MIAMI, Fla. – With only three races remaining in the 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 nine of the Trans-Am Championship on Saturday with two-races of potential championship-deciding action.
In TA, the once staggering lead amassed by defending champion Amy Ruman 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, at 211 points apiece.
However, relief may be just around the corner for Ruman.
Despite the razor thin margin, the final three races of the year were all victories for the MicNichols No. 23 last year, while Ebben only participated at COTA and finished third.
While Ebben and Ruman are deadlocked, the specter of Paul Fix looms large just eight points behind. Fix has been alarmingly consistent over the past three races, finishing on the podium in all but one after ending up fourth in Homestead.
David Pintaric and Simon Gregg 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.
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. Buffomante has been devastating as of late, not missing the podium since a mid-race exit at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and has accumulated 221 points to his name — 21 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 and set 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, 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 at a series of tracks in NOLA, COTA and Daytona where he did not finish higher than fifth in 2014.
Finally, the TA2 top five is completed by Shane Lewis, 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 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, as well as Ray Neveau, while Ben Hocevar of Madisonville, Louisiana makes his TA2 debut.
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 and the BMWs of Mueller and teammate Michael Camus.
So far, the BMWs have gotten the best of Kinsland, swapping positions throughout the race, with Mueller winning at VIR and Camus scoring at Homestead-Miami, leaving Kinsland second in both events.
Adding into the mix will be the Lux Performance duo of Steve Streimer and Cindi Lux, Conor Flynn, Milton Grant, Mel Shaw, Larry Funk and Fernando Seferlis. 2014’s race saw Streimer victorious in the class over Carey Grant and John Gutleber.
In TA4, Ernie Francis Jr.’s pursuit of a perfect season continues, with the TA4 Championship already in hand and nine victories in place. His primary competition at NOLA comes in the form of Spencer Caudle, who is making his second appearance of the year.
CREDIT: Trans Am Communications