Trans Am double-header culminates in victories for Ave and Ruman
September 3, 2012
The Trans Am Series headed north to Brainerd, Minnesota for a double-header weekend—two days, two races at Brainerd International Raceway. The feat presented a challenge and an opportunity for all drivers and teams involved. The schedule resulted in 200 miles of racing within 24 hours, with plenty of points available but a frantic schedule to cope with.
The “survivors track” put teams and drivers to the test, as the abrasive surface caused tire wear issues for most of the field. Many drivers, including defending champions Tony Ave and Bob Stretch called the track “ice-like,” and related it to snowmobile racing and ice course racing.
At the end of the weekend, two-time defending champion Tony Ave and Amy Ruman split the glory, each claiming a victory. Ave and the #4 Lamers/PME Engines/RPX Chevrolet Corvette took the first race on Saturday, while Ruman and her #23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette would end up atop the podium after Sunday’s race.
Tony Ave set the tone for the weekend early as he put in the fastest time during Saturday’s qualifying, posting a lap time of 1:29:181 and claiming the qualifying session pole for a Trans Am record thirteenth consecutive time.
When the Trans Am field took the course for Saturday’s race, Ave took off and never looked back. The veteran fended off challenges from both Amy Ruman and Simon Gregg throughout the race, but was able to slowly aggregate a large lead lap by lap as he put in consistent times on what he considers his hometrack.
Ruman’s pursuit of Ave ended after accumulating a large amount of tire wear, and the two-time defending champion cruised to his fourth consecutive win at Brainerd International.
Ave’s teammate Doug Peterson, in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, would take second after a late rally that saw him pass points leader Simon Gregg during the last few laps. Gregg would finish third.
Ave credited his experience at the track and prior experience as factoring into his win:
“We were just fine out there, we had a great setup and I grew up racing here and did a lot of ice racing as a kid, which is kind of like this where you really have to be tender with the steering and the throttle. The team did a great job, PME engines and Denny Lamers and everyone who helps us out—it was another good day!”
Pete Halsmer, who had followed Bob Stretch for forty minutes of the hour-long race, claimed the top spot on the TA2 podium. Halsmer eventually made his move on the defending champion passing him for the lead and never looking back, eventually landing the #12 Ctek Battery Chargers/Allstar/Motorstate Chevrolet Camaro on the top spot of the podium.
The race was not over for Stretch though—Cameron Lawrence came back from being almost 18 seconds down to eventually pass Stretch on the 38th lap of the race, and held him off for the remainder of the event. Lawrence’s podium placement is his second in a row and wrapped up a one-two sweep for Miller Racing for the first race of the weekend.
Stretch and the #06 Fix Rim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro would hold on for a third place finish.
Sunday’s race was determined by the finishing position of Saturday’s race and after a brief practice the drivers took to the course once again with Ave and Halsmer on their respective poles.
Amy Ruman was the victor of Sunday’s race, but she had to withstand a rigorous duel with Tony Ave during the first half of the race and a furious challenge from Simon Gregg over the final two laps. After a disappointing debut in the first race of the Trans Am double-header weekend, Amy Ruman and the #23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette returned with a new setup and a vengeance.
Ruman started in fourth position and passed both Simon Gregg and Doug Peterson in first lap. She then followed Ave for the first 20 laps, tailing the #4 Lamers/PME Engines/RPX Chevrolet Corvette through every turn, never relenting. On the 21st lap of the race Ave began to lose air in his front left tire and developed a flat spot on its surface, Ruman capitalized on the opportunity as she surged by Ave and claimed the lead.
It all came down to the final lap of the race, when Simon Gregg made a final surge going into corner #6 but was fended off by one last push from Ruman who was able to distance herself from Gregg and hold on to the victory.
As Ruman took the podium she was clearly pleased with the efforts of her team and crew as they retuned the #23 McNichols Corvette overnight. She related the race to the fans:
“I owe this one to the guys and my dad for getting the car together today, Tony seemed to be having the same problem I was having yesterday, so we were content staying behind him for a while. My plan was to get upfront and be there and luckily my tires held up and we got the victory today. We almost pulled it off last year and it feels great to bring home one of the wins this weekend. While it hurt us yesterday that we didn’t land on the podium in the championship hunt, we were just focused on the tires today. And luckily it worked out and we were number one.”
Gregg would end up settling for second and Doug Peterson claimed his second podium of the weekend with a third place finish in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette.
The weekend left Simon Gregg as the points leader for the TA class, holding a 15 point edge over Amy Ruman going into the season finale at Road Atlanta. The vetran is yet to miss a podium placement this season and the #59 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette has gone 72 consecuative races without a DNF.
In TA2 Bob Stretch was quick to overtake both Halsmer and Lawrence, passing the Miller racing duo during the first lap. Stretch and the #06 Fix Rim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro fended off multiple pushes from Halsmer and Lawrence throughout the race. Lawrence would eventually fall back with an electrical issue, leaving Halsmer to challenge Stretch. In many ways it was the same instance that Stretch and Halsmer have been locked into all year—every TA2 win has been claimed by either Stretch or Halsmer so far this season and the end result would not be any different.
Despite his victory on Saturday, Halsmer was unable to replicate the prior race and was forced to settle for second as the defending TA2 champion Bob Stretch claimed the top spot on the podium and retained his points lead.
Michael Wilson, in his #00 Wilson’s Carpet Pontiac Grand Prix would come in third, fending off the likes of Kurt Roehrig, Tom Sheehan and Chris Liesfeld. Wilson led a group of Trans Am rookies who took places third through ninth, showing off the growth of the series.
In GGT Tim Gray and his #60 Ryan Companies US Inc. Porsche GT-3 won both races this weekend, beating out current GGT points leader Chuck Cassaro and his #76 Cassaro Enterprises/Midwest Council Panoz GTS.
The Trans Am Series will now turn its sights southward as teams and drivers alike prepare for the season finale at Road Atlanta—another double race weekend. There the season's champions will be crowned and another year of the legendary Trans Am Series will be completed.