49 Trans-Am cars start at Sebring
Doug Peterson and Cameron Lawrence ended 2013 on top as TA and TA2 Champions, and they began 2014 in the same fashion—with victories at The Earwood Classic, Round 1 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship.
The race began with 49 cars on grid, the highest since 1983, at Road America, as Trans Am legend Bob Tulius gave the drivers start. Peterson began on pole in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette and shot out ahead of the pack during the first lap of the race. However, his lead dwindled as the course immediately went under a double yellow as the #72 Performance Driving Group/S.C.D.W. Ford Mustang of Michael Defontes caught on flame, the result of a ruptured fuel cell.
The race stayed under yellow for a total of three laps while safety crews dealt with the flame. After the restart Peterson once again jumped out to an early lead, but was tailed closely by the #23 McNichols Chevrolet Corvette of Amy Ruman. Ruman tailed Peterson closely, but Peterson slowly and steadily built up a lead.
Meanwhile Cliff Ebben in the #36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group Ford Mustang edged in on Ruman, matching her move for move. After several attempts to pass the #23 car, Ebben finally made his move with seven laps remaining, overtaking Ruman for second position. The three leaders remained in that order for what remained of the race, with Peterson and Ebben continuing to build their respective gaps.
“We’ve got a lot of power with the pro motor guys, and all of the fellas at Tony Ave Racing know how to set up a car,” said Peterson. “We made change after change after change this weekend—and I’m sure we’re going to have to make more changes next weekend—but we had the power and ran well, and I was patient. We had a good pace, and we ran that the entire time. It’s a great way to start the year.”
Following the three front runners were John Baucom, in the #86 Baucom Motorsport/ Roadraceparts.com Ford Mustang and Simon Gregg, in the #59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, who rounded out the top five.
In TA2, defending Champion Cameron Lawrence, in the #1 Trick Titanium Chevrolet Camaro, started on pole and never relinquished his position—powering the Miller Racing Machine forward while building up an impressive gap.
Early in the race Adam Andretti, in the #44 Engineered Components Chevrolet Camaro, followed Lawrence closely but slowly began to lose ground until ultimately retiring due to transmission failure.
In the #25 Mike Cope Racing Chevrolet Camaro, Ron Keith, making his first ever Trans Am appearance, worked his way up through the TA2 field, after starting fifth. As Andretti pulled into the pits, Keith assumed the second place position, a spot he would defend against eventual third place finisher, and 2013 Rookie of the Year, Tom West, in the #56 Limrick Machine/ Treelaine Consulting Chevrolet Camaro. All three, Lawrence, Keith and West, would cross the line in that order.
“Miller Racing gave me a great car,” said Lawrence. “They worked hard after a few mishaps in practice and improved the front end tremendously. It’s a great feeling to come out on top, especially with all the competition and cars we have out on the track. It’s always exciting to be racing with multiple classes on track; you have cars passing you and you’re constantly trying to pass cars. It’s what makes multi-class racing fun.”
The recent growth in the TA3 class, Trans Am’s production-based class, resulted in a multitude of rookies placing on the podium and some of the best racing the TA3 class has ever seen. In total the TA3 American Muscle Group experienced six lead changes and was highlighted by the battle between Ernie Francis, Jr., in the #9 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro, and Dean Martin, in the #52 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang. The two battled back and forth for the lead throughout the race and crossed the line, side-by-side, with Martin just barely edging out Francis for the top place in the group and the TA3 American Muscle track record, a 2:16.180.
Lee Saunders, in the #84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper, led the International Group for the entire duration of the race, pushing his car to the limit while setting a track record for the TA3 International Group, a 2:16.918.
Todd Napieralski, in the #39 Temec/SKF/ Backstreet Performance, Chevrolet Performance Camaro, finished third for the American Muscle Group while Russ Snow, in the #20 Carbotech Chevrolet Corvette and Mark Klenin, in the #62 Breathless Performance Aston Martin GT4, placed second and third in the International Group.
Trans Am will now head further south to Homestead-Miami for Round 2 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship on Sunday March 9. As always, you can keep up with all the Trans Am action at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter @gotransam.
51 cars start Trans-Am at Homestead-Miami!
RJ Lopez and the #06 Disco Optical Lopez Chevrolet Corvette came away victorious from Round 2 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship at Homestead-Miami, his home track and first appearance in Trans Am since 2012.
“It’s a great feeling to win here at home in front of all my friends and family,” said Lopez. “I thought I was going to be in trouble; the car was wicked loose and the track was incredibly hot and slippery. I was really holding on, but I guess everyone was too. I’ve got to be honest with you, I felt like I had to win, with everyone here watching; but I’ve driven thousands of miles on this track, not in this car, but still. Our equipment was great—Meissen does a great job with these cars, and we got the job done!”
Lopez started the race on pole next to 2013 TA Champion Doug Peterson, in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, with Cliff Ebben, in the #36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang, and John Baucom, in the #86 Road Race Parts.com Ford Mustang, in the second row.
The race started furiously with Doug Peterson immediately jumping out to the lead during the first lap of the race. He and Lopez continued to battle back and forth, side by side through the first three laps of the race, all while the #23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette of Amy Ruman moved up through the pack, overtaking Baucom and immediately challenging Ebben for third.
During the third lap, Peterson made contact with tires on the edge of the course, causing him to slide to a standstill and forcing him into the pits to change a tire that was damaged during the incident. The course quickly went under double yellow during the fifth lap of the race to clean up debris from the earlier incident. Peterson quickly returned to the track but was stuck in the midst of the TA3 pack for the laps under yellow.
Once the race restarted, it was Simon Gregg, in the #59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, who applied the pressure to Ruman, eventually overtaking her during the 13th lap of the race.
Lopez managed to hold on to his lead for the duration of the race, but Ruman would spin off course. While she managed to reenter the race, Ruman found herself in a daunting 12th position. Gregg would move up and immediately challenge Ebben, battling back and forth with the #36 car until the 34th lap of the race when Gregg surged ahead into second. Ebben would remain third through the race, with Gregg finishing second and Lopez taking the win in the TA class.
Also worth noting was the fourth place finish of Kerry Hitt, his highest in his 12 season Trans Am career, and the fifth place finish of Doug Peterson, who battled back from 23rd position after the restart on the eighth lap.
For the first time ever, the TA2 class was split off into its own race, taking part earlier in the day at 1:30 p.m. In total, 19 cars participated in the race, starting with Cameron Lawrence, in the #1 Trick Titanium Chevrolet Camaro, on pole. Next to him was the #44 Engineered Components Chevrolet Camaro of Adam Andretti; as Ron Keith, driver of the #25 Mike Cope Racing Chevrolet Camaro, and Tommy Archer, in the #53 Archer Racing/Race-keeper/team tech Chevrolet Camaro, filled the second line.
As the race began, Lawrence quickly pulled ahead of the pack with Andretti in pursuit, albeit a few car lengths behind. Ron Keith and Tommy Archer immediately found themselves in a battle for position; Keith led the first two laps with Archer on his tail until Archer and the #53 car overtook Keith going into turn two on the third lap. Keith and Archer traded positions two more times on the lap until Archer asserted himself in the coveted third position.
The front of the pack stayed in a similar order for the early half of the race until the 19th lap of the race when the track went under a full course yellow to remove oil from the surface and remove debris from the course. The course went green on lap 24; shortly thereafter the #53 of Archer began to slow down, allowing Keith to move up into the third position.
While most of the pack jostled for position, Lawrence remained fairly unchallenged until the 39th lap of the race as smoke was spotted from the right front tire of his car, the result of tire rub after incidental contact with lapped traffic. Despite the aftereffects Lawrence was able to right the car for the rest of the race and finished first over all, his ninth straight TA2 victory.
“We have a great car from Miller Racing,” said Lawrence. “Our day came down to being consistent, saving our tires and being able to run hard the whole race. We had a bit of trouble in the back with traffic, but that’s just something you have to deal with in racing. I probably could have been a bit smarter in going for the pass, but with a guy like Adam (Andretti) behind you, you never want to slow down—it’s just something that happens in racing, and fortunately not too much came of it.”
Andretti would close the gap during the final stages of the race, but not by enough; as he and the #44 car crossed the line in second, followed by Ron Keith, who claimed his second consecutive third place finish.
Bob Stretch, in the #98 FixRim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro, finished fourth while Kevin Poitras, Keith’s teammate and driver of the #73 Mike Cope Racing Chevrolet Camaro, came in fifth.
TA3 accompanied the TA class out on track for the later session of the day, and began with Russ Snow starting up front, in the #20 Carbotech Chevrolet Corvette representing the International Group, with Dean Martin, in the #52 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang, alongside for the American Muscle Group.
The TA3 class’ top three for each group was a revolving door throughout the race, with multiple drivers staking their claim to the top three including: Ernie Francis, Jr., Mark Klenin and Todd Napieralski.
At the end of the day, Dean Martin once again conquered the American Muscle Group, his second straight victory, while Trans Am newcomer Michael Camus, in the #7 MCM Holdings BMW M3, overcame the field to win the International Group.
Martin was followed in the American Muscle Group by Steve Kent, Jr., in the #17 XLR8 Diesel Trucks/ SKS Equipment Ford Mustang, in second and 2013 TA3 American Muscle Champion Chuck Cassaro, in the #76 Stack Data/ Aeromotive/ Metallica Ford Mustang, in third.
Camus’ teammate, David Tuaty, in the #68 TLM USA BMW M3, placed second in the International Group, while Tim Gray, in the #60 Ryan Companies US Inc. Porsche GT3, placed third.
Doug Peterson remains in the lead in the TA class points standing with 59, followed by Ebben with 54 and Gregg with 50.
Lawrence leads TA2 with 70 points, followed by Ron Keith with 53 and Bob Stretch with 46.
Dean Martin heads up American Muscle with 70 points, while Russ Snow and Mark Kenin stand tied with 52 points each in the International Group.
The Trans Am Series will return on Saturday, May 10, for Round 3 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship at Road Atlanta, in a continuation of its southern tour and its 20th appearance at the Georgia track.