned on qualifying in the car; but due to storms on Saturday resulting in the session turning into an unofficial practice, he was unable to put in a time that would contribute to starting position.
Still, Ave was quick to catch up to the leaders and passed Amy Ruman for second place during a restart on the 14th lap. He held the position, consistently challenging Diaz until loosing power steering midway through the 25th lap. Ave related the race in a statement:
“We had the fastest car for sure, we got up to fourth in a lap, and then passed a couple more cars. Then I was pretty set on just riding along and got by Amy on a restart, but we had a lot of time left in the car. Then I lost the power steering, so I ran with him for a while after that, but it was getting to the point that to keep up the pace I would be risking the car. So since we’re so far behind in points I was going to just try and keep second—then the power steering line actually burst and covered the window with oil. Then I had to come into the pits and get my windshield cleaned to be able to see anything.”
Unfortunately, due to that pit stop, Ave’s surge only resulted in a fourth place finish, but Diaz was well aware of Ave’s presence on the track:
“My crew kept telling me about the time difference, we kept pace with him, and every time he got close I just pushed a little harder and we were able to hold the lead.”
The #8 car led all 29 laps, and Diaz credited the work that his crew put in to tune it specifically for Watkins Glen.
“Watkins Glen is a very technical track, and we had to do a lot of work preparing the car. We worked very hard last night to get the suspension just right and it worked perfectly. The car was just hooked; we just knew we had it.”
Last weekend’s winner at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Amy Ruman, came in second, marking her fourth consecutive podium placement. She and the #23 McNichols Chevrolet Corvette are currently second in the points standing with 131 points, surpassing Doug Peterson, who was unable to attend. Ruman insists that she is in for the long haul and has her sights firmly set on the championship:
“We had a really tough weekend, my crew has worked day in and day out on this car, I couldn’t be happier with their work. The McNichols Corvette was fast today, but Jorge had a real strong showing. But we’re happy, we’ve been consistent and we’re going for the championship. That’s what it’s going to take, consistency.”
TA points leader, with 140 points, Simon Gregg came in third after a hard fought race with John Baucom, driver of the #86 Roadraceparts.com Ford Mustang. However, the eventual victor was Gregg in the #59 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette.
“I just had a consistent race. My lap times weren’t what I wanted them to be, I got a little distracted by traffic and I ended up where I ended up. If I can improve a bit at Road America and take that momentum into the end of the year, I should have a good chance at taking home a championship.”
Gregg is still riding an incredible streak of reliability; this marked the 68th race that the car has finished without a mechanical failure, a streak he doesn’t expect to end soon:
“It’s a great job the crew has been doing, I’m so proud of the team and the work they do. They keep me in race, day in and day out. We’ll keep the streak going.”
In TA2, Halsmer came away victorious, marking his second victory in just as many weekends. The win puts him in second place in the points standings for TA2 with 121. Halsmer was, as he has been all year, consistent. However, the real story this weekend was Bob Stretch, who still leads TA2 in the points standing with 141.
The TA2 defending champion crashed during the second practice on Friday, leaving the #98 Fixed Rim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro unable to continue. He and his crew then worked nonstop to get a new car ready to compete:
“I’ve never crashed a car like that in my whole career. It was extremely disappointing, after that we had a backup car that we’d built, but it had never turned a lap. It had never gone anywhere on its own power and it had a motor in it that wouldn’t run. So after that crash we had to pull a lot of things out of the old car and pretty much had to build a whole new car.
We had so many bugs in it come grid time. It wasn’t a great car, but it was a good enough car. It was unfortunate not to finish, but the guys did some great work, and I have to be proud of them for that.”
Halsmer also acknowledged Stretch’s efforts:
“We were fortunate that Bob had a problem, it often turns out being between the two of us, and he’s a great racer. I hate to see him have those problems, they worked really hard to get that car on track.”
Finishing second in the TA2 class was Stretch’s teammate Tom Sheehan in his #65 Guardian Angle Motorsports.com Chevrolet Camaro, and in third was Kurt Roehrig in the #04 Roehrig Enders Suspension Chevrolet Camaro. This was the first podium placement for both racers this year.
The Trans Am series now travels to Road America on August 19th for the sixth race of the season.
For more details on the race and upcoming events follow @gotransam on twitter, check in at www.gotransam.com, and keep up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam.
MAVTV will also air the half-hour Trans Am Series weekend recap show produced and directed by GoRacingTV.com the week following this weekend’s event. The first of three airings will be Sunday at 5:00 pm EDT (2:00 pm PDT). The first encore airing follows on Thursday at 9:00 pm EDT (6:00 pm PDT), followed by a second encore airing on Friday at 12:00 am EDT (Thursday, 9:00 pm PDT).
The Trans Am Series dates back to 1966. Throughout the years, some of the greatest names in motorsports have participated in the Trans Am Series. Backdating the Driver’s Championship to the inaugural season, 30 different drivers took titles, with multiple Championships being won by Pual Gentilozzi, Tommy Kendall, Mark Donohue, Scott Pruett, Wally Dallenback Jr, George Follmer, Peter Gregg, Horst Kwech, Scott Sharp, Bob Tullius and Tony Ave.
The iconic Trans Am Series – America’s Road Racing Series – is operated by the Trans Am Race Company, LLC. Through a five-year agreement, the Trans Am Race Company manages the marketing rights to the series and is responsible for Trans Am Series public relations and promotions. SCCA Pro Racing sanctions Trans Am events and provides event operations services to the series.