Ruman and Andretti rebound with victories at New Jersey Motorsports Park

Amy Ruman celebrates beating all the boys
Amy Ruman celebrates beating all the boys

MILLVILLE, NJ – – Amy Ruman and Adam Andretti were victorious in the TA and TA2 classes while Ernie Francis, Jr., and Andrew Aquilante won their respective TA3 groups at New Jersey Motorsports Park as the Trans Am Series held Round 5 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship, The MPT Industries Weekend of Thunder.

For Amy Ruman, driver of the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, the victory, in the TA class MPT Fuel Systems Cleanse 100 Race, marked her fourth on the year and a return to the top step after a frustrating outing at Lime Rock Park. It was a victory hard earned; one that once more saw her run through the entire field having been forced into the pits immediately for a temporary power steering failure -another in what had been a weekend full of mechanical issues for the No. 23.

"It was a tough weekend," said Ruman. "As soon as we got here, we were immediately working through mechanical issues; the crew worked hard to try and get us out for qualifying, but we unfortunately missed the deadline by five minutes. We went out, requalified, and put down a lap that would have been second on the grid if we had done it in the main session. I just couldn't be happier with this team; they go out and bust their butts for me day in and day out and this one goes to them for getting the car together and getting us back out."

"Of course as soon as we go out, the power steering failed on the pace lap. I went in to pit, and it miraculously came back on -something must have been stuck in the pump. So we gambled and went back out; so I just buckled down and picked them off one at a time -luckily we came out with a solid win today."

Amy Ruman
Amy Ruman

The victory marked Ruman's third in a row at New Jersey Motorsports Park, as she remains undefeated in all Trans Am races on the south New Jersey track.

"I think we just gel here," said Ruman. "It's a lot like the tracks I grew up driving in autocross -my dad has the setup dialed in here and engineered the car perfectly for the track. We know where our strong spots are and we capitalized on them where others might not have the best handling cars, so we've made it work. We've gone three out of three here, and I couldn't be prouder or happier to say that."

Ruman battled through the field overcoming the front running Tony Ave Racing team of pole sitter Paul Fix, in the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette, and defending two -time TA Champion Doug Peterson, in the No. 87 Chevrolet Corvette, in her comeback chase, one that saw her also set a new track record race lap of 1:18.547.

Paul Fix finished second after having battled back from fifth place with only a handful of laps remaining -the achievement highlighted by an inside move, passing two cars at once, as the TA class went three -wide in turn one. Doug Peterson also returned to the podium with a third place finish.

John Baucom, in the No. 86 Motorsports Ford Mustang, and Jim McAleese, in the No. McAleese & Associates/ Jetco Engineering Chevrolet Corvette, finished fourth and fifth after having challenged throughout the top three.

Ruman leaves NJMP with an 11 -point lead on Fix as the two continue one of the tightest contested TA championships in recent history with five of twelve rounds complete.

Adam Andretti speeds to victory
Adam Andretti speeds to victory

The TA2 exclusive race, The MPT Industries Twelve Lubricant & Penetrant 100, opened up the day with yet another race for the every growing class with 22 cars entered.

Andretti's TA2 victory was his first of 2015, despite having captured pole position three times in a row, including this weekend. Over the past several races, the No. 44 has been hampered by transmission issues as the ECC team has worked to transition from the Chevrolet Camaro to the new Ford Mustang platform. Despite difficulty, the team has persevered and, in turn, seen their efforts come to fruition with a victory.

"We're absolutely on top of the world; we couldn't be happier with the performance of the car and our team," said Andretti. "We look at this, and I'm in awe of what we've done. We've persevered through it; we've never felt like our backs were against the wall. We've faced our challenges, and now we've been rewarded for it – ECC Motorsports, Anchor Bolt and Screw, I'm blessed to be a part of this organization."

"This is the infancy of our Mustang program; we're still essentially doing research and development. As Miller Racing showed last season, switching manufacturers midseason is a monumental challenge, and that's what we've done. And now we're starting to reap the rewards like they did last year, so it's a really exciting time for us. It's still really early in the year, and we made up a lot of points today."

The result, however, was not clear -cut throughout the duration of the 100 -mile TA2 race, one that saw Andretti fall back to third on the first turn of the race with both Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Raybestos Powertrain Ford Mustang, and Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 UniFirst/PPG Ford Mustang, overtaking him for first and second positions with the race only seconds old.

However, just like the ECC team has for the course of the year, Andretti continued to persevere, running in third and then second for most of the race, letting first position slowly, but surely, come to him -attaining first place with 27 laps completed as the No. 5 of Loshak was forced to momentarily pit with transmission issues.

Andretti was then faced with yet another challenge, the No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro of 20 -year -old Gar Robinson. Robinson had started the race in second position but, much like Andretti, opted for a more patient result. Upon the race's only restart on the 38th lap, both Robinson and Andretti were able to stay in front of a tumultuous turn one that saw several cars forced off track and out of position.

For the remaining seven laps, Robinson pursued Andretti mercilessly with the two racing nose-to-tail; and it was not until the final lap of the race that Andretti opened up a gap of multiple car lengths and powered the No. 44 across the finish line for his first victory of the year.

"Gar Robinson is a future star of American auto racing, maybe worldwide auto racing," said Andretti. "He had a great race, and I'm sure his first win in this series will be very soon, and, honestly, I felt enough pressure from him that I thought it was going to come today. He's an exceptional talent, and I genuinely enjoy racing with him."

Andretti and Robinson were followed across the finish line by Shane Lewis, Robinson's teammate and driver of the No. 72 74 Ranch Chevrolet Camaro, who after falling as far back as 20th on the second lap, recovered with a hard charge for the ages, eventually capturing third for a two -three finish for the Robinson Racing team.

Lawrence Loshak, having recovered from the aforementioned transmission issues, salvaged a fourth place finish; while Joe Stevens, in the No. 11 MOPAR Dodge Challenger, captured fifth place -his highest ever Trans Am finish.

Cameron Lawrence retains his points lead with 136 points while Andretti moves to second position with 119, Robinson and Machavern are now tied in third with 105 points while Lewis holds fifth with 101 points.

In TA3, running with TA in The MPT Fuel System Cleanse 100, Ernie Francis, Jr., and Andrew Aquilante shared the glory, with Francis claiming his third TA3 American Muscle victory in a row while Aquilante was victorious in his first Trans Am start after stepping in for his father, Joe Aquilante who opted to sit out the race.

"Not too bad for sitting on the couch this morning," said Aquilante. "I got a call from my dad; he said it was going to be a little warm out and asked if I wanted to come out and race. I couldn't turn that down. It's great to add a Trans Am win to my name and to do it at home here in New Jersey."

Francis, the defending TA3 American Muscle Champion, led the Group for the duration of the race while turning laps that saw the young driver in the midst of the International Group race and the turmoil that came with it.

"We knew we weren't racing against the International Group guys," said Francis. "We just focused on keeping an eye on the rest of our group while turning clean consistent laps, building a gap and keeping it. It's great to be back up here, and we're looking forward to keeping this winning streak going."

Michael Camus, in the No. 08 Epic Motorsports/ MCM Holdings BMW M3, finished second in the International Group for the second race in a row, building on his podium streak, and was joined by current International Group points leader Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper, who finished third to capture what was also his third podium of the year.

Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Tremec/SKF/Backstreet Chevrolet Camaro, finished second in the American Muscle Group, for his fourth podium of the year; while Robert Korzen, in the No. 88 Elite Classic Collector Cars Ford Mustang, finished third for his first podium of the year.

Andretti celebrates
Andretti celebrates

TA2 Race Overview: The MPT Industries Twelve Lubricant & Penetrant 100

The 101.25 mile, 45 -lap, TA2 race at New Jersey Motorsports Park began with Adam Andretti on pole in front of the 22 -car TA2 field. Gar Robinson began the race alongside Andretti in second position with Lawrence Loshak and Steve Kent., Jr., in the No. 83 Bulk Nation/ CBRT Ford Mustang, starting third and fourth, while Dillon Machavern began in fifth.

When the green flag flew, the field immediately reshuffled heading into turn one with both Loshak and Machavern springing forward and assuming first and second, respectively. Andretti was able to hold third position, while Gar Robinson fell back to fifth with Kent taking fourth. The drivers continued in that order for much of the early part of the race. Meanwhile, defending Champion Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 1 MOPAR Dodge Challenger, was making his way up through the field having moved up two positions on the first lap and several more; as he assumed fifth position on the seventh lap of the race, overtaking Steve Kent, Jr., who had since been overtaken by Robinson for fourth.

Poor luck then set in for the front -runners as Dillon Machavern, still holding second position, spun but was able to quickly recover, falling back to ninth position. Machavern immediately began working his way back up the charts. Shortly thereafter, Loshak was hampered by an issue of his own with the No. 5 stuck in second gear, forcing the front -runner to pit. The transmission then righted itself in the pit lane, and Loshak continued but was assessed a penalty for speeding in the pit lane -a drive -through penalty. Despite the two visits, Loshak was able to maintain eighth position and immediately went back to work climbing the charts. Likewise, Machavern had recovered as well, now back in third and pursuing the leading duo of Andretti and Robinson.

The course went under a full -course yellow to retrieve the No. 52 PostPlastics Ford Mustang of Kevin Poitras on the 35th lap, with Andretti still leading, Robinson in second, Machavern in third, Lawrence in fourth and Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 BestLine Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, in fifth.

The race restarted on the 38th lap and, with the field once more packed together and less than ten laps remaining in the race, multiple drivers made their move heading into turn one; and while both Andretti and Robinson were able to stay ahead of the ensuing turmoil, Machavern and Lawrence were not -both drivers were forced to venture off track, losing valuable position and falling back to ninth and eleventh, respectively.

Lewis, Loshak and Joe Stevens all capitalized moving up into third, fourth and fifth respectively while Andretti and Robinson began a nose -to -tail fight for first place with Robinson constantly hounding the No. 44 of Andretti. The pursuit continued for the final seven laps of the race with Andretti finally managing to open a secure lead on the final lap of the race. Robinson and Lewis finished second and third, while Loshak and Stevens finished fourth and fifth.

TA and TA3 Race Overview: The MPT Fuel Systems Cleanse 100

The 101.25 mile, 45 -lap, race began with Paul Fix on pole, leading the 26 -car TA and TA3 class field past the green flag for the start of the race. Fix's teammate Peterson began the race in second position with John Baucom third, Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, in fourth and Jim McAleese in fifth. Fix immediately opened up a several second gap on the first few laps, while Baucom immediately overtook Peterson for second.

TA3 began with Michael Camus, in the 08 Epic Motorsports/MCM Holdings BMW M3, on pole for the International Group and teammate Randy Mueller, in the No. 0 Epic Motorsports/MCM Holdings BMW M3, in second position and Lee Saunders in third. Mueller jumped to the lead on the first lap, while Camus and Saunders began a lap -by -lap battle for a tightly contested second position.

Francis began American Muscle on pole with Napieralski in second and Preston Calvert, in the No. 17 Calvert Dynamics/Hoosier/Brembo Ford Mustang, in third. Francis immediately began to build a substantial lead on the rest of the group, while Napieralski and Calvert mirrored their International counterparts in a battle of their own for second.

Fix continued to lead the TA class, while Amy Ruman began to make her way up the charts, reaching fourth position by the time the track went under a full -course yellow on lap 14 to retrieve a car stopped and smoking on the front straight. The track would go green shortly thereafter with Peterson overtaking Baucom for second; however, Ruman quickly assumed the position for herself overtaking both Baucom and Peterson over the next several laps, thus commencing her pursuit of Fix.

Likewise Aquilante, a last -minute entry, had been making his way up from the back of the pack, eventually taking second position and battling with Mueller for the lead. Unfortunately for Mueller and spectators alike, the No. 0 BMW suffered a gearbox failure on the 20th lap, leaving Aquilante to the lead.

Ruman managed to overtake Fix as the No. 4 slowed on the 25th lap, losing some of the speed it possessed early in the race. The two battled nose to tail until the second restart when Ruman began to pull away, and the No. 4 fell back to fifth place, passed by Peterson, Baucom and McAleese. While Ruman found separation, Fix made a final push with five laps to go, overtaking Baucom and McAleese on the inside of turn one of the 41st lap and overtaking Peterson on the next one -securing a second place finish and his fifth consecutive podium in five rounds this year. Peterson would finish third, Baucom fourth and McAleese fifth.

While Aquilante still held first position in the International Group, Michael Camus was able to make second place his own, leaving Saunders and David Sanders, in the No. 73 Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Corvette, to battle for third. The battle, however, was short lived with the No. 73 suffering a mechanical failure with only two laps to go.

Francis and Napieralski had all but finalized their one -two finish, leaving Calvert and Robert Korzen to battle for third, with Korzen capturing third position on the restart and holding it for the duration of the race.

Up Next:

The Trans Am Series will now head north to Brainerd International Raceway for the Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic, Round 5 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship, on Sunday July 5, 2015.

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