On This Day in Trans Am History: August 19, 1984
August 19, 2021
August 19, 1984
Photo: Jim Fitzgerald, Paul Newman, Willy T. Ribbs
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli played a key role in the rebirth of racing in Watkins Glen, being the featured event in the second of two spectator weekends at the upstate New York circuit.
Trans Am last raced at the Glen in 1980, running as part of the annual Six Hours. The track went bankrupt the following year with the demise of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation, but spectator racing returned in 1984 under the leadership of Watkins Glen International – a partnership between Corning Enterprises and International Speedway Corporation.
Willy T. Ribbs scored a popular victory in the event, and pleased the spectators by doing the “Ali Shuffle” on the roof of his Roush Protofab Mercury Capri. He won at an average speed of 94.22 mph.
Rideless for the opening four rounds of the season, Ribbs joined forces with Jack Roush’s rookie team at Detroit, finishing second. He won the next two rounds at Daytona and Brainerd, but placed 36th at Road America, the event leading up to Watkins Glen.
Bob Lobenberg won the pole with a lap of 107.923 mph in the Huffaker Pontiac Trans-Am, but Ribbs jumped to the lead on the second lap and led the rest of the way. Eventual champion Tom Gloy finished second in a Capri, 7.91-seconds behind, followed by David Hobbs in a Corvette. Lobenberg cut a tire on the opening lap, which led to suspension damage and a broken brake line before he could pit.
Wally Dallenbach Jr., son of the Indy car veteran, matched his then-career best finish by taking fourth in the Colorado Connection Chevrolet Camaro. The rookie also set the fastest lap of the race, 106.269 mph.
Paul Newman qualified ninth in Bob Sharp’s Diet Coke Nissan 300ZXT, but went out early with a broken bolt on the cam pulley. Teammate Jim Fitzgerald finished seventh, and also won the Auto World Challenge GT-1 race during the companion SCCA Glen Nationals.
Future two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk won the companion Super Vee race, beating Chip Robinson and Roger Penske Jr.
The event was plagued by poor weather. The Trans Am race started in a downpour, but the track dried out during the event.
Trans Am returns to Watkins Glen on Sept. 10-12 with SpeedTour for a double-header all-class weekend.