Brittany Force on Pomona shunt: 'I don't remember any of the crash'
Thursday, 22 February 2018
By Eric Johnson / Image by NHRA
As scary as Brittany Force's crash was in the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, the reigning Top Fuel champion says she doesn't even remember what happened. In fact, it took the 31-year-old several moments to realize the wrecked Monster Energy dragster in front of her was her own.
"You know, I don't remember any of the crash," she admitted to RACER. "The last thing I remember is staging the car. The next piece I remember is that I was standing up in my car. I heard they pulled me out. I remember them holding me under my elbows and helping me stand. I remember looking at the front of my car and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, somebody wrecked their car!'
"Then I saw the black and green and realized it was my car. I was so confused. I didn't know I was in a wreck. I was just looking down at this mangled car in front of me. It was really a roller coaster starting there when I started to figure out everything. The next thing I remembered was being in the hospital and my whole family was there."
In the first round of final eliminations at Auto Club Raceway, Force's Monster Energy dragster smoked the tires, made a sharp turn sideways over the center line in front of Terry Haddock and pancaked the left wall before careening across the track again and making another impact along the right wall, finally coming to rest past the finish line. She was responsive and talking to medical staff after the incident, but was taken to an area hospital as a precaution.
Force said she still doesn't totally comprehend what made the 12,000-horsepower car act as it did.
"From what I heard, the car started to get out of the groove as it was spinning the tires and it went towards the right," she explained. "I started to bring it back in towards the left, but as I did that, one of the tires was out of the groove, so one was spinning and one was charging forward. That's what made the left turn and sent me across the racetrack. From there it was not fixable.
After an overnight stay for observation, Force was released from the hospital with some bruising of the lungs, but she escaped major internal injuries.
"I'm doing good," Force offered. "I've just been at home resting and sleeping a lot and taking it really easy. I'm super-sore from everything, but I did MRI scans and CAT scans and everything came out good. Bruising was the biggest thing.
"You know, looking back on it, the fact that I came out with just bruises and being stiff and sore and all that stuff, that seems incredible to me that it wasn't something more serious than that. For how horrific that crash was, the fact that I didn't break anything or that it wasn't more serious is pretty incredible. That just shows the safety that we put in these cars."
She has watched just one replay of the accident, and doesn't plan to look at another replay until she gets back in the car.
"I just don't want those images of how terrible it was," she said. "My biggest fear has always been to be trapped in that canopy. I didn't realize that when I crashed, the car was tipped over and up against the wall. That really freaked me out. And then it caught on fire. A lot of those big fears I've always had about driving, I saw it there in that video, so I told myself, 'I'm not going to watch it anymore.'
"Right now, I want to watch the whole thing through and figure out each step and wherever everything went wrong. I can't bring myself to that right now until I get back into the car and make some runs down the track.
"Obviously, that first run back is going to be a little tough; that one is definitely going to be tough. I think once I do it once, I'll be fine. I've always known that this sport can be extremely dangerous and things can be wrong. I've been out here six years and nothing terrible has happened, and I've always kind of wondered, 'When is the day? When is it going to happen?' In this sport we go 330 miles per hours in less than four seconds and something is bound to happen. It can't go perfect every single run, so I've always been kind of wondering, 'When is that day going to come?' I mean, six years out here and I've never had an issue. That first round back is definitely going to be a little nerve-wracking, but once I do it I'll be good, and then I'd like to go back and watch the footage of the crash again and see everything slowed down and in slow motion."
The second round of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is this weekend at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. Force is hoping to race, but is taking it day by day.
"Honestly, it's going to be how I feel," she said. "For the first few days after the crash it started getting worse and worse, and now I'm starting to feel better each day, which I think is a good thing. I don't want to get into that car unless I'm 110 percent back to normal. I just need to give it time.
"I still have some days to recover, but I'm feeling hopeful for it. My plan is to be back by Phoenix."
Posted 23 February 2018 - 06:17
Posted 25 February 2018 - 05:04
Pastrana to headline Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Class at Pikes Peak
Friday, 23 February 2018
The newly minted Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Class will feature several big names for the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24.
Returning to the race is Travis Pastrana, who won the Rally America Group X Class with co-driver Mike Fennell of Jamaica in 2004 with a time of 13:10.300. In 2005, Pastrana and Sweden's Bjorn Christian Edstrom placed third in the Rally America Group N Class before winning the Rally America Championship Series in 2006.
Pastrana set a new record last year at the Mount Washington Hill Climb, driving a Subaru WRX STi with a time of 5:47.72 on the 7.4-mile course.
Also set to compete in the race are Le Mans veteran and IMSA sports car broadcaster Justin Bell, whose Lexus RC FGT Concept finished third in the Time Attack 1 class at his debut on the mountain in 2015; Till Bechtolsheimer, who runs CJ Wilson Racing's Acura NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship; and Tim Pappas, who will race the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship with Park Place Motorsports.
Romain Dumas will be a special guest of Porsche for the 2018 race and will assist with the new class. And he will compete once again, this time in a new Volkswagen fully-electric auto in the Unlimited Division as the automaker makes its first appearance on the Peak since 1987. Dumas has four Pikes Peak victories, most recently grabbing the crown in the same division last year with the fastest time overall at 9:05.62 in his Norma MXX RD Limited model. Dumas is the owner of the second-fastest time in the race history, a 8:51.445 clocking in the 2016 Unlimited Division.
Posted 25 February 2018 - 05:06
Newgarden readies for RallyX on Ice debut
Saturday, 24 February 2018
By RACER Staff / Images by RallyX on Ice
With the Verizon IndyCar Series' season-opening race just days away, Josef Newgarden has one more item on his off-season agenda. He got his first taste of driving on ice and snow before making his RallyX on Ice debut Sunday in Norway.
Newgarden will drive the No.2 Supercar Lites entry, fielded by Swedish rallycross powerhouse Olsbergs MSE in Team Penske's colors. For a champion used to finding the perfect driving line, it's a different feel compared to most of the cars he's raced before.
"You have to drive this car sideways all the time," he observed. "You can't not be doing anything – you have to either be on the brakes or on the throttle or on the handbrake. It's been tricky to get my brain around what I need to do and the biggest thing for me right now is finding consistency, but it's an awesome car to drive, especially on the ice.
"I like the fact that you have to drive it hard – you can't relax at any stage. I realized very quickly that as soon as you stop doing something, the car stops working. I've just been trying to figure out how to use the brakes, how to pitch the car in and how to get back on the throttle – it's all very different in terms of the technique, but hopefully now I've got a little bit of an idea of what I need to do to be competitive. For me as a driver, it's a great opportunity to learn a new skillset – getting that diversity in your toolkit I think helps you a lot. I'm enjoying it and I think it's going to be fun to try and figure it all out this weekend."
Newgarden is following in the footsteps of Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric, who took to the ice for two rounds of RallyX on Ice in Sweden earlier this year. Helio Castroneves is also set for a stint in Norway on March 3.
"I think Helio's going to be a little out of his element when he comes next weekend, being from Brazil, and I'm actually excited to see how he's going to do," he said. "It's been a big Team Penske effort, and we're really just having some fun during the offseason, trying something new.
"We're normally pretty busy at this stage of the year preparing for the start of the IndyCar campaign, so it's cool to get the opportunity and I didn't need asking twice! It would be great to be able to bring this car and series to the States – I'd love to do it if it was a little bit closer to home, but at the same time, it's fun to come to Norway. It's beautiful to see this country and everybody's been so welcoming. I couldn't turn this opportunity down. As soon as Team Penske told me about it, I was ready to rock."
In his first few laps, Newgarden was able to get a feel for the car – before encountering a snowbank.
"It's weird being on a lake, driving around in a rallycross car, but it's been fun. The grip changes constantly throughout the day, which is different to the way a track rubbers up in an open-wheel car. They're all things to take in and try to figure out.
"I was trying to finish the day with a pretty hot lap and I think it would have been a good one, but [the snowbank] just caught me out. Still, it was good to get that out of the way – hopefully it won't happen again tomorrow. We had a lot of clean laps for most of the day."
Posted 01 March 2018 - 13:34
Newgarden has 'a total blast' in RallyX on Ice
Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Josef Newgarden is already hoping for a return to ice racing after finishing fifth in his RallyX on Ice debut.
Driving the Team Penske-liveried Supercar Lites entry from over the Swedish border to Al in Norway, it took a day or so for Newgarden to acclimate.
A solid performance through the qualifying stages earned Newgarden a place in the semifinals, where he brought home a respectable fifth-place finish in weekend he described as "a total blast."
"It's been amazing to have the opportunity to come over and try this," he said. "It was very difficult – I take my hat off to all the regular rallycross guys. I think they're phenomenal at what they do.
"Race day itself was tough. The track was really technical and it became very rutted the more cars ran, so the deeper we got into the weekend, the more precise you had to be and people don't realize just how easy it is to put it into a snow bank if you go off-line.
"I got so nervous and even at the end, I was still trying to figure out how to keep it in line. Normally it's very easy for me in an open-wheel car to do that, but with this thing, you're full hands on deck – you've got to be working the wheel, the throttle, the brakes and the handbrake at all times. When you stop doing that, the car stops reacting. Man, it makes you work for it!
"Thankfully, I had a wonderful coach in Oliver Eriksson, and I finished with probably my best run of the day in the semi-final, which was encouraging. I just need to take a couple more steps and then maybe we can return next year and do a little bit better – I certainly still have a lot to learn. The experience has left me determined to come back, because I really want to master this.
"They put on a great show, and hopefully we can bring this series to North America and I can do a couple more races – that would be great for us. I'm so happy that Team Penske let me come over. I had a total blast!"
Newgarden took the ice reins from Penske teammate Austin Cindric, who competed in two rounds in Sweden, and he'll pass the car on to Helio Castroneves, who will compete in the RallyX on Ice finale at Gol in Norway on Saturday.
"Oh, Helio is going to suffer," he laughed. "He does not like the cold, Mr. Castroneves, so I think he's going to be seeking heat at all times! I'm looking forward to seeing how he does. He's going to learn a lot and he's going to figure out it's not so easy to slide these cars on ice, but most importantly he's going to have a blast just like I did, and I'm excited to watch."
Posted 03 March 2018 - 03:36
Trans Am set to open 2018 at Sebring
Friday, 02 March 2018
For the fifth consecutive year the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will begin the racing season at Sebring International Raceway. The 2018 championship will commence this weekend, March 3-4, with 63 competitors participating across its four classes. The annual pilgrimage south is more than a modern-day tradition, the event stands as a return to Trans Am's very birthplace where its inaugural event was held in 1966, a fitting way to begin each season anew.
The event will feature two 110.98, 27-lap races on the iconic 3.74-mile circuit on Sunday, following Trans Am's standard weekend format in the modern era: a multi-class TA, TA3 and TA4 race and the TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM race. As in years past, the event will be held in conjunction with the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association's Sebring Vintage Classic.
With every new season comes new faces, new opportunities and another shot at Trans Am championships. Sebring stands as a fresh start for veterans and rookies alike, of which the entries boast a plethora of both.
In the TA class, Ernie Francis Jr., in the No.98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang, stands the man to beat on any given day – and for good reason, as his 2017 showing was dominant in fashion, racking up 10 wins over the 13 rounds of action on his way to the class championship in his first year of TA competition. 2017's Sebring race marked Francis' debut in the TA class, as he set pole and led most of the race before being sidelined with a mechanical failure – leaving the lead to Cliff Ebben who captured victory in the No.36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Ford Mustang.
Facing Francis at Sebring will be a field of 18 additional TA competitors, including Amy Ruman, the 2016 and 2015 champ in the No.23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and Simon Gregg, the 2012 champ in the No.59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman saw success at Sebring in 2015, setting pole and topping the podium; however, the past two years at Sebring have been difficult ones for both Ruman and Gregg, with both missing out on podium finishes.
After a partial effort in 2017, Paul Fix, in the No.4 StopFlex.com/ CarCoachReports.com Ford Mustang, returns to full competition for 2018. Fix stands one of the true veterans of the TA class, having made his Trans Am debut in 2000 at Road America, and will make his 66th Trans Am start at Sebring in pursuit of his 12th class win.
Other veterans to the TA class in attendance include 2016 Sebring victor Kenny Bupp, in the No.81 Hamilton Safe Security/ NCR Chevrolet Camaro, making his first TA appearance in over a year; Cliff Ebben; and 2017 SCCA GT-1 National Champion David Pintaric, in the No.57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V. 2017 TA class Rookie of the Year Jeff Hinkle, in the No.9 Technical Realty Group of Texas Dodge Challenger, is also set for another season of competition.
A newcomer of note to the TA class is Lawrence Loshak, in the No.2 Pennzoil/ ETE/ GoShare Chevrolet Camaro. Loshak enters TA after a stint of 32 starts in the TA2 class and a single appearance in TA at Circuit of The Americas in 2017, where he finished second to Francis. Now with Burtin Racing, Loshak will look to continue that success, potentially adding to a trophy cabinet that includes five SCCA National Championships and the 2013 Mark Donahue Award.
A last-minute addition to the field is Chris Dyson, in the No.20 CD Racing Ford Mustang, fielding a TA class championship effort under the newly formed CD Racing banner. Dyson announced the formation of the team mid-day Thursday, with the intent of tackling a wider breadth of motorsport including Trans Am, midget and sprint cars. Sebring will mark Dyson's second Trans Am start, following up on his debut in a one-off appearance at Watkins Glen last year with Kryderacing.
The TA2 class returns to Sebring in form, with 32 cars taking to the tightly contested class with plenty of new faces mixed in with the veterans of Trans Am competition.
Tony Buffomante, 2016 TA2 champ and driver of the No.34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang, returns for another full season of competition as the winningest TA2 driver over the past two seasons. 2018 marks a continuation of the No.34 and the Mike Cope Racing Enterprises duo that has been a powerhouse over the past several years, where Buffomante has finished first and second in the TA2 championship points.
Shane Lewis, a perennial top-three finisher in the TA2 championship, returns as well, this time in the No.92 TurnKey Industries Chevrolet Camaro for Napoleon Motorsports. Lewis, who ran with Robinson Racing from 2015 to 2017, will now work to replicate his stellar results with his new team and teammate, Joe Napoleon, driver of the No.91 TurnKey Industries Chevrolet Camaro.
The duo of Rafa Matos, in the No.88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro, and Doug Peterson, 2013 and 2014 TA class champ and driver of the No.87 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro, return as well. Both Matos and Peterson saw success in 2017 with multiple top-five finishes despite a partial schedule and mechanical issues late in the season.
Tony Ave will also make a rare appearance in the driver's seat in the No.25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro for team owner Blaise Csida, debuting the brand new No.25 at Sebring. Ave, who spends most of his time at track managing Tony Ave Racing, one of the largest TA teams and suppliers, only made a single appearance in Trans Am in 2017. Still, Ave stands as one of the most successful drivers in Trans Am history with 18 wins and as holder of the 2010 and 2011 Trans Am championships.
Sportscar veteran Marc Miller will make his official Trans Am debut at Sebring in the No.12 Speedlogix/ Prefix Dodge Challenger, headlining a four-car Stevens-Miller effort that will feature fellow rookies Ethan Wilson and Paul Van Terry alongside veteran Peter Klutt. Miller had participated in a TA2 exhibition race in 2016 at the Detroit Grand Prix, finishing second to Kyle Marcelli, a mark he will be eager to replicate this weekend.
Tom Sheehan, in the No.97 LTK Insulation Technologies Chevrolet Camaro, a top-five championship finisher in 2017, returns, as do Keith Prociuk, in the No.9 HP Tuners Chevrolet Camaro, and Louis-Philippe Montour, in the No.13 Montour Ltd. Chevrolet Camaro, both running under the Mike Cope tent.
Additional debutants in the TA2 class include Edward Sevadjian, in the No.70 Multi Builders/ Texas Tool Chevrolet Camaro; Anthony Honeywell, in the No.76 Liquid Moly Chevrolet Camaro; and Frank Dalene, in the No.82 Telemark Inc Chevrolet Camaro.
TA3 competition will be headlined by the returning Fall-Line Motorsports trio of Mark Boden, Tim Kezman and Tom Herb who swept the top three places in the TA3 championship in 2017. Boden, the defending champ and driver of the No.46 Fall-Line Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, also stands the defending TA3 victor at Sebring, emerging victorious after a race-long battle with Randy Kinsland.
Kinsland returns to competition as well, bringing in tow the No.11 RF Engines Chevrolet Corvette, with the hope that the mechanical issues that derailed his 2017 championship bid midseason are a thing of the past.
Trans Am veterans Milton Grant, in the No.55 Sentry Self Porsche 991.1, and Dave Ricci, in the No.71 Breathless Racing Chevrolet Camaro, will both be back in TA3 action; while Alline Cipriani, in the No.60 Ginetta G55, will make her Trans Am debut as the Ginetta make prepares for its first season of Trans Am action.
In TA4, defending champion Brian Kleeman, in the No.07 DWW Motorsports/ Racetech Ford Mustang Boss, returns with his DWW teammate Chris Outzen, in the No.09 DWW Motorsports/itrackzone Ford Mustang, alongside. In 2017, Sebring helped launch Kleeman's championship winning campaign, with the Baltimore, Maryland, based driver setting pole and leading every lap in a victory.
The Phoenix Performance team of Andrew Aquilante, in the No.32 Phoenix Performance/Hawk Chevrolet Camaro SS, and Ronald Hugate, in the No.42 Phoenix Performance/Hawk Ford Mustang Boss, will also be in attendance. Despite the race only marking Aquilante's fourth Trans Am start, he has two Series victories to his name. The event will be Hugate's debut.
Steven Davison, in the DAVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage, also returns to competition in 2018 looking to improve upon his fifth place finish in the 2017 championship.
Fans can keep up with the event and all of The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
Friday March 2, 2018
11:30 AM – 11:55 AM TA/TA3/TA4 Test Session 1
11:55 AM – 12:20 PM TA2 Test Session 1
4:50 PM – 5:15 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Test Session 2
5:15 PM – 5:40 PM TA2 Test Session 2
Saturday March 3, 2018
10:35 AM – 11:05 AM TA, TA3 TA4 Practice
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM TA2 Practice
5:05 PM – 5:25 PM TA Qualifying
5:27 PM – 5:44 PM TA3/TA4 Qualifying
5:48 PM – 6:05 TA2 Qualifying
Sunday March 4, 2018
11:05 AM – 12:20 PM TA, TA3, TA4 Race
3:05 PM – 4:35 PM TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM Infinity
Live Timing: All on-track sessions can be followed at www.gotransam.com and on the Race Monitor app available on Windows, Android, iOS and OSX.
Text Commentary: Updates provided throughout sessions on Twitter at @gotransam.
Posted 05 March 2018 - 13:24
Francis, Miller earn Trans Am wins at Sebring
Sunday, 04 March 2018
Trans Am / Images by Chris Clark
Ernie Francis, Jr., and Marc Miller captured the first Trans Am victories of 2018 today at Sebring International Raceway as the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli held two 100.98-mile, 27-lap races for its opening round. Also capturing class wins were Mark Boden and Andrew Aquilante, in TA3 and TA4, respectively.
Francis, the defending TA class champion, began the 100.98-mile competition in second position, chasing polesitter Paul Fix in the No. 4 Ford Mustang, but the pursuit was not a lengthy one. The No. 4 was slowed and eventually sidelined by mechanical issues, ending Fix's day on lap five.
From then on Francis would lead the 17-car TA class field, building up a comfortable gap on Lawrence Loshak, then running second in the No. 2 Pennzoil/ETE/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro, and Chris Dyson, in the No. 20 CD Racing Ford Mustang, running third.
Dyson would overtake Loshak on lap 14 and settle into pursuit of Francis in the No. 98. A full-course caution came out on lap 21 to retrieve the No. 81 Chevrolet Camaro of Kenny Bupp stopped in turn 13, bringing the field back together and providing Dyson the opportunity to challenge Francis for the lead, albeit with lapped traffic between them, on the restart with only three laps remaining.
Francis was able to keep Dyson at bay, bringing the No. 98 past the checkered flag to secure his 11th career TA class victory on a weekend where the Breathless Pro Racing team and crew worked tirelessly to help bring home the win – an effort that included a complete aero swap, clutch change and engine change.
"This was a really tough weekend for us," said Francis. "Coming out here as the champions from last year, we knew we had a target on our back. Mechanical issues just kept popping up on the car; we were up until midnight the first night, midnight the second night, three in the morning last night – all working on this car. But the crew got it done. The 98 Original Frameless Shower Door/ R&B Company Ford Mustang was fast. We had the pace, and it was consistent from beginning to end."
"I knew Chris (Dyson) was going to be quick," said Francis. "He's in a Meissen chassis too and we knew he had a good setup and he's a good driver – the traffic between us wasn't going to slow him down. We didn't want to see that restart, but it made for an exciting finish and the No. 98 was there for the push we needed at the end."
Dyson would secure second position by a comfortable margin of his own, bringing home a podium finish in the debut of the No. 20 and his CD Racing team, announced only Wednesday of this week.
"We started planning on this in the fall," said Dyson. "We definitely got down to the wire with suppliers and the guys worked their tails off to get me here and I'm thrilled to be up here on the podium. We're new to the Series, but I think we're going to learn quickly. We'll try to give Ernie some trouble and run up front and just keep getting good points on the board every weekend and try to put together a good championship run."
Dyson made his Trans Am debut in 2017 at Watkins Glen, a guest driver for Kryderacing and David Pintaric, a sample of TA racing that was enough to mount a championship effort for 2018.
"I got a chance to drive the cars last year," said Dyson. "I was really impressed with the rawness of the car. They're brutal – brutal engine power, good handling, but no driver aids. I really enjoyed the element of feeling like a driver – you can really make a difference and bring a lot to the table. You've got to look after the tires, you have to manage the fuel load – it feels fresh and exciting. It fits in with a schedule of diverse racing this year, plays into our skillset and we've got a great group of partners. I think we're going to build on this."
Finishing third was David Pintaric, surging from fifth position off the restart for his ninth career podium finish. Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and Lawrence Loshak would complete the TA class top five.
In TA3, defending champion Mark Boden in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3, captured the class win at Sebring for the second consecutive year, outlasting teammate Tim Kezman in the No. 44 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3, for the win in a battle that saw five lead changes over the first 19 laps but was cut short by a flat tire on the No. 44.
"Tim and I typically drive and gain our lap time in very similar ways, and this weekend we really didn't," said Boden. "We were running similar lap times in very different ways this race; I think he just wore down a little bit more than I did. We had a lot of fun out there; we were waiting for Randy (Kinsland) to come in and join the show before he had mechanical issues. The Fall-Line Porsche was awesome, thanks to Pirelli and Sunoco – all the people who make this possible."
Another member of the Fall-Line trio, Tom Herb, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3, would secure second place on the TA3 podium, tying a career best finish for the 2017 Rookie of the Year. Kezman would recover from the flat tire, overtaking Dave Ricci, in the No. 71 Breathless Racing Chevrolet Camaro, for third position on the podium by way of the restart.
Ricci would finish the race in fourth position in TA3, while debutant Alline Cipriani, in the No. 60 Ginetta Cars Ginetta G55 completed the top five.
In TA4 Andrew Aquilante, in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance/ Hawk Chevrolet Camaro SS, was victorious as he debuted the Heinricy Heritage Chevrolet Camaro, built specifically by Trans Am's TA4 class by Phoenix Performance. Aquilante was pursued heavily by defending TA4 champ Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports/ Racetech Ford Mustang, before the No. 07 began experiencing fuel issues and was forced into the pits, leaving the No. 32 to coast to the win.
"It's fun to come here with a new car," said Aquilante. "Our Heinricy Heritage Chevrolet Camaro made its debut in TA4, and we're here to look after things. I was being careful not to use too much car at the beginning and kept Brian (Kleeman) a little closer than I would have liked. Honestly, if we hadn't, I don't know how much car we would have had at the end."
"In the scope of pro racing in North America right now, Trans Am is really the only place you can build your own car," said Aquilante. "A lot of other series are going to homologated cars that you can't really tinker with yourself – and that's making things rather expensive. We're going to see how things go and who comes out of the woodwork to compete."
Trans Am debutant and Aquilante's teammate, Ron Hugate, in the No. 42 Phoenix Performance/ Hawk Ford Mustang, finished second in TA3; while Chris Outzen, in the No. 09 DWW Motorsports/ itrackzone Ford Mustang, completed the TA3 class top three.
Fast laps were set by Ernie Francis, Jr., in TA with a time of 2:03.350, Mark Boden in TA3 with a time of 2:10.514, and Andrew Aquilante in TA4 with a time of 2:13.949, a new class track record.
The TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM
In the TA2 class' independent competition, Marc Miller, in the No. 12 Speedlogix/ Prefix Dodge Challenger, emerged victorious after a race-long pursuit of pole sitter Rafa Matos in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro.
Matos would lead the 31-car TA2 field for the first half of the race, building up a three second gap on second position. However, the No. 88 was reeled back in by a set of full-course cautions on laps 16 and 18, both to retrieve cars stopped on course in unsafe positions.
With Matos back within reach, Miller, who had worked his way up from fourth position to second, followed the No. 88 closely, swapping positions once, but unable to make the moves stick. However, opportunity presented itself when the leaders entered traffic on lap 24; and with the No. 88 slowed by a lapped car in turn 15, Miller made the pass.
Matos would be denied an opportunity to return the favor after contact between the No. 63 of Bob Lima and No. 87 of Doug Peterson, Matos' teammate. The No. 87 would contact the tire wall in turn 15 with only two laps remaining; officials determined there was insufficient time for repairs and the race ended under yellow – leaving Miller with a TA2 victory in his official Trans Am debut.
"The race started a little up and down for us," said Miller. "I didn't get a great start. Shane Lewis, not through any fault of his own, got into the back of me – I didn't accelerate fast enough and fell back to fourth. I knew how good the car was under the brakes, and I had a great run out of turn seven – that combination gives you a great chance of making a pass at turn ten, where I made up most of my positions. With Rafa, that last pass was just an opportunity; I saw him really trying hard to keep me behind him and he slid wide and I pointed it by him."
Emerging from a revolving top five to join Miller and Matos on the podium was Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang. Buffomante began the race in sixth position but quickly climbed, taking third position by lap nine. Shane Lewis, in the No. 92 Turnkey Industries/ Surphis Chevrolet Camaro, and Keith Prociuk, in the No. 9 HP Tuners LLC Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA2 top five.
The TA2 class top ten also included, in order, Louis-Philippe Montour, Jordan Bupp, Ethan Wilson, Peter Klutt and Scott Lagasse, Jr.
For his pass for the lead, Mark Miller was awarded the CoolShirt Systems Cool Move of the Race, while Rafa Matos set the fast lap for the TA2 class with a 2:09.364.
In total, 59 competitors featured in Trans Am's opening round at Sebring.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the track March 29-31 at Road Atlanta for Round 2 of the 2018 Trans Am Championship.
Posted 07 March 2018 - 03:52
Castroneves' RallyX on Ice adventure 'so much more difficult' than expected
Tuesday, 06 March 2018
By RACER Staff / Images by RallyX on Ice
Helio Castroneves' RallyX on Ice weekend was "so much more fun and so much more difficult" than he thought it would be.
Following in the tracks of Team Penske teammates Austin Cindric and Josef Newgarden, Castroneves traveled to Gol, Norway to drive a Penske-liveried Supercar Lites mount in the RallyX on Ice season finale. While he missed the semifinals, it was still quite an experience.
"What an incredible experience!" Castroneves gushed. "The organizers did an amazing job, and I want to thank everybody involved in putting the event together – it's been phenomenal, even if conditions like that are a little out-of-the-ordinary for a Florida-based Brazilian!
"I was expecting to slide around a lot and obviously to have a good time, but it definitely exceeded my expectations – it's so much more fun and so much more difficult than I'd anticipated.
"You've got to accelerate more when the car is sliding so that the studs in the tyres stick to the snow and ice, and everything for me was the opposite to what I've learned throughout my career – if you want to turn left, you have to turn right and vice-versa, and my mind couldn't quite compute that in the limited time available.
"As an IndyCar-turned-sports car driver, I'd say that was the hardest part for me, and there were a few snow bank 'moments' along the way. I think I actually had my first 'off' at the same place as Josef did on the practice day – I'm just glad that the snow is much softer than the Indianapolis wall!
"I'll tell you one thing – these drivers are amazingly talented, and they were all very open when it came to sharing information with me, too, which I appreciated. I just had a blast – so much fun. I'd love to come back and take another shot at it someday..."
Posted 19 March 2018 - 02:36
Five makes set for COTA debut of PWC TCR
Friday, 16 March 2018
The new TCR class debuts in the Pirelli World Challenge road racing series at the Circuit of The Americas on March 23-25 and the interest as well as intrigue for these little Touring Car machines has been a popular aspect to the inaugural event.
After three years of competition in Europe and other worldwide locations, the TCR division comes to the Pirelli World Challenge with five auto manufacturers set to compete in the opening events at COTA with two 40-minute sprint races set for Saturday (March 24) and Sunday (March 25).
The TCR championship was founded by former Touring Car championship manager Marcello Lotti in 2015 and has been marketed as a cost-effective alternative of the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). This exciting TCR racing features C-segment hatchbacks production-based touring cars. In 2017, PWC announced the inclusion of the TCR in its Touring Car season championship.
"We saw the growth of TCR racing around the world," said Jim Jordan, PWC director of marketing and communications. "And many of the auto manufacturers asked us about running the cars with the Pirelli World Challenge. We included the cars in the TC class last year with some restrictions and the fans really liked them. We worked with TCR International and IMSA to have a working association for the next three years in TCR. We're excited about the new class."
Some 14 cars are entered in the opening TCR weekend with some outstanding teams and drivers, many familiar to PWC racing fans, set to debut the TCR category on Friday (March 23) when the state-of-the-art racing facility opens for practice at 11:35 a.m. CDT.
Cars set to do battle at the Austin 3.27-mile, 20-turn road circuit are the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR (pictured), Audi Sport RS2 LMS TCR, Honda Civic Type-R TCR, Hyundai i30 N TCR and Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR.
Teams and drivers scheduled to compete at COTA include RealTime Racing (Ryan Eversley), Bryan Herta Autosport (Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis), Copeland Motorsports (Jarett Andretti), Compass Racing (J.T. Coupal), Murillo Racing (Matt Fassnacht), Heinlein Racing Development (Anthony Geraci and Dwight Merriman), FCP Euro by HRD (Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent), The Racing Company (Jerimy Daniel), Alfatcr.USA (Martin Jensen) and TFB Performance (Mason Filippi).
Several of the TCR team owners are no strangers to winning operations and they are anxious to join the new Touring Car class in 2018.
"RealTime has a long history of success in production-based cars, so we are looking forward to joining what looks to be serious competition as the TCR cars go head-to-head in America for the first time this season," team owner Peter Cunningham said. "When the opportunity with the Honda Civic Type R presented itself, the move made sense. We are very happy to join the fray of this growing worldwide category."
"We couldn't be more excited about our new relationship with Hyundai N in this highly competitive manufacturer-based Pirelli World Challenge TCR class," said Bryan Herta, president and CEO, Bryan Herta Autosport. "Having witnessed the untapped potential of i30 N TCR race platform for this series, we're more than confident we can leverage the strength of Hyundai's racing and performance groups to great success in the 2018 season."
"The new TCR division looks to be gaining serious momentum around the world and I'm very excited to be a part of it in North America," said Mark Wilkins, a PWC winner in GT and GTS action. "I believe we have a solid team with Bryan Herta Autosport and teaming with a young star like Michael Lewis makes us a strong combination for the 2018 season. I'm anxious to get to COTA and starting the racing."
"I'm very happy to continue my relationship with RealTime Racing and Honda Performance Development," said Ryan Eversley, a winner in various series including the PWC GT ranks. "If you look at RealTime's history, they've had tremendous success with front-wheel drive touring cars, so being able to race one for them is what I've dreamed about when I started out as a racecar driver. It's very exciting."
TCR action begins Friday with two practice rounds followed by qualifying set for Saturday (March 24) at 10:55 a.m. CDT and Round 1 (40-minute race) at 4:55 p.m. Sunday's Round 2 event will take place at 12:25 p.m. All of the 2018 TCR events will be live streamed on the Pirelli World Challenge website, www.world-challenge.com as well as post-produced highlight telecasts on the CBS Sports Network.
Posted 26 March 2018 - 01:41
Ortiz edges Reger for first Global Mazda MX-5 Cup win
Saturday, 24 March 2018
After a pair of victories slipped through his fingers in his 2017 rookie campaign, Bryan Ortiz (No. 4 Copeland Motorsports) broke through to claim his first-ever Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires victory on Saturday after emerging out front following a thrilling final-lap shootout at the Circuit of The Americas.
A restart with one lap to go set up Ortiz's 0.8790-second victory over Nikko Reger (No. 01 Slipstream Performance). Ortiz's win followed a fierce fight through nearly every one of COTA's 20 corners as he, Reger, and impressive newcomer Selin Rollan (No. 87 Sick Sideways Racing) diced along with John Dean II and Joey Bickers with the kind of close racing that Global Mazda MX-5 Cup is well known for. As the checkered flag flew, Reger came home in second ahead of Rollan, polesitter Dean and Bickers for the top five.
"I wanted to lead on the last lap, but it's a good thing I missed third gear on Turn One a couple laps before the yellow and that put us in second before the final restart," Ortiz said. "I think if I was first, somebody would have drafted me on that last lap. It was a very crazy race. I was making a lot of passes and having a lot of fun, but definitely I wanted to win my first race here for everyone in Puerto Rico that have gone through a lot. The only thing I can say is: Happy!"
The 40-minute race was also the first to include both the Challenger Cup presented by Monticello Motor Club as well as Masters class, with Charlie Belluardo (No. 73 Flatout Motorsports) coming home with the Challenger Cup victory.
"It means a lot to win the inaugural event of the Challenger class," Belluardo said. "I happen to be a member of Monticello Motor Club, so Ari [Straus, managing partner MMC] and the gang will be very happy! It was a great race with a lot of tough competitors. The team was awesome – Flatout Motorsports did a great job – and MX-5 Cup is the way to go!"
It was a double-podium performance for Slipstream Performance as Keith Jensen (No. 53 Slipstream Performance ) claimed the Masters class victory to go along with Reger's overall second place finish.
"It's wonderful and disappointing at the same time that my first podium ever in MX-5 Cup is in my first race of the fourth season and because it's in the Masters category, but there are many great Masters drivers," Jensen said. "I'm pleased and honored to have bested them because they are good friends, drivers and competitors and I'm happy to be here."
Rollan, who paved his way into Global Mazda MX-5 Cup competition by scoring the Mazda Road to 24 shootout and $100,000 in support from Mazda, made an immediate impression as he held the lead for three laps and was a factor in the mix from start to finish. A final corner slide nearly tarnished a brilliant first race, but a fantastic save from Rollan protected a podium finish.
"I knew we had one lap to go on that restart and I knew I was a sitting duck," Rollan said. "I had a really good restart, but the draft is so strong and he got me. We were side-by-side for the last few corners. I tried everything I could on the last turn and I don't know how I kept it straight. Honestly, my heart stopped, but I'm all good now!"
His overall podium also earned him the most points among the large class of rookie runners, all of whom are hoping to claim the $75,000 scholarship offer from Mazda for the leading rookie.
The opening round of the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup saw 160 passes for position. Contributing greatly to the total was guest driver Eric Curran (No. 72 McCumbee McAleer Racing), who started 20th and finished 12th. The eight positions gained earned him the Battery Tender Hard Charger Award.
"This was a blast," Curran said. "It was a little crazy at the start; I got hit in the back and spun sideways in the last corner, but got going and started to figure everything out. I only had a couple laps in the car prior to the race, but I kept getting better and started picking people off. MX-5 Cup is so much fun. Like everyone has been saying, John Doonan [Director, Mazda Motorsports] and the guys at Mazda are doing a phenomenal job."
The race was streamed in its entirety on Mazda's YouTube page, as will Sunday's Round 2 race, scheduled to go green at 10:00am ET. Drivers will continue their quest for the incredible $200,000 prize from Mazda offered to the championship-winning driver.
Posted 29 March 2018 - 12:34
Tracy's Trans Am debut set for this weekend at Road Atlanta
Wednesday, 28 March 2018
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli heads to Road Atlanta with 48 entries in tow for this weekend's Georgia Speedfest, Round 2 of the 2018 Trans Am Championship, March 29-31. The event will mark the Trans Am debut of IndyCar legend Paul Tracy, making a one-off start in the TA2 category.
The event will feature two 101.6-mile, 40-lap races on the 12-turn Road Atlanta course, a multi-class TA, TA3 and TA4 race and a TA2 class exclusive Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM. The weekend marks the first international of this event, which features the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and International GT, another joint weekend in the Trans Am and SVRA event formula. This marks the 10th consecutive annual appearance by Trans Am at Road Atlanta, despite the new event weekend.
In 2017 Ernie Francis Jr., captured the second TA class win of his career at Road Atlanta, emerging with the victory after a mechanical failure by race leader Justin Marks. Francis, now the defending TA class champ and driver of the No. 98 FramelessShowerDoors.com Ford Mustang, will gun for a second Trans Am win of 2018— following a victory at the series' Sebring opener earlier this month.
Among those expected to challenge Francis for the top spot on the TA class podium are Chris Dyson and Lawrence Loshak. Dyson, driving the No. 20 CD Racing Ford Mustang, debuted his new team and car at Sebring, starting the race in fourth position and finishing second. In his American Le Mans Series career, Dyson enjoyed success at Road Atlanta including a 2009 victory and seven top-three finishes – experience that should translate well to his new TA effort.
Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 2 Pennzoil/ ETE Chevrolet Camaro, is another newcomer to the TA class, running with the Burtin Racing team of nearby Alpharetta, Georgia. Loshak, who moved from the TA2 class to TA, began the season with a fifth place finish following up on a second place TA debut at Circuit of The Americas to close out 2017.
Trans Am veterans David Pinatric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V, and Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, both enjoyed strong outings at Sebring, finishing third and fourth, respectively. Pintaric also enjoyed a third place finish at Road Atlanta in 2017.
Road Atlanta has been the scene of multiple successes for Amy Ruman and the Ruman Racing team. Ruman's first career victory came at Road Atlanta in 2011, and her 2015 and 2016 victories on the Georgia track paved the way for her two consecutive Trans Am championships. Last year, in the midst of a season marred by mechanical issues and poor luck, Road Atlanta offered Ruman respite— a second place finish, one of two podium finishes in 2018. After an equally frustrating Sebring opener that saw the Stow, Ohio, driver finish 15th after body damage on the first lap, the familiarity of Road Atlanta may be just the tonic Ruman needs.
While Marc Miller, in the No. 12 Berryman/ Prefix Dodge Challenger, set the bar for newcomers to the TA2 class in 2018 with a Sebring victory, two more names will try their luck in the Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM, amid the 26-car TA2 entry: Paul Tracy and Misha Goikhberg.
Tracy will drive the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Chevrolet Camaro (pictured above) for team owner/driver Doug Peterson, in a one-off appearance. Tracy's return to behind the wheel will see him paired with another fellow open wheel competitor, Rafa Matos, who finished second at Sebring in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Chevrolet Camaro, giving the 3-Dimensional team a dangerous pairing and two podium threats.
The Road Atlanta event will mark Tracy's Trans Am debut; however, the Scottsdale, Arizona resident has plenty of experience in formats other than open-wheel including Can-Am, Grand-Am and NASCAR.
Sports car veteran Misha Goikhberg will join BC Race Cars at Road Atlanta in the No. 25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro. Like Tracy, the event will mark Goikhberg's Trans Am and TA2 debut, a deviation from his experience in the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship where he has 34 starts to his name— including two seventh place finishes in the Prototype class at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway this year.
Despite all the new names in the TA2 field, a favorite to get a result at Road Atlanta remains a veteran: Tony Buffomante. For the past two seasons, the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang has been dominant at Road Atlanta with Buffomante behind the wheel, starting on pole in both 2016 and 2017 and leading every lap to an ensuing pair of victories.
Other TA2 veterans to watch include driver of the No. 92 Turn Key Industries Chevrolet Camaro Shane Lewis, who finished second at Road Atlanta in 2017, NASCAR Camping World Trucks competitor Justin Haley, in the No. 26 Mike Cope Ford Mustang, Scott Lagasse, Jr., in the No. 95 M1 Fastrack Chevrolet Camaro, and Keith Prociuk, in the No. 9 HP Tuners Chevrolet Camaro, coming off a strong fifth place finish at Sebring.
In TA3, the Fall-Line Motorsports trio of Mark Boden, Tim Kezman and Tom Herb return to action at Road Atlanta after a podium sweep at Sebring to commence the 2018 season. Boden, the 2017 champ, opened the year with a Sebring victory in the No. 46 Fall-Line Porsche 991 GT3, winning a battle with Kezman, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Prosche 991 GT3, who was forced to pit with a low tire before recovering to finish third.
Challenging the Fall-Line contingent will be four additional TA3 competitors. The Grant Racing team of Milton Grant, in the No. 55 Sentry Self Storage Porsche 991.1, and Carey Grant, in the No. 5 Sentry Self Storage Porsche 997.1, will both be in action, as will be rookie Alline Cipriani, in the No. 60 Ginetta G55, and Dave Ricci, in the No. 71 Florida Roadway Signs Chevrolet Camaro.
As of the publication of this release, Andrew Aquilante, in the No. 32 Phoenix Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS, stands the single entrant in the TA4 class.
Fans can keep up with the event and all of The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
Thursday March 29
11:25 AM — 11:50 AM TA2 Test 1
11:50 AM — 12:15 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Test 1
4:40 PM — 5:10 PM TA2 Test 2
5:10 PM — 5:40 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Test 2
Friday March 30
11:00 AM — 11:30 AM TA2 Practice
11:55 AM — 12:25 PM TA/TA/TA4 Practice
5:00 PM — 5:18 PM TA2 Qualifying
5:20 PM — 5:38 PM TA Qualifying
5:40 PM — 5:58 PM TA3/TA4 Qualifying
Saturday March 31
11:10 AM — 12:25 PM TA2 Race powered by AEM
2:55 PM — 4:10 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Race
All times are EDT
2.54 miles, 12 turns
40 laps/101.6-miles or 75 minutes, whichever is completed first.
Posted 01 April 2018 - 21:48
Dyson earns first Trans Am Series win with newly formed CD Racing
Saturday, 31 March 2018
Trans Am / Images by Chris Clark
Road racing veteran Chris Dyson secured his first career Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli victory in the TA class today at Road Atlanta. Dyson was joined in the celebrations by Randy Kinsland, who secured his second consecutive TA3 class Road Atlanta win following the conclusion of the multi-class competition.
Dyson began the race in second position in the No. 20 Plaid/ CD Racing Ford Mustang but overtook pole-sitter Ernie Francis Jr., defending TA class champion and driver of the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang, before Turn 1 of the 40-lap, 101.6-mile race around the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit.
Contact between Francis and Dyson on the 37th lap saw both cars spin and Francis take the lead; however, stewards ruled the contact avoidable on Francis' part and ordered the position be given back to Dyson with two laps remaining. Francis would yield to Dyson with the latter retaking the lead. The No. 20 and No. 98 would run nose to tail for the remainder of the race, with Dyson holding off Francis for the win.
The win is the first for Dyson and the recently formed CD Racing team, announced only 30 days ago after a busy week of testing before Sebring.
"From where we started a month ago, I'm thrilled to be here," said Dyson. "I'm thrilled to be in the Series. It has a tremendous heritage and I'm honored to come here to one of my favorite tracks – Road Atlanta. For us to win our second time out really puts us in good shape in the points battle; we went head-to-head, straight up, with Francis Jr., who's the benchmark. We were fortunate to come out on top. I know we're going to have hard fights all year, and I'm really looking forward it."
While Dyson did not campaign for the stewards' decision, he was pleased with the outcome and anticipates clean, hard racing between himself and Francis for the remainder of the year.
"It was a judgment call from the stewards," said Dyson. "I wasn't on the radio complaining about it; frankly, I let them make those calls. Ernie and I are going to race hard all year, and I'm sure there are going to be moments like that – you just hope they don't affect race outcomes. But this is racing and sometimes the stewards have to sort things out and that's what they did today. It was a good hard fight, and I'm sure we can run hard and clean for the rest of the year. This is our first race with Plaid on the car and to win here near their headquarters with a lot of guests here, it's a pretty special moment for us."
Francis would finish second, his sixth consecutive podium finish. Simon Gregg would complete the TA podium in third, his first podium appearance since Round 11 of the 2017 season. Tim Rubright, in the No. 77 BlueKnobAuto.com Ford Mustang, finished a TA class career-best fourth, while David Pintaric completed the TA class top five.
In the TA3 class, Kinsland secured his third career Trans Am win after a streak of mechanical frustrations that ended his 2017 championship pursuit and saw his past two appearances in the No. 11 RF Engines Chevrolet Corvette cut short.
Kinsland began the race on pole but was overtaken on the start by 2017 champion and Sebring victor Mark Boden, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Porsche 991 GT3, eventually falling back to third a lap later after being passed by Tim Kezman's No. 44 Fall-Line Porsche 991 GT3. Kinsland would take second back from Kezman a lap later, settling into the pursuit of Boden and eventually taking the lead on the 23rd lap – one he'd hold until the checkered flag.
"Wow, we've worked and worked on this car," said Kinsland. "We're a small operation, a two-man crew – including me. We've been trying to get this car back on top and apparently it's there. It's really sweet to finally get back on the top step and see all of that hard work pay off.
Kezman would complete the TA3 podium with Tom Herb, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Porsche 991 GT3, and Milton Grant, in the No. 55 Sentry Self Storage Porsche 991.1, completing the class' top five.
For his pass to the lead and return to the podium Randy Kinsland was awarded the CoolShirt Systems Cool Move of the Race. The fast lap of the TA class was set by Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 2 Pennzoil/ ETE Chevrolet Camaro, a 1:23.235, while Mark Boden set the fast lap for TA3, a 1:27.460.
Kerry Hitt took the TA class Masters division with a sixth place finish.
Earlier in the day, the TA2 class held a 101.6-mile, 40-lap contest of their own, the Trans Am Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM, with Rafa Matos emerging victorious.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to action at the South Florida Sportscar Challenge, Round 3 at Homestead-Miami April 13-15.
Matos earns first Trans-Am win; Tracy seventh in series debut
Saturday, 31 March 2018
Trans-Am / Image by Chris Clark
UPDATE: Marc Miller, who provisionally finished fourth, was penalized 40 seconds for avoidable contact; Paul Tracy finished seventh in his series debut.
Rafa Matos captured his first career Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli victory today at Road Atlanta in the TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM. Matos, making his seventh start in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro, secured what had proven to be an elusive win through a second-to-last lap pass over Justin Haley during the 40-lap, 101.6-mile contest. Haley would finish second while Tony Buffomante captured third.
Matos began the race in fifth position but took lead of the 25-car TA2 field by lap four. The No. 88 held the lead into the race's single, full-course caution on lap 13, for oil on the racing line, and through the restart on lap 19. Haley, polesitter and driver of the No. 99 Fraternal Order of Eagles Ford Mustang, would overtake Matos for the lead on lap 27.
"I feel speechless," said Matos. "When Doug Peterson first gave me the opportunity to run in this car, I had high expectations. To put the 3-Dimensional Services Group, Coleman Motorsports Camaro on top of the podium, finally, it's like a dream come true. We've had really good runs, but we've never been able to get to the top spot. It feels like I finally got the monkey off my back, and I'm very happy – I think after this win, it will be a little bit easier to get the next one."
Matos' victory came in similar circumstance to Mike Miller's pass for the lead, and win, at Sebring International Raceway over Matos, who had led the entirety of the Florida contest, just weeks ago. While Matos fell victim to lapped traffic in Round 1, he found opportunity in Atlanta for Round 2.
"I learned from Sebring," said Matos. "I definitely learned form Sebring. I conserved my tires all race long, I conserved by brakes, I studied Justin (Haley) a lot. I studied where I was quicker than him – our car was very fast in the infield but he had more power in a straight line. I was, kind of, happy in second position – it would have given us the points lead – but when he caught lapped traffic I was able to pass."
The competition marked the pro racing return for Paul Tracy, stepping in behind the wheel of the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro for team owner Doug Peterson. Tracy originally qualified in tenth position but was forced to change a set of badly flat-spotted tires, moving the No. 87 back to 25th starting position. Tracy moved up quickly, taking tenth before the full-course yellow and overtook Keith Prociuk for eighth on the final lap.
Despite being unable to retake the lead, Haley brought home the No. 99 in relative comfort for his sixth career TA2 podium. Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang, captured third – emerging on the podium after a race-long battle with Marc Miller and Misha Goikhberg.
Buffomante, the winner of the past two Road Atlanta TA2 contests, began the race in second position and fell back to fourth after being overtaken by Goikhberg, in the No. 25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro, on the 20th lap. Buffomante would return the favor on lap 33, taking back his finishing position of third place.
Miller, in the No. 12 Berryman/ Speedlogix Dodge Challenger, and Scott Lagasee, Jr., in the No. 95 M1 Fastrack Chassis Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA2 top five.
The TA2 top ten also included, in order, Shane Lewis, Keith Prociuk, Tracy, Tom Sheehan and Louis-Philippe Montour.
For his victory-clinching pass, Matos was awarded the CoolShirt Systems Cool Move of the Race, while Misha Goikhberg set the fast lap of the race with a 1:26.444.
Louis-Philippe Montour, in the No. 13 Montour Ltd Chevrolet Camaro, was the highest-placed TA2 Southern Cup finisher at tenth; while Maurice Hull took the TA2 Masters division with a 14th place finish.
While the TA2 class will return to action at the South Florida Sportscar Challenge, Round 3 at Homestead-Miami April 13-15, Trans Am will hold a second 101.6-mile 40-lap contest yet today, the Georgia Speedfest featuring the TA, TA3 and TA4 classes at 2:55 PM ET.