Miami: Race report

MIAMI -- Scott Pruett put an exclamation point on his dream season, by winning Sunday's Motorock Miami 100 and, in the process, clinched his third Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Drivers' Championship. Pruett, driver of the No. 7 ...

Miami: Race report

MIAMI -- Scott Pruett put an exclamation point on his dream season, by winning Sunday's Motorock Miami 100 and, in the process, clinched his third Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup Drivers' Championship. Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Motorock/Jaguar R Performance XKR, led every lap en route to his eighth victory in 10 races this season, and now holds an insurmountable 58-point lead going into the final race of the season at Puerto Rico.

Johnny Miller, driving the No. 64 Motorock Jaguar XKR, finished second, and clinched second in the 2003 points chase. Rookie Bobby Sak (No. 10 Chevrolet Corvette) finished third, and narrowed Jorge Diaz, Jr.'s lead in the Rookie of the Year battle to 27 points. John Baucom (No. 86 MAP Quality Engineering Jaguar XKR) finished fourth, his first top-five effort, ahead of Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools Car Available at Grainger Jaguar XKR).

Pruett's Miami weekend mirrored his dominant run this season, which has also included a third-place finish at Long Beach. Starting from the Jaguar Pole, Pruett led every lap, and set the race's fastest race lap, earning the BFGoodrich Tires Take Control Award. He also earned the Flowmaster American Thunder Challenge Award, worth $6,000, for winning the pole, leading the most laps, setting the fastest race lap and winning the race.

"Johnny ran strong, but he has run strong all year long," said Pruett, who joins the likes of Paul Gentilozzi and the late Mark Donohue with the honor of winning three Trans-Am championships. "This mirrored our race at Trois-Rivières (where Pruett and Miller also finished first and second). My car was better in some places, while his was better in others. I had a great car today. It stayed underneath me strong. We were able to take off quickly on the restarts, and that has been our strong point all season long.

"This is a perfect place for me to be and it turned out to be even better than I expected," added Pruett, who won his previous titles in 1987 and 1994. "We had the surprise win in St. Pete and we really started to jell as a team at Infineon Raceway. The only problems we had this year were driver problems. I messed up at Lime Rock and parked it in the mud and overdrove it at Long Beach. But we came back, I learned a lot, and we overcame it.

"This is really a team effort. The driver is the focal point, but it takes their hard work and dedication," concluded Pruett. "We've had zero mechanical problems this year."

Miller, who started fourth, challenged Pruett on several occasions, and had a great run going on lap 19.

"It took awhile for my car to come in," said Miller. "I was struggling with a little bit of a loose condition off the turns. I have to thank Motorock for coming on board and Rocketsports for allowing me to be here this weekend. We didn't get the championship here, but it was nice to at least get a chance to take swing."

Sak, meanwhile, quietly moved through the field after starting fifth to secure the podium finish.

"The car was really good," said Sak. "We still have a shot at the rookie title; we're only 27 points back. We still need some help at Puerto Rico, but it's nice to still have a shot. The car was great today. It came in after five laps, so I knew after that last restart (on lap 60), I had to go fast. I looked up and Johnny (Miller) was gone. But we're happy with a third."

Drivers collecting one bonus point on the Fast Five Lap, lap 10 here, where Tomy Drissi (No. 5 Stuck on You, The Movie Jaguar XKR), Michael Lewis (No. 12 Westward Tools Car Available at Grainger Jaguar XKR), Sak, Miller and Baucom

The race ran in 74 minutes, 16.312 seconds, at an average speed of 61.288 miles per hour. It was slowed by the caution flag four times for 20 laps.

The season finale for the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Puerto Rico Grand Prix. That race will air LIVE on the SPEED Channel at 1 p.m.

Notebook: n Paul Gentilozzi shook down Jaguar's new overhead-cam, 32-valve, fuel injected AJ-V8 in the No. 3 Motorock Jaguar XKR during Sunday's morning warm-up session for this afternoon's Motorock Miami 100, Round 10 of the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup at the Grand Prix Americas Circuit in downtown Miami. Gentilozzi was ninth quickest during the session, turning a 55.166-second lap around the 1.15-mile track on his eighth and final lap.

"It was exciting. The engine was phenomenal, but the car hasn't been run in a couple of years; it's been a show car," said Gentilozzi. "I didn't want to get over exuberant in traffic, so I never really got a clean lap. Entering the corner, it's more nimble and it's better under braking. It's great off the corner, too. The acceleration is so smooth and the throttle response is incredible.

"Miami was probably the place where we would expect it to perform the least because it's such a tight circuit," added Gentilozzi. "Our mission was to use this session as a test in a true street course environment. It met and exceeded our initial expectations."

Today's test came on the heels of the engine's official unveiling Friday at Putnam Park Road Course in Brownsburg, Ind. The car took several laps around the permanent circuit there as part of an event held by Jaguar in conjunction with the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Although the engine tested successfully, it didn't race in the Motorock Miami 100. However, the engine is scheduled to compete in the season finale, Oct. 26 at the Puerto Rico Grand Prix, under the hood of Scott Pruett's No. 7 Jaguar XKR.

The Jaguar AJ-V8 engine uses the stock aluminum block and alloy heads from the Jaguar XKR road car. In fact, other than the connecting rods, crankshaft, pistons, injector hat, and ignition system, the engine is completely stock. The engine's stroke has been shortened, and its bore was widened, raising the stock displacement from 4.2 liters to 4.5 liters for the race engine. The engine weighs approximately 100 pounds less than the current corporate pushrod V8 used in the Jaguar XKR and uses an all-new ignition system developed by Rocketsports and Bosch. It will rev to 9,000 rpms, up from 8,200 in the current engine. It also uses a dry-sump oil system.

"This is the future of the Trans-Am Tour," said Gentilozzi, a three-time Drivers' Champion himself. "To be able to make this engine viable, it has to competitive. This is not an exercise in engineering. We know that the current 311-cubic-inch spec will not work in the future. We're the only racing series that uses it, and it really isn't what the car companies are developing. No production car is made with a carburetor any more. This engine uses a stock block and heads, and parts are readily available. Plus, Jaguar has a huge history that gets lost a little bit with the current corporate pushrod V8.

"Other manufacturers are interested in this program and that's really what we're doing here, looking for manufacturer support," added Gentilozzi. "This is being done to get more manufacturer involvement. That's what we're trying to do here. If you can get two or more competing marques, then you have something."

* Pruett (No. 7 Motorock/Jaguar R Performance XKR) unleashed new livery this weekend in Miami. His Jaguar sported a green rear quarter, fading into a silver striped front end, with two giant "leapers" on its flanks. The new paint job is part of Jaguar's unveiling of its new engine.

* johnny Miller (No. 64 Motorock Jaguar XKR) made his 100th Trans-Am start Sunday.

* Bobby Sak, driver of the No. 10 Revolution Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, celebrated his 25th birthday Sunday with a third-place finish in the Motorock Miami 100.

* Motorock started its inaugural race off with a bang, as it hosted a well-attended after party at Club Motorock, following the Kid Rock and The Roots concert at American Airlines Arena. The packed house rocked the circuit late into the night. "Rocket Man" Sir Elton John performed Saturday night to a sell-out crowd, followed by an after party at the Opium Club in the trendy South Beach section of Miami.

* Michael Lewis sported a revised sponsorship package this weekend at Miami, as his team finalized negotiations with Grainger, primary supplier of sponsor Westward Tools line of professional-grade tools.

* Garrett Kletjian with the No. 20 UNICCO Corvette and the Hardshell Motorsports team entertained 100 students at Turner Technical School on Wednesday. In addition, 15 complimentary passes to the Motorock Miami 100 were distributed by the school administration to students participating in the "Do The Right Thing" program.

* This is the first time the Trans-Am Tour has raced on Miami's 1.15-mile circuit and therefore Pruett's 52.808-second lap at 78.397 miles per hour is the inaugural qualifying record. The Tour competed here last year on a 1.4-mile circuit, and in 1994 on a completely different circuit, set up north of Bayside Park near the current site of American Airlines Arena.

* Rookie Joey Scarallo (No. 06 ROH Wheels Chevrolet Corvette) had a long and sleepless weekend in Miami, as he and his crew had to effect major repairs after a late shunt in second-round practice Friday. Scarallo's team shipped the chassis to a former employee of Huffaker Racing, who lives 90 miles from Miami, while the team worked through the night to fix body damage. Revolution Motorsports came to the rescue and supplied new body work to the rookie ROH squad. Scarallo was unable to qualify Saturday and started last in Sunday's race.

* Bobby Houghton, crew chief on Johnny Miller's No. 64 Motorock Jaguar XKR, slipped and fell off the tailgate of one of the Rocketsports Racing transporters. Houghton spent several hours in the hospital Saturday, where it was found he had pulled ligaments in his left knee. Houghton called the shots from the pits Saturday and Sunday and is expected to make a full recovery.

* Sometime Trans-Am Tour competitor Paul Menard won the ARCA RE/MAX race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama yesterday. The 23-year-old son of Indy-car owner John Menard held the lead for the final 52 laps after starting 38th. Menard has made two Trans-Am Tour starts this season, at St. Petersburg, and most recently at Road America. Tony Ave, who competed in his first full season of Trans-Am racing last year, finished third at Talladega, while 2001 Trans-Am titlist Boris Said finished 24th in his first superspeedway start, after being involved in a seven-car crash.

* Jorge Diaz, Jr. just took delivery of a new race car prior to this weekend at Miami. The rookie points leader and driver of the No. 8 Don Q Rum Jaguar XKR competed in the Motorock Miami 100 in the Rocketsports Racing chassis that Scott Pruett drove to seven victories in the first nine races this year. Pruett is driving what was the No. 3 Jaguar XKR, previously driven by three-time titleholder Paul Gentilozzi. Diaz drove a Huffaker chassis previously this year.

-trans am-

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