TRANS-AM: Homestead-Miami Set To Welcome Loaded 48-Car Field

RaceChaser Staff Featured, Trans Am 0 Comments

The Trans-Am Championship heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend. (Chris Clark photo)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — The Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the Florida sun once more this weekend, as it takes to the challenging 2.27-mile modified road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway for round two of the Trans-Am Championship.

With it, Trans-Am brings a 48-car field, ready to take on two separate races in the Series’ sixth appearance on the South Florida circuit. The Trans-Am entry also includes a haul of Florida natives, ready to defend one of their home tracks on the circuit.

Among them stands Davie native Ernie Francis Jr. and his No. 98 Breathless Pro Racing/Beta Tools Ford Mustang, making only his second appearance in the TA class after a dominate spell in the TA4 class that lasted three seasons.

During the 2017 opener at Sebring International Raceway, Francis’ career in the TA class seemed off to a flying start, qualifying on pole and leading multiple laps of the ensuing race, only to see his weekend cut short of the finish line — the work of a faulty oil filter O-ring. Now, Francis will attempt to repeat his stellar Sebring performance and perhaps, under better circumstances, secure his first win in TA on his home track.

Perhaps no one benefited more from Francis’ poor luck at Sebring than Cliff Ebben, who eventually emerged victorious in the TA class at Sebring and enters the Homestead weekend with the points lead. Ebben also capitalized on another driver’s poor luck at Homestead-Miami last year, when race leader R.J. Lopez suffered a cut tire on lap 32 of 45. Ebben would assume the lead and carry first position past the checkered flag.

Despite his streak of poor luck, Lopez remains the man to beat come Sunday. He has looked dominant over Trans Am’s past three appearances at Homestead-Miami, securing the pole in each and building up a commanding lead over the course of each respective race.

However, only 2014’s performance has resulted in a win for Lopez, with both 2015 and 2016 resulting in cut tires. Now Lopez returns once more, no doubt hoping for better results with new Pirelli rubber underneath the No. 06, with his luck perhaps changing as well.

Two-time defending champ Amy Ruman also has a history of success at Homestead-Miami. Her win in 2015 was vital in helping secure her historic first championship. Ruman has strongly qualified at Homestead-Miami as well — starting within the top three the past two years and never outside the top five in her career.

Fresh off a victory at Willow Springs in Trans-Am’s West Coast Championship is Tomy Drissi, continuing his first full season of Trans Am competition since his championship winning year in 2009. Drissi opened up his return in fine form at Sebring with a second place finish, and followed it up with a dominant performance throughout the Willow Springs event, leading every session.

Also in attendance in the TA class will be Henry Gilbert, Mary “Mickey” Wright, Jeff Hinkle, Steve Burns, Daniel Urrutia Jr., Kerry Hitt, Stanton Barrett, Vinnie Allegretta, Simon Gregg and Lawrence Lepurage.

The ever-competitive TA2 class will also be in attendance, holding an independent 100-mile race of their own, showcasing the modern reinvention of the pony wars.

And just as in the TA class, the spotlight will be on a pair of Florida residents — Shane Lewis and Cameron Lawrence. Together they have combined to win every TA2 race at Homestead-Miami.

In 2016, Lewis cruised to victory on the South Florida track — capturing the pole, leading every ensuing lap and building up a generous gap before passing the checkered flag for his first career TA2 victory.

Lawrence, absent in 2016, is now back in TA2 this time behind the wheel of the No. 19 Class Auto Centers Chevrolet Camaro. He won TA2 at Homestead-Miami in both 2015 and 2014, sitting on the pole in both as well. The two-time TA2 champion has never lost a Trans Am race at Homestead in which he was entered.

 

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Still, the talent in the TA2 class goes far deeper than just the prior years’ victors.

Dillon Machavern enters the weekend on a streak of three consecutive podium finishes dating back to last season, including wins at Circuit of the Americas and the 2017 season opener at Sebring. Machavern has a history of strong finishes at Homestead as well — never passing the checkered flag outside the top five.

Lewis’ teammate Gar Robinson will also be in attendance. Robinson, the 2015 TA2 champ, ran up front with Machavern for the entirety of the Sebring opener, qualifying second and finishing second.

Robinson will look to improve upon his history at Homestead-Miami, where he’s never finished higher than seventh, a rarity for a talent expected to be one of the primary contenders for this year’s championship.

Machavern’s Mike Cope Racing Enterprises teammates will also be out in full force, despite the absence of reigning TA2 champ Tony Buffomante.

The Cope paddock will feature the talents of Lawrence Loshak, Keith Prociuk, Louis-Philippe Montour, Matt Parent and Justin Haley — making the largest, and potentially deepest, team in the TA2 paddock all under the Clearwater, Florida-based team’s tent.

Scott Lagasse Jr. will also be representing the home state contingent, ready to build on a career best eighth finishing position at Sebring just a month ago.

The TA2 field will also feature Carlo Falcone, Ray Neveau, Adam Andretti, Tim Gray, Jordan Bernloehr, and Tom Sheehan. Moses Smith will make his Trans Am and TA2 debut this weekend as well.

In TA3, Mark Boden and Fall Line Motorsports will enter Homestead-Miami with the momentum of a Sebring class victory. This weekend he will once more be faced with the intriguing mix of makes and manufacturers that is TA3 —the pure horsepower of Chevrolet Corvettes and Dodge Vipers against the smaller, more agile Porsches.

Together, they create an intriguing chess match, forcing drivers and crew alike to focus on the entirety of the 100 miles in a competition of global engineering.

Boden will be joined by multiple other drivers featuring European machinery, among them his Fall-line teammates Tim Kezman and Tom Herb.

Also sporting Porsche equipment will be the Irish Mike’s Automotive teammates Conor Flynn and debutant Ramin Abdolvahabi, both hailing from Florida.

One of the drivers showcasing American-made power plants in TA3 will be Randy Kinsland, hoping to finally make his way to the top step of the class podium. In his career, Kinsland has five top-three finishes, coming in second three times after leading multiple laps. The big power of his V8 propelled Corvette and the banking of Homestead’s “roval” may be the perfect combination for him to finally clinch a victory.

Joining Kinsland with domestic machinery in TA3 will be former champions Lee Saunders and Jason Berkeley, both making their second career Trans Am appearances at Homestead-Miami. Dave Ricci, will also be in attendance; Ricci finished third at Homestead last year.

The TA4 class will feature a slightly different look from the Sebring opener with the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 now eligible after being removed from the TA4 class.

One driver will take advantage of the change this weekend: Steven Davison, driving the No. 2 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

Awaiting him will be Brian Kleeman, fresh off his first career Trans-Am victory at Sebring in just his eighth career start. Kleeman’s teammate Chris Outzen is also entered, ready to rebound on a Sebring weekend marred by mechanical troubles.

Class veteran Todd Napieralski is also entered, continuing his pursuit of a TA4 Championship after finishing as the runner-up for two consecutive seasons. Fellow veterans Fernando Seferlis and Mel Shaw will both be in attendance as well, while JR Pesek makes his Trans Am debut in TA4.

CREDIT: Trans-Am Communications

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