MIAMI, Fla. [October 11, 2016] – With only three races remaining in the 2016 Trans Am Championship, the crunch has absolutely set in for Trans Am's TA and TA2 classes with only the slightest of margins separating the contenders—leaving little to no room for error over the final stretch. Now the Trans Am Series heads south to the Big Easy and NOLA Motorsports Park for Round 10 of the 2016 Trans Am Championship on Saturday, October 15, 2016 with two-races of potential championship-deciding action.
In TA, the once staggering lead amassed by defending champion Amy Ruman, driver of the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, is officially gone. The defending champ has seen her second half efforts hampered by technical difficulties and just plain old bad luck; and while she still holds the top spot in the TA class points, she now shares that honor with Cliff Ebben, driver of the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group Ford Mustang, with 211 points apiece. However, relief may be just around the corner for Ruman, despite the razor thin margins—the final three races of the year (NOLA, COTA and Daytona) were all victories for the MicNichols 23. Last year, Ebben only participated at COTA where he finished third.
While Ebben and Ruman are deadlocked, the specter of Paul Fix, in the No. 50 StopFlex.com/TheCarCoach.com/ Chevron Techron Chevrolet Corvette, looms large just eight points behind. Fix has been alarmingly consistent over the past three races finishing on the podium in all but one, Homestead-Miami where he finished fourth barely missing out.
David Pintaric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V, and Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, are both well within the discussion as well, still just within the margin of a single race. If either could rattle off a string of results, they too could be in the discussion come deadline day in Daytona.
But the task at hand remains NOLA, and all the aforementioned contenders will need to get through 37 laps around the 16-turn, 2.750-mile course in a 101.75-mile multi-class race. 2014’s race at NOLA saw a TA finishing top five of Amy Ruman, Paul Fix, Simon Gregg, Jim McAleese and John Baucom while Paul Fix qualified on pole.
In TA2 the championship battle is very much the same with multiple names all vying for the coveted top spot, currently held by Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang. Buffomante has been devastating as of late, not missing the podium since a mid-race exit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Round 6, and has accumulated 221 points to his name—221 more than current runner-up, and teammate, Justin Haley.
Haley has been equally devastating recently but saw a mechanical failure at Homestead-Miami break his once neck-in-neck standing with Buffomante. With 200 points he still holds second position despite the momentary setback, only four points ahead of defending TA2 champ Gar Robinson.
As it was for Haley, Homestead-Miami was far from ideal for Robinson, where he brought home a seventh place finish. However, NOLA was especially good to Robinson last year where he finished first setting the stage for a late season championship surge that resulted in clinching the TA2 championship on the last lap of the finale at Daytona International Speedway. For Robinson to repeat as champion, a strong performance at NOLA will go a long way.
Just a single point behind Robinson sits Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Pennzoil Platinum/ MOMO/ ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, who has had as good a second half to the season as anyone, charging up the point standings on a weekly basis. Now he will need to replicate such performances a series of tracks, NOLA, COTA and Daytona, where he did not finish higher than fifth in 2014. Finally, the TA2 top five is completed by Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, coming off his first career victory at Homestead-Miami just days ago and now heading to NOLA, where he qualified on pole and finished second in 2014.
Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsport Ford Mustang, currently sits sixth with 185 points and is still well within the title conversation; but he will need to make up immediate ground over the next few events.
In total, 16 TA2 cars will participate in the class' independent 101.75-mile race, including the returning father-son team of Joe and Justin Napoleon, in the No. 90 and 91 TurnKey Industries/ Moonshine Camo Chevrolet Camaros, as well as Ray Neveau, in the No. 29 Class Auto Center Chevrolet Camaro, while Ben Hocevar of Madisonville, La., makes his TA2 debut in the No. 26 Vitesee/ Supreme Auto Group/ Copelands Chevrolet Camaro.
TA3 adds additional intrigue to the weekend with the class, despite Randy Mueller having all but secured the TA3 championship—with the ongoing battles between Randy Kinsland, in the No. 11 Crossroads Chevrolet Corvette, and the BMWs of Mueller and teammate Michael Camus, in the No. 08 Bizbloom.com/ MCM Holdings BMW M3. So far, the BMWs have gotten the best of Kinsland, swapping positions throughout the race with Mueller winning at VIR and Camus at Homestead-Miami leaving Kinsland second.
Adding into the mix will be the Lux Performance duo of Steve Streimer and Cindi Lux, in the No. 42 and 45 Lux Performance Dodge Viper ACRXs, Conor Flynn, In the No. 95 Irish Mike's Automotive Porsche 997, as well as Milton Grant, Mel Shaw, Larry Funk and Fernando Seferlis. 2014’s race saw Steve Streimer victorious in the class with Carey Grant and John Gutleber, finish third.
In TA4 Ernie Francis, Jr.'s pursuit of a perfect season continues, with the TA4 Championship already in hand and 9 victories in place. His primary competition at NOLA comes in the No. 53 Rotor Source, Inc. Dodge Challenger of Spencer Caudle, who is making his second appearance of the year.
Joining Trans Am on the weekend at NOLA will be the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association holding its "Mardis Gras in October" event with 12 different vintage race groups showcasing diverse racecars throughout automotive history.
Fans can follow along with the action at www.gotransam.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gotransam and on Twitter at @gotransam.
Entry List in Full
Friday, October 14, 2016
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM Practice – TA, TA3 and TA4
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM Practice – TA2
5:00 PM – 5:15 PM Qualifying – TA Class
5:20 PM – 5:25 PM Qualifying – TA3 & TA4 Classes
5:40 PM – 5:55 PM Qualifying – TA2
Saturday, October 15, 2016
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM TA, TA3, TA4 Race
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM TA2, powered by AEM, Race