DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. [November 11, 2017] – The 2017 Trans Am Finale at Daytona International Raceway saw teams and drivers battle early showers, multi-class traffic and an ever-changing track with Ernie Francis, Jr., and Tony Buffomante grabbing TA and TA2 class victories to close out the 2017 Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli. Sharing in the spoils were Tim Kezman, in the TA3 class, and Todd Napieralski, finally capturing a 2017 TA4 victory after five second place finishes and nine podiums.
For Francis, who locked up the TA class championship two rounds ago, the victory marked his 10th of the season in the No. 98 FramelessShowerDoors.com Ford Mustang. However, early showers seemed set to spoil Francis' day, as the early stages of the race belonged to Tomy Drissi, in the No. 8 Murder on the Orient Express Chevrolet Corvette, who was the only member of the TA class to take to the 3.56-mile Daytona track with Pirelli rain tires.
Drissi would build a lead spanning over 40-seconds on Francis, the pole sitter, during the first eight laps until the field went under a full-course caution. The race would restart on the 11th lap; however, the track had dried considerably forcing Drissi to pit for a tire change on the 12th lap. Francis, then running second, took the lead and comfortably led the remaining 17 laps en route to the checkered flag.
"It was definitely an interesting race," said Francis. "First off, I've got to thank Frameless Shower Doors, R & B Company and the Buoniconti Fund. I was honestly questioning the strategy at the beginning going out on slicks, those first couple pace laps were very, very slippery. Even the start, it was probably one of the most lack luster starts in TA we've ever had, no one really went anywhere. Drissi was out there on wet tires, so we knew he'd be fast. We knew the track would most likely come our way; and after the restart it dried out considerably and we took the lead, and cruised to the finish from there."
2017 marked Francis' debut in the TA class after three consecutive TA4 class championships, a debut that turned into domination with the No. 98 capturing ten wins, seven poles and 11 podium finishes.
"It's been crazy," said Francis. "A year ago we were just starting to think about this, trying to put together a TA program that could compete or even win a race. It was a far off dream to win a championship, never mind 10 races. The first season in the TA class, with the No. 98, it's just been incredible and we look forward to next year."
Francis was followed past the checkered flag by RJ Lopez, in the No. 06 Republica Brewing/ Optica Lopez Chevrolet Corvette, who finished second, capturing his second podium finish of the year in his third appearance. Lopez began the race in sixth position, running third early on before falling back to sixth before the restart—finally taking second position on the second to last lap.
Vinnie Allegretta, 2017 championship runner up in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, would finish third for his seventh podium finish of the year after starting second and running as low as seventh on lap 15.
The TA class top five was completed by Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and Tomy Drissi finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Ruman's finishing position was enough to secure third on the year end podium, tied with Simon Gregg in points but winning the tie breaker by virtue of more second place finishes (two to one).