Pickett wins exciting race in Edmonton

Greg Pickett continued his long legacy of Trans-Am excellence Saturday in front of 66,250 fans, by winning the Festival City 100 at the West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton. With the victory Pickett, driver of the No. 6 Cytomax Jaguar XKR, became the first driver in history to win a race in each of four decades of Trans-Am competition.

Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Supercross – the Movie Jaguar XKR) was second, his best finish this season, while Klaus Graf overcame mechanical problems earlier in the weekend, driving from last to finish third in the No. 7 Jaguar R Performance XKR. Points leader Randy Ruhlman kept his hold on the title chase with a fourth-place finish in the No. 49 Preformed Line Products Canada Chevrolet Corvette. Joey Scarallo (No. 06 Group A Wheels/Autotrend/Toyo Tires Chevrolet Corvette) led 12 laps in the event before finishing fifth. Tim Barber earned his first GTA Class trophy in the No. 96 Riverside Motorsports Park Pontiac Grand Prix and retains the GTA points lead.

“This is very special moment for me," said Pickett, who won the 1978 Trans-Am championship and won his last Trans-Am race in 1992 at Mid-Ohio. “I have a lot of emotion right now. This sport has given me so much. I have enjoyed the camaraderie, the competition, and my family’s support over the years. There is so much going through my head right now. This is just a kick.

Pickett took the lead for good two laps from the finish after the top four competitors, including then leader Drissi, spun in debris thrown on the apex of turn six by another competitor’s car. Pickett, Drissi, Ruhlman and Graf were all caught up in the incident, but Pickett held on for the victory.

“I slipped and I thought: ‘Man, Randy is going to win this again,’" said Pickett, who made his first Trans-Am start in 1975 at Road America. “Then he went off. As soon as I went off, I clutched it and put it in first gear. I let the clutch out and I just kept it running. I didn’t want the back tires to get bogged down. I looped around and I came out on the race track. Then, two turns later, I slapped the fence. So, everybody had trouble. It was a tough break for Tomy today."

Pickett was quick to point out the success of the event and the enthusiasm of the Edmonton fans in attendance.

“Let me a pay a big compliment to the people of Edmonton and the promoter of this race," said Pickett. “The event they put together here was just fabulous. To race in front of a full audience is just so much fun. I did a few brodies (donuts) at the end and the crowd just went wild. The Edmonton fans are great and it was just enjoyable to be here."

Drissi was happy to hold on to second. Drissi had the event covered after taking the lead on lap 18, but the late incident dropped him to second for the final two laps. Drissi led the most laps (32) and also set a record fastest race lap: 1:17.361.

“I’m happy with second," said Drissi. “This track is so fast and the combination of three or four corners in a row is so important. If you get caught up in one place or make a little mistake, you lose a lot of track position. You have to be perfect here. Pickett was quicker in some areas and I was quicker in others. This Championship is going to come down to the last race, so this finish is very important. It’s a long shot, but I’m starting to feel better about it."

Graf said contact with Scarallo early in the event made his car virtually undriveable. The German rookie was therefore pleased with his podium. Graf started 14th on the grid and won the VP Fuels Hard Charger Award for making up the most positions in the race.

“This was a tough race," said Graf, who sits second in points, just 16 markers behind Ruhlman. “I had a little contact with Joey (Scarallo). After that, my car was really hard to drive. It was oversteering like crazy in right-hand turns and understeering badly in left-hand turns. I was lucky that I finished the race."

The caution-free race ran in a record one hour, seven minutes and 39.048 seconds at an average speed of 89.243 miles per hour. The race will air on SPEED Channel on Sunday, July 24 at 1 p.m. The next race for the Trans-Am Series, The Cytomax Sport Drink 100, is scheduled for July 30, and is part of the Taylor Woodrow San Jose Grand Prix.

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