McAleese and Ave victorious in survival race at Road America
August 29, 2015
Francis, Jr., and Streimer take TA3 honors
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. [August 29, 2015] – PROVISIONAL - In a race where competitors were faced with a variety of elements, including fog, mist and an already damp track, Jim McAleese, Tony Ave, Ernie Francis, Jr., and Steve Streimer emerged from the legendary Road America course with their cars and victories intact from what can be labeled a survivors’ race, the Next Dimension 100.
The race was checkered under a full course yellow as officials determined that the session would not be able to restart in the allotted time due to cars stranded off course, mostly in the area of turn six where a multiple car collision occurred. Still, Jim McAleese, in the No. 03 McAleese and Associates/Jetco Chevrolet Corvette emerged from the incident in the TA class lead and subsequently led the field past the finish line for what was his first Trans Am Series victory.
“I’m still shaking, but I’m finally relaxing,” said McAleese. I’m hitting a hard slow down now. I can’t believe it finally happened, hopefully the first of many. The key to success here was listening to the voices on the radio and looking into every corner, because it bought me so much time. It was slippery as heck for the first nine or ten laps, that’s when most of the carnage happened. And once we got through that, the track just came alive.”
McAleese captured the lead in what was a tumultuous turn of events on the 17th lap restart when the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang of Cliff Ebben had a transmission failure while in the lead, a lead he had held for much of the race. With the field clustered from the restart, multiple cars were forced to take drastic measures to avoid oil on track, causing a series of collisions and incidents. McAleese, then running third to Ebben and Doug Peterson, was able to not only retain control of the No. 03 Corvette but capture the lead. McAleese was then gathered by the pace car his next time by—the safety car would remain out until the checkered flag on the 19th lap of the race.
Peterson, while slowed, was able to recover and capture a second place finish behind the wheel of the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Cadillac CTS-V. Third place in the TA class went to John Baucom, driver the of the No. 86 Roadraceparts.com/Baucom Motorsports Ford Mustang, who was also able to improve his standing in the turn six melee, moving from fifth to a podium capturing third.
The TA2 victory went to Tony Ave, in the No. 70 Lamers Motor Racing Ford Mustang, his second TA2 victory of the year. Ave a longtime veteran of Trans Am and native of Hurley, Wisconsin, started eighth but quickly put his decades of experience behind the wheel on the Road America track to work—charging up through the field and eventually assuming the lead on the eleventh lap of the race.
“We had to do a single file start,” said Ave. “So I had to start way behind, I got up to fourth pretty quickly but there was such a big gap; we had to run as hard as possible. We got up to second before the caution came out, and after that, I’ve been around here long enough to know how to get around in the wet. The car held together; so for me, it was pretty much like what I’ve done racing here for 20 years.”
Ave’s result comes after a weekend in which the No. 70 was seemingly underperforming in qualifying and constantly under the wrench by the Ave Motorsports Team. However, the No. 70 and its new DSS engine performed when it mattered.
“This is a different car for us,” said Ave. “It's a DSS engine in it that we experimented with over the winter, and we thought it would be ready but we definitely struggled with it. My crew worked on it constantly to get it ready for todays race—it’s running better, but for sure the rain helped our situation as well.”
Ave was followed across the finish line by two-time defending Champion, and current points leader, Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 1 MOPAR Dodge Challenger. Lawrence led TA2 for most of the race and opened up a large gap during the initial laps under green, only to see it reined back in by several full course yellows. Lawrence was followed across the finish line by Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, who captured third for his fourth consecutive podium.
The result also saw all three of the Big Three represented on the podium, with the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro sharing in podium glory.
In TA3’s International Group, Steve Streimer, in the No. 42 Lux Performance Dodge Viper, captured what was also his first Trans Am victory. Streimer, like McAleese, had taken a conservative approach to the race, starting in second position and falling back as far as fourth, before running third at the time of the final incident in turn six. With his teammate, Cindi Lux, boxed in, Streimer moved forward capturing the group lead and ensuing victory.
“It’s amazing to have this win,” said Streimer. “It was really hectic out there. The biggest thing was staying straight and staying on course. There in turn six, it was absolutely pandemonium. I got lucky and found a gap to find my way through and into the lead. I’ll take the win; in a way I’m sorry it ended up this way. My coach and teammate Cindi Lux probably deserved the win, but this will work.”
Streimer was followed by Lux, in the No. 45 Lux Performance Dodge Viper, who captured second, creating the second one-two finish for the Oregon-based duo on the year. Current International Group points leader Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper, completed the Viper podium sweep with a third place finish after leading the race early on.
In the American Muscle Group of TA3, Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro, secured his fifth victory of the year, increasing what was already a large lead in the Championship points.
“That race was mainly just trying to keep the car pointed straight the entire time,” said Francis. “We went out there on slicks like most of the guys did, so the first couple of laps were really just crazy. We kept the lead and held it for most of the race. We got by even a few of the TA3i cars and almost ended up grabbing the full lead in turn six, but we were comfortable in the American Muscle Group for most of the race.”
Francis, who led the American Muscle Group the entire race, now has a commanding lead in his chase for a second consecutive championship, as he continues to compete in both Trans Am and Pirelli World Challenge simultaneously.
Rich Jones, in the No. 37 Jomac Truck Bodies and Cranes Ford Mustang, finished second, his first podium appearance of the year; while Bill Baten, in the No. 85 Hendrickson USA/Marks ADR/TPR Chevrolet Camaro, also made his first podium appearance of the year in what was only his second Trans Am appearance.
The race began with a series of pace laps as competitors and officials alike waited for the overhanging fog to clear and visibility issues to fade; the race then began with a single file start.
On the initial green, the TA class lead shuffled multiple times with polesitter Cliff Ebben and Paul Fix trading positions multiple times on the first lap. While Ebben was able to maintain the lead, current points leader Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, was contacted from behind in traffic and in turn made contact with the tire wall. Ruman was able to continue but was forced to begin her podium pursuit from the back of the TA class.
In TA2, Lawrence immediately opened up a gap and Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 UniFirst/PPG Ford Mustang, overtook Gar Robinson for second position. Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 BestLine Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang and Shane Lewis, Chevrolet Camaro, both continued in fourth and fifth position as all drivers continued to battle the elements.
In TA3, Lee Saunders shot into the lead, overtaking both Lux and Streimer on the start while Francis continued to hold his starting position in front of the American Muscle Group.
As the race continued, Fix began to slow in the TA class, as engine issues began to emerge for the No. 4. In TA2, Ave began to make his charge, moving up into second by the seventh lap of the race when the track went under its first full-course yellow of the day. The race would restart on the 10th lap, with the order remaining fairly unchanged, other than Cindi Lux recapturing the TA3 International lead from Lee Saunders on the restart.
On the 12th lap of the race, Ave captured the lead from Lawrence, who remained in second, followed by Robinson, Adam Andretti, in the No. 44 Engineered Components Chevrolet Camaro, and Tony Buffomante. In the TA class, McAleese made his first top three appearance—capitalizing on both traffic and the slowing Paul Fix.
The course then went under a full-course yellow once more to retrieve multiple cars stuck off course; and while the field restarted only two laps later, as the field began working lap 16, the major incident in turn six commenced only half a lap later, sending the course under yellow for the third, and final, time as officials checkered the session.
A multitude of drivers fell victim to the incident, shuffling much of the field and determining a large number of the top three results in all classes.
Of note, Ruman managed to recover a sixth place finish, actually increasing her points lead over Fix, who fell to ninth with the aforementioned engine problems. Vaughn Gittin, Jr., driver of the No. 25 Monster/Gumout/BlackMagic/ETE Ford Mustang, making his first Trans Am appearance finished fifth after starting 15th.
The event also marked the conclusion of the 3-Dimensional Services Triple Shot Showdown, a trophy awarded to the top Trans Am drivers in each class who secured the most points over the course of the Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and Road America events.
The winner in the TA class was Williamsville, New York’s Paul Fix, who drives the StopFlex.com/The CarCoach.com Corvette. The TA2 trophy went to Jupiter, Florida’s, Shane Lewis, driver of the 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro. In the TA3 American Muscle class, the trophy went to Ernie Francis, Jr., driver of the Breathless Racing Chevrolet Camaro and, in TA3 International, the top finisher was Lakeland, Florida’s Lee Saunders, who runs the Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper.
How to watch:
The Next Dimension 100, Round 8 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship, will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network on Saturday, September 12th at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
The Trans Am Series will now head south to Virginia International Raceway for Round 9 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship.