Auto Racing Analysis Racefacts Bulletin (8/17/97)
18 August 1997
Tom Kendall (All Sport Roush Ford Mustang) made history yet again Saturday by winning his tenth consecutive SCCA Trans-Am Championship event! Tom's third career and second consecutive Road America Trans-Am victory came after he set second fastest qualifying time, started third, led the first 19 laps in wet conditions, stopped for "dry" tires, set Fast Lap on lap 23, and retook the lead on lap 24 of the 25-lap event, passing gambling Brian Simo (Valvoline Gloy Ford Mustang), the race's lap 20-23 leader as Simo did not stop for a tire change! Paul Gentilozzi was third in the Riso Chevrolet Camaro! Kendall's streak now has earned the honor of the longest documentable major series road racing series win streak, outstripping the nine-race win streaks of Alberto Ascari (World Drivers Championship, 1952-1953; last 6 of 1952, first 3 of 1953), Don Knowles (SCCA U.S. Endurance, 1988-89, last race 1988, all eight 1989), Gene Felton (all nine races, 1980 IMSA American Challenge), and Ayrton Senna (1983 British Formula 3)! Steve Kinser's 12-race 1987 World of Outlaws Sprint Car win streak is the longest documentable win streak in all types of major series racing. Tom has now also tied Mark Donohue's all-time Trans-Am season win record of 10, achieved in 1968 in a 13-race season as well! Donohue's ten wins in 13 races is a season racewinning percentage of 76.9%, a record percentage Kendall is now assured of tying! One more win, or 11 of 13, for Kendall, would give him outright possession of the record at 84.6%! The Trans-Am record season racewinning percentage based upon starts (not possible races) is also held by Donohue, 77.8% in 1971, when Donohue won 7 of 9 starts but skipped the season finale at Riverside! Tom also needs only one win to beat this record, as 11 of 13 is 84.6%! Kendall also clinched the 1997 SCCA Trans-Am Championship title, the fourth of his career and his third consecutive, both series records! Tom was the 1986-1987-1988 IMSA GTU champion, the 1986 IMSA Endurance Grand Sports champion, the 1993 IMSA GTS champion, and the 1990, 1995, and 1996 SCCA Trans-Am champion! Tom now has achieved nine series championships in the 12-year period 1986-1997! How does Tom's feat rank historically? Three drivers have had the opportunity to achieve three consecutive Trans-Am titles but have not done so. Peter Gregg won the 1973 and 1974 titles but did not attempt to take the 1975 title, won by John Greenwood. Bob Tullius won the 1977 and 1978 Category I titles but finished second in 1979 to Gene Bothello by 39 points, 115 to 76. Wally Dallenbach, Jr. won the 1985 and 1986 titles but did not attempt to take the 1987 title won by Scott Pruett. The Trans-Am had been unique among the world's major active "world class" racing series in failing to produce a "threepeat" champion. The FIA World Drivers Championship, in existence since 1950, has seen one driver score four consecutive championships: Juan Manuel Fangio, the champion in 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1957! Five drivers have had three consecutive World Championships within reach but failed to achieve the feat: Alberto Ascari (1952-53), Jack Brabham (1959-60), Alain Prost (1985-86), Ayrton Senna (1990-91), and Michael Schumacher (1994-95) The Indycar National Championship, in existence since 1909, has seen one driver score three consecutive titles: Ted Horn, the AAA Indycar champion in 1946, 1947, and 1948! Nine other drivers have had ten opportunities to score three consecutive Indycar or CART titles but failed to do so: Louis Meyer (1928-29), Rex Mays (1940-41), Jimmy Bryan (1956-57), A.J. Foyt (1960-61, 1963-64), Mario Andretti (1965-66), Joe Leonard (1971-72), Tom Sneva (1977-78), Rick Mears (1981-82), and Bobby Rahal (1986-87). The NASCAR Winston Cup championship, in existence since 1949, has seen one driver achieve three consecutive championships: Cale Yarborough in 1976, 1977, and 1978! Seven drivers have had ten opportunities to score three consecutive Winston Cup titles but failed: Buck Baker (1956-57), Lee Petty (1958-59), Joe Weatherly (1962-63), David Pearson (1968-69), Richard Petty (1971-72, 1974-75), Darrell Waltrip (1981-82), Dale Earnhardt (1986-87, 1990-91, 1993-94). The IMSA GT championship, in existence since 1971, has seen Peter Gregg take three consecutive titles (1973, 1974, 1975) followed by Geoff Brabham scoring four consecutive championships (1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991). The only "world class" SCCA series to produce a driver scoring three consecutive championships? The Formula 5000 series, won in 1974, 1975, and 1976 by Brian Redman! The SCCA's Can-Am series (1966-1986) title was never won three times consecutively by the same driver! Bertil Roos won the Can-Am 2-liter title in 1982 and 1983 but Kim Campbell took the 1984 championship. Mark Donohue won the 1967 and 1968 SCCA USRRC titles but there was no 1969 series! At the "secondary" level, "support" series and "steppingstone" series in North American and multinational road racing have produced consecutive championship streaks of three or more titles. Tom Kendall has already achieved the feat, in the IMSA GTU series; he won the title in 1986, 1987, and 1988! The SCCA Volkswagen Cup was won three times consecutively by Gary Benson (1978-1979-1980) and by Paul Hacker (1983-1984-1985). Gene Felton won four straight IMSA American Challenge titles (1977-1978-1979-1980). Gordon Spice won four consecutive FIA Sportscar World Championship Class C2 titles (1985-1986-1987-1988). Graham McRae won three consecutive FIA Tasman championships (1971-1972-1973). Leo Kinnunen (1971-1972-1973) and Herbert Muller (1974-1975-1976) won the FIA Interserie title three consecutive years. Jim Downing won three consecutive IMSA Lights titles (1985-1986-1987), as did Parker Johnstone (1991-1992-1993). Changes in manufacturer and team priorities sometimes produce interesting multi-series championship streaks. Tommy Archer won the 1986 and 1987 SCCA U.S. Endurance Championship title, the 1988 SCCA Racetruck title, and the 1989 SCCA U.S. Endurance SSA title. Paul Hacker won the 1983-1984-1985 SCCA Volkswagen Cup titles; he won the 1985 IMSA Endurance Compact title as well. In 1986 and 1987 he won the IMSA International Sedan Pro Stock title, and in 1988 and 1989 he won the IMSA Endurance Touring titles! Roberto Ravaglia won the 1986 and 1987 FIA World Touring Car titles; the series was discontinued in 1988, when Ravaglia won the FIA European Touring Car title. Roberto then won the 1989 German Touring Car title, and the 1990 and 1991 Italian Touring Car titles. Mark Martin (Valvoline Roush Ford Thunderbird) gave Roush Racing a win on Sunday as well as he won Sunday's DeVilbiss 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Michigan over point leader Jeff Gordon! Mark made up a two-lap deficit caused by a stop to replace a shredded tire, so both weekend Roush racewinners overcame tire-related deficits! Mark's third Winston Cup win of 1997 means that he has scored three or more wins in four Winston Cup seasons. Significantly, however, August 17 is the earliest date for Mark to achieve three Winston Cup wins; his previous third of the season wins came on August 28 (1993's five-win season), September 30 (1990's three-win, runnerup in points season), and October 1 (1995's four-win season)! "Mile-Track" Jack Sprague (Quaker State Hendrick Chevrolet) won Saturday's Nashville Federated Auto Parts 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck race and scored his first "short-track" victory! Quaker State won again on Sunday as Robbie Buhl (Quaker State Menard G Force-Oldsmobile-Firestone) won Sunday's Pennzoil 200 Indy Racing League event at New Hampshire! What does Robbie have in common with Tom Kendall and Mark Martin? He's a former Roush Racing driver, having shared the 1993 Daytona 24 Hours GTS-1 victory with Tom Kendall, Robby Gordon, and Wally Dallenbach, Jr. in a Roush Ford Mustang! Buhl's path to Indycar victory has been a long and circuitous one! Robbie, although the 1989 IMSA Barber Saab champion and 1992 Indy Lights champion, has been chasing an Indycar or CART victory since 1993 and in the interim has also competed in IMSA GT, SCCA Trans-Am, Indy Lights, and the Speedvision Cup street stock series! The New Hampshire win was the 15th pro race victory of Buhl's career in six series! Robbie's early pro career began in SCCA Sports/Renault; he ranked 20th in 1986 points and ninth in 1987, when he took his first pro win July 4, 1987 at Lime Rock and also won at Road Atlanta in Sports/Renault! Robbie also competed in SCCA Formula Atlantic East (1988, tenth in points), SCCA SuperVee (1989, 25th in points) and IMSA's Firehawk Grand Sports series (1989, 36th). Robbie competed in IMSA Barber Saab (now SCCA Barber Dodge) in 1987 (seventh in points), 1988 (27th), and won the series title in 1989 with seven wins (Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Road America, Portland, Heartland Park, Sears Point, and Tampa)! Buhl moved up to Indy Lights in 1990, 1991, and 1992, ranking fourth in 1990 points, sixth in 1991, and winning the title in 1992! Robbie's first Indy Lights win came in 1991 on the Nazareth mile oval, where he won again in 1992, these two wins representing his only oval victories prior to Sunday's win at Loudon! Buhl also won a Firehawk Touring race at Lime Rock in 1992, sharing a Saturn with Kris Skavnes! In 1993, in addition to the Daytona 24 Hours GTS-1 win (and tenth in GTS-1 points), Buhl ranked 21st in CART points. His 12 1993-1994 CART starts, for the underfunded Coyne team, produced a best result of sixth at Long Beach in 1993. In 1994 he ranked 24th in SCCA Trans-Am points. Robbie returned to Indy Lights in 1995, winning the high-profile Detroit street race and finishing second in points! In 1996 his IRL campaign resulted in a third-place ranking in IRL points with a best finish of third on the DisneyWorld oval! 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