Huge Field On Hand to Wind Down 2011 Trans Am Season at Road Atlanta
September 28, 2011
This Friday's SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am Series visit to Road Atlanta will serve as a coronation for 2011 series champion Tony Ave, of Maiden, N.C., and with a 37-car entry, will feature the largest field of the season. It will also put the wraps on the Trans Am Series' 45th year.
Ave - who won wrapped up the series title and won the race in last year's Trans Am season finale at Road America - has proven to be tough to beat for the past two seasons. This year, he has won six of the series' eight races, including a championship-clinching sweep of a doubleheader at Minnesota's Brainerd International Raceway earlier this month.
Having already successfully defended his championship, he will look to defend his 2010 Trans Am victory at Road Atlanta this weekend in the No. 4 Lamers Racing/Beebe Racing/Optech/PME Chevrolet Corvette.
That could be easier said than done, however, with the strongest entry list of the season anticipated for Road Atlanta. Among those on the entry list is a former Trans Am race winner carrying momentum and a few other drivers who could be poised for a breakthrough.
Trans Am veteran Mike Lewis scored a Trans Am victory at Road America in 2001 and heads to Road Atlanta fresh from capturing another SCCA GT-1 National Championship last weekend at the same circuit where he claimed his maiden Trans Am win. It will be his first race of the season in the No. 12 Goodyear/Cyclo/Red Line Oil Jaguar XKR, but if his performance from last weekend is any indication, it shouldn't take long for him to reacquaint himself.
Among those who haven't won yet in Trans Am competition are a few drivers who very well could find their way to the top step of the podium for the first time at Road Atlanta. Certainly not to be overlooked is the driver who has clinched second in the 2011 Trans Am standings, second-generation racer Simon Gregg.
The Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. driver has four podiums from eight races this season in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and he could parlay his extensive experience into another strong result at Road Atlanta.
Another such driver is Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, in the No. 23 McNichols/Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette, one of two women on this week's entry list. A brief period of rain in the most recent Trans Am race at Brainerd derailed what could have been Ruman's first victory. She had a comfortable lead when the skies opened up and threw a monkey wrench into her plans, but she has shown plenty of speed. With a little more luck, she will join the winner's list sooner rather than later.
Daniel Ramoutarsingh, of La Romain, Trinidad, has also been a somewhat regular on the Trans Am podium this season and is a potential first-time winner. The 2009 Trans Am Rookie of the Year pilots the No. 18 Trinrico Steel and Wire Products Jaguar XKR.
While first and second in the championship standings has already been decided, there is still an intense battle for third in the overall championship and 2011 Rookie of the Year honors. The current leader in both categories is David "D.J." Jans, of Mundelein, Ill., in the No. 70 World Information Systems Ford Mustang.
Hot on his heels in the championship, however, is Ruman, who trails by just 23 points, 654-631, heading into the weekend. Doug Harrington, of Kemah, Texas, is fifth in the standings with 610 markers, but he could overtake both drivers in the No. 00 New Orleans Voodoo to not only take third in the final overall standings, but also the Rookie of the Year. He finished third last year at Road Atlanta.
A host of local drivers could also factor in the proceedings on their home circuit. Mike Kelly, of Braselton, Ga., will make his first start of the season in the No. 25 Optech Chevrolet Corvette, as will Terry St. Martin, of Cartersville, Ga., in the No. 17 Foametix Ford Mustang. A trio of drivers from nearby Alpharetta, Ga, -- Paige Alexander, Bob Monette and Zach Monette - are also returning to Trans Am action.
Alexander, who drives the No. 28 Optech Ford Mustang, and her father, Bob Monette, driver of the No. 35 Optech Ford Mustang, both competed earlier this season at Virginia International Raceway. Zach Monette, Alexander's brother, is making his first Trans Am start since last year's finale at Road Atlanta in the No. 99 Optech Ford Mustang.
Others entered in the Trans Am field include Glen Jung, of Osteen, Fla., in the No. 77 Rotary Xtreme/Mazdaspeed/YAW Power Mazda RX-7, John Baucom, of Charlotte, N.C., in the No. 86 Baucom Motorsports/Roadraceparts.com Ford Mustang, Doug Peterson, of Rochester Hills, Mich., in the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Jaguar XKR, Charles Wicht, of Big Pine Key, Fla., in the No. 92 Wicht Racing/Crystal Clear Pools Chevrolet Corvette, and Kevin Rich, of Round Rock, Texas, in the No. 95 Cleaning System Specialist Ford Mustang.
The aforementioned drivers are only part of the story, however, as there is a strong entry in its Trans Am 2 (TA2) category, as well as exciting entries in the new Global GT (GGT) class and Trans Am 3 class (TA3).
Bob Stretch, of Arlington, Texas, has clinched the 2011 TA2 championship and will look to close out the season with another victory in the No. 98 Wheels America Racing Chevrolet Camaro. However, he will definitely have his hands full as 2010 Trans Am Rookie of the Year and multi-time 2011 Pirelli World Challenge race-winner Mike Skeen, of Charlotte, N.C., will pilot the No. 40 Pinnacle/Eagles Canyon Raceway/Petfinder.com Chevrolet Camaro. Stretch and Skeen are likely to lead a strong, 13-car entry in TA2.
The GGT class features four cars in its first race as a separate class, including GGT points leader Tim Gray, of Minneapolis, Minn., in the No. 68 Ryan Companies US Inc. Porsche 996 and Road America class winner Scott Tucker, of Overland Park, Kan., in the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 430. The TA3 class sees its first activity of the 2011 season with a pair of entries.