AUSTIN, Texas. [November 2, 2016] – With only two races remaining in the 2016 Trans Am Championship and only a week between them, crunch time is now a reality for teams and drivers with championship aspirations and those wanting to grab Trans Am glory before the Series' 50th Anniversary Season comes to a close. Awaiting them this weekend is the 20-turn, 3.427-mile enigma that is the Circuit of The Americas (COTA), Round 11 of the 2016 Trans Am Championship.
This weekend's two 102.81-mile races mark only Trans Am's second appearance on the Austin, Texas based track. The first came last year with Amy Ruman, Adam Andretti, Ernie Francis, Jr., and Fernando Seferlis winning their respective classes in a four-class melee. Now, Trans Am returns to the Lone Star State with 47 cars in tow, set to hold two races alongside the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s US Vintage National Championship— a 25-car TA, TA3, TA4 multi-class race and a 22-car independent TA2, powered by AEM, race.
The TA class currently plays host to the class' tighest championship race in decades. Defending Champion Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, enters the weekend atop the point standings, albeit by just a single point, over Paul Fix, in the No. 50 StopFlex/TheCarCoach.com/Chevron Techron Chevrolet Corvette.
Ruman and Fix are also joined by Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang, who is just 10 points behind Ruman. It is a three-way battle for an iconic 50th Anniversary battle unlike anything Trans Am has seen since the beginning of its renaissance some five years ago; and all three drivers have shone speed at COTA. Ruman emerged victorious in the TA class last year and was joined on the podium by Ebben; while Paul Fix qualified on pole and set the fast lap of the race.
Dark horses David Pintaric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadilac CTS-V, and Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, could also play the role of spoilers; however, it would take a level of misfortune on the part of the top three. While RJ Lopez, in the No. 08 Optica Lopez Chevrolet Corvette, is out of championship contention, he could easily play spoiler as well, wresting away vital points from the contenders.
In TA2, Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Ford Mustang, holds a 33 point lead with two rounds remaining, but COTA stands as an unknown for the points leader while his primary championship challengers already have solid performances to their names on the Texas track. Texas native Gar Robinson, defending TA2 champ and driver of the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, who currently sits second in the points finished third at COTA last year; while Justin Haley, who sits two points behind Robinson in the No. 99 Braun Foundation Chevrolet Camaro, finished second.
Lawrence Loshak, driver of the No. 5 Pennzoil Platinum/ MOMO/ ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, is also heavily in championship contention and set pole for the TA2 class last year; while Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, is also suddenly in discussion after two consecutive podium appearances.
The championship contenders will be joined by the remainder of the 22-car TA2 field, including Texas natives Elias Anderson, Sam LeComte, Justin Napoleon, Joe Napoleon, and John Atwell. Also of note is the return of Tonis Kasemets, making his second Trans Am appearance after finishing second in his Mid-Ohio debut.
TA3 will play host to nine competitors at COTA, including Ernie Francis, Jr., TA4 Champion and, this weekend, driver of the No. 98 Beta Tools/Liquid Performance Chevrolet Corvette; having already locked up his TA4 championship, Francis will now try his hand at the TA3 class.
Joining Francis will be TA3 champion Randy Mueller, in the No. 0 Epic Performance/ BizBloom.com BMW M3, setting up a rare matchup between current champions in a single class. Mueller will be joined by teammate Michael Camus, in the No. 08 Bizbloom.com/MCM Holdings BMW M3, featuring alongside Mark Boden, in the No. 47 Fall Line/ Calypso/ Beverage Flavor BMW M3; Jason Berkeley, in the No. 67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette; Randy Kinsland, in the No. 11 Crossroads Corvette; and Conor Flynn, in the No. 95 Irish Mikes Porsche 997, amongst others.
TA4 will feature a three-way battle between last round's victor Dave Ricci, in the No. 71 Southeast Guardrail Chevrolet Camaro, against Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Tremec/SKF/Backstreet Performance Chevrolet Camaro, and Rob Bodle, in the No. 16 Caribbean Food Delights Ford Mustang, both seeking their first wins of the 2016 season.
Fans can purchase tickets at www.circuitoftheamericas.com; all tickets grant access to the paddock, grandstands, and GA area. Kids 12 and under get in free with a ticketed adult and on-site parking is free.
Thursday, November 3
4:20 PM – 4:50 PM TA2 Practice 1
4:50 PM – 5:20 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 2
Friday, November 4
11:20 AM – 11:40 AM TA2 Fast Five Qualifying
11:42 AM – 12:03 PM TA Fast Five Qualifying
12:05 PM – 12:25 PM TA3/TA4 Fast Five Qualifying
4:45 PM – 5:05 PM TA2 Practice 2
5:08 PM – 5:29 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 2
5:32 PM – 5:50 PM Second Chance to Qualify
Saturday, November 5
10:50 AM – 12:05 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Race
4:00 PM – 5:15 PM TA2, powered by AEM, race
all times central
Entry List in Full
Championship Points Entering Round 11
Daytona International Speedway Daytona Beach, FL