Ruman Becomes First Woman to Win in 45-Year History of Trans-Am After knocking on the door several times over the past few years, Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, finally broke through for her first SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series victory in the 2011 season finale at Road Atlanta and became the first woman winner in the 45-year history of the series. Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., won the Trans-Am 2 (TA2) race and Scott Tucker, of Overland Park, Kan., won the Global GT (GGT) class.
The key to the race for Ruman was the restart following the fourth of five full-course caution periods in the 40-lap race. Running second in her No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette behind leader Mike Lewis, of Poway, Calif., Ruman got a good jump to take the lead heading into Turn 1.
A few moments later, Glen Jung, of Osteen, Fla., and John Baucom, of Charlotte, N.C., got together and brought out the day's final full-course caution. The remaining three laps in the race were run under yellow, giving the victory to Ruman.
"It feels great," Ruman said. "I feel like it's long overdue for our team, but I'm excited to be up here. We worked really hard race after race and unfortunately, our best results were always third. We couldn't seem to break that barrier the last couple years. I led at Brainerd and then it started raining, and it just seemed like there was always something blocking our way, mechanical problems or getting hit.
"This is just a great way to finish the year for our team, especially McNichols Co. and Goodyear. They've been backing me for years and I finally delivered a win. The timing just worked out for us. I was just patient trying to keep everybody at bay and if they got around me, I was just going to hold off to the end of the race and make my move. Unfortunately for Mike, he made a mistake and I capitalized on it and the other yellow came back out. You've got to race to the checkered flag and that's what we did. Even on those last caution laps, those were the longest ones of my life, because I didn't know if they were going to hurry up and go one more. But I just was patient and just praying that everything would stay together and we would see the checkered and we did."
For a while it looked like Lewis might get another victory just five days after scoring the GT-1 National Championship at the SCCA Runoffs at Road America. He took the lead when 2011 series champion Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., pulled onto pit lane with a mechanical problem on Lap 20. He fell victim to the final restart, however, and was forced to settle for second in the No. 12 Goodyear/Cyclo/Red Line Oil Jaguar XKR participating in his first Trans-Am race of the season.
"Obviously, the race was dominated by the last restart," Lewis said. "If they do it to you enough times, they'll eventually get you. It got me at the end. The flagman was kind of confusing me. He'd throw the green flag really late, and he finally just didn't throw it at all, and I lifted and then he threw it. Anyway, I blew it. It's hard when you run that well and you kind of earned it in your mind, but you've got to do the whole thing and I didn't get it done. The first part of the race was good. We actually raced. The second half, we followed the pace car most of the time. I wish we could've had a little more green, especially near the end there, but that's how it goes."
Doug Harrington, of Kemah, Texas, matched his Road Atlanta result from a year ago with a third-place run in the No. 00 New Orleans Voodoo Chevrolet Corvette. It was Harrington's second podium finish of the season after a second-place run in Round 2 at Miller Motorsports Park.
"Like most, we had a strategy of sticking it out to the end of the race, assuming there were going to be a number of yellow flags through the course of it," Harrington said. "I was trying to be patient. I was trying to take an opportunity when you have it, but try to hang on until late. That proved to be the right strategy. We notched it up slowly as we went along and we finally started having the restarts after yellow and had some decent opportunities, although frankly I blew a couple of restarts myself. I had to work to regain position. Some of the guys had some bad luck in a couple of turns and not only messed their cars up a little bit, but maybe lost their focus and gave me a chance to sneak in and grab a position and I was able to hold onto it."
Doug Peterson, of Rochester Hills, Mich., finished fourth in the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Jaguar XKR and Simon Gregg, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., capped a solid season with a fifth-place run in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. After starting from the pole position and leading the opening 19 laps in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/Beebe Racing/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette, Ave did not finish due to a broken steering rack. Nevertheless, he put the wraps on his second straight Trans-Am championship.
"We were good on the start," Ave said. "We just drove around and had a great car. I was just cruising and letting them stay within a couple seconds. I knew there was going to be a lot of cautions. Right before the last restart, lapping a couple cars, one of them ran me up on a curb and it just broke the end of a steering rack. It was pretty sketchy to drive. I came in hoping maybe it was just a tire, but I kind of knew what it was. I went back out and came right back in. There's no point in wrecking someone else's day. We didn't need the points. It's good for the series that Amy won. I'm really happy for her. She did a great job, earned it, and I'm just proud of her."
"It's my second championship in a row and we're looking forward to coming out again with some more cars for next year and try to do three in a row."
With its largest field of the season, it was also a wild race for the TA2 class. Class champion Bob Stretch, of Arlington, Texas, and Skeen battled it out through the first half of the race before Stretch encountered a mechanical problem and was forced to retire the No. 98 Wheels America Racing Chevrolet Corvette.
The race didn't go without incident for Skeen, however, in the No. 40 PinnacleAutosports.com/Eagles Canyon Raceway/Petfinder.com Chevrolet Camaro, as he made his own trip down pit lane with a flat tire. The cautions proved beneficial for Skeen, as the team was able to change the tire without losing a lap and Skeen carved his way back to earn his first TA2 victory.
"This was my first time in the series this year and the first time in a TA2 car ever and I've got to thank Pinnacle Autosports and Gregg Rodgers for putting me in the car," Skeen said. "I had a great run and we had a good battle going with Bob Stretch at the beginning. Unfortunately, he was a little anxious on one of the restarts and he got a black flag, so it kind of ruined that race. But we had a little drama and fell back with a tire going down. We had to come in under one of the yellows and change the tire and Gregg did an awesome job to keep us from losing a lap. We dropped back and then on a restart made our way back up through the field and did it just in time before the yellow. I'm very proud of Pinnacle Autosports and glad to be here in Trans-Am."
Ricky Sanders, of Fayetteville, Ga., was second in TA2 in the No. 2 Pitboxes.com/Racetrailersales.com Chevrolet Camaro Monte Carlo and Cameron Lawrence, of Windermere, Fla. was third in the No. 03 Regal Boats machine. Stretch was scored sixth in the final class race standings, but like Ave, his title was already secure.
"It's been a great year," Stretch said. "It was unfortunate that we couldn't finish the race today. I'm hoping Mike Skeen comes back because we're not done yet. We need a rematch. I'm hoping that we get some more guys like Mike in the series next year. I think the series will be strong. It was a good cap to a good year."
The GGT class, running as its own separate class for the first time this season, saw Tucker pick up the victory in the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 430. It was his second Trans-Am Series race victory of the season, but his first came in a Porsche at Road America earlier this year.
"It was a great win," Tucker said. "It was really a good race. The races are all tough here. The competition is good and really close. It was a great day. We thought we had a tire going down. I drove through it and it didn't seem that it was. This is a long race and we didn't really have the tires that we wanted. We didn't have our slicks. We were iffy on fuel and tires, but it all worked out."
Tim Gray, of Minneapolis, Minn., finished second in the No. 60 Ryan Companies US Inc. Porsche 996 to take the 2011 GGT class championship. Jimmy Burke, of Cumming, Ga., was third in GGT in the No. 08 PFM Engineering/Motor Werks Racing Porsche 996.
1. TA, (3), Amy Ruman, Kent, Ohio, Chevrolet Corvette, 40.
2. TA, (2), Mike Lewis, Poway, Calif., Jaguar XKR, 40, -1.679.
3. TA, (6), Doug Harrington(R), Kemah, Texas, Chevrolet Corvette, 40, -3.341.
4. TA, (4), Doug Peterson(R), Rochester Hills, Mich., Jaguar XKR, 40, -5.080.
5. TA, (5), Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette, 40, -7.735.
6. TA, (17), Daniel Ramoutarsingh, La Romain, Trinidad, Jaguar XKR, 40, -8.966.
7. TA, (9), David Jans(R), Mundelein, Ill., Ford Mustang, 40, -11.552.
8. TA, (15), Bob Monette(R), Milton, Ga., Ford Mustang, 40, -14.180.
9. TA, (14), Paige Alexander(R), Milton, Ga., Chevrolet Corvette C6, 40, -15.906.
10. TA2, (19), Mike Skeen, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet Camaro, 40, -18.241.
11. TA2, (22), Ricky Sanders(R), Fayetteville, Ga., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 40, -22.082.
12. TA2, (21), Cameron Lawrence(R), Windermere, Fla., 40, -26.374.
13. TA2, (23), John Gary(R), Grapevine, Texas, Pontiac GTO, 40, -34.933.
14. GGT, (28), Scott Tucker(R), Overland Park, Kansas, Ferrari 430, 39, -1 lap.
15. GGT, (30), Tim Gray(R), Minneapolis, Minn., Porsche 996, 39, -1 lap.
16. TA, (8), John Baucom, Charlotte, N.C., Ford Mustang, 35, Crash.
17. TA, (12), Kevin Rich(R), Round Rock, Texas, Ford Mustang, 35, Tire.
18. TA, (13), Glen Jung, Osteen, Fla., Mazda RX-7, 35, Crash.
19. TA2, (20), Tom Sheehan(R), Auburn, N.H., Chevrolet Camaro, 29, Crash.
20. GGT, (31), Jimmy Burke(R), Cumming, Ga., Porsche 996, 28, Crash.
21. TA2, (18), Bob Stretch(R), Arlington, Texas, Chevrolet Camaro, 26, Mech.
22. TA, (7), Carlos de Quesada(R), Coral Gables, Fla., Jaguar XKR, 22, Mech.
23. TA, (1), Tony Ave, Maiden, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette, 22, Mech.
24. TA2, (27), Chris Liesfeld(R), Richmond, Va., Chevrolet Camaro, 20, Mech.
25. TA, (11), Claudio Burtin(R), Cartersville, Ga., Ford Mustang, 13, Mech.
26. TA2, (26), Mel Shaw(R), Fayetteville, Ga., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 12, Crash.
27. TA, (16), Mike Kelly(R), Braselton, Ga., Chevrolet Corvette, 11, Mech.
28. TA2, (24), Lee Arnold(R), Naples, Fla., Dodge Intrepid, 6, Mech.
29. TA, (10), Zach Monette(R), Milton, Ga., Ford Mustang, 5, Mech.
30. TA2, (25), Bill Prietzel(R), Richfield, Wis., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 2, Mech.
31. GGT, (29), Charles Barnes(R), Plano, Texas, Porsche 996, 0, DNS.
Time of race: 1 hours, 23 minutes, 25.450 seconds.
Average speed: 73.072 mph
Margin of victory: 1.679 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-19, #4 Tony Ave; laps 20-35, #12 Mike Lewis; laps 36-40, #23 Amy Ruman
Fastest race lap: #4 Tony Ave, 1:21.510 (112.182 mph)
Fastest qualifier: #4 Tony Ave, 1:18.561 (116.393 mph)