Trans Am rolls to New Jersey for Weekend of Thunder
October 4, 2017
Francis, Robinson and Kleeman eye championship edge
MILLVILLE, NJ. [October 3, 2017] – With only three races remaining in the 2017 season, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli heads east to New Jersey Motorsports Park for its annual Weekend of Thunder for a pair of Trans Am races with substantial championship implications.
In addition to the two 101.25-mile, 45-lap Trans Am competitions, the New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge and New Jersey Trans Am 100, the Weekend of Thunder will also see F2000, F1600, the Atlantic Championship Series and Pro-IT in attendance— offering up throughout the weekend a diverse medley of motorsports on the 2.25-mile “Thunderbolt” track.
Front and center this weekend will be a string of battles for year-end silverware, particularly in the TA, TA2 and TA4 classes—with all championship contenders in attendance.
In the TA class, 19-year-old Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang, is closing in on the category title, entering New Jersey action 61 points ahead of challenger Vinnie Allegretta, pilot of the No. 41 TA Sights and Sounds Chevrolet Corvette. If Francis can expand that tally to 70 points or higher come the close of the New Jersey weekend, the TA championship will be his with two rounds remaining.
Francis’ points surplus comes his way on the back of seven victories across 10 rounds this season, including last time out at Virginia International Raceway. Now Francis enters NJMP, where he captured three consecutive TA4 class wins before making the leap to TA this year.
Also featuring in the TA class is two-time defending champ Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 Ruman Racing Chevrolet Corvette. While the chances of Ruman repeating her title once more are all but gone, NJMP stands as a recent stronghold for Ruman with three wins in her past four appearances on the Millville track, her only miss a second place finish last year.
Simon Gregg, contending with Ruman for year-end podium honors, will also be in attendance and will aim for his second podium appearance of the year amongst a TA class field that also includes Mary Wright, Jeff Hinkle, Kerry Hitt, Tim Rubright, John Baucom, Jim McAleese and rookie Lawrence Lepurage.
In TA2, the contest between Gar Robinson and Tony Buffomante for the class title is ongoing; however, the points are now heavily in Robinson’s favor. After a rough outing for Buffomante, in the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, at VIR that culminated in a 14th place finish, Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, now stands with a 40 point lead with three races remaining.
While the odds certainly are not in Buffomante’s favor, he enters the NJMP weekend with the solace of being the defending TA2 victor after starting third in 2016 and knowing that a single slip-up by Robinson could start the championship battle all over again.
Comfortably third in the TA2 championship points stands Robinson’s teammate Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and, despite not securing a win yet this season, has seven podium finishes of his own and currently sits 18 points behind Buffomante.
Also in attendance will be Keith Prociuk, Matt Parent, Bob Lima, Harry Steenbakkers and Tom Sheehan, who are rapidly closing in on the TA2 top five. Steve Goldman, of nearby Woodcliff Lake, NJ, will also make his TA2 class debut for Mike Cope Racing in the No. 3 Ford Mustang.
In TA4, the season-long battle between Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, and Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ TREMEC Chevrolet Camaro, continues with 39 points separating them. If Kleeman can continue his chart-topping run, chances are the battle will be decided before the closing round—but as with all things racing, a single slip could pull the No. 07 back into the fray and create a window of opportunity for Napieralski.
Also featuring in the TA4 field will be last round’s victor Steven Davison, in the No. 2 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage GT4, as well as the talents of JR Pesek, Andrew Entwistle and Chris Outzen.
Trans Am New Jersey Motorsports Park Schedule:
Saturday October 7, 2017
9:00 AM – 9:30 AM TA2 Practice 1
9:30 AM – 10:00 AM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 1
11:25 AM – 11:55 AM TA2 Practice 2
11:55 AM – 12:25 PM TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 2
2:30 PM – 2:50 PM TA2 Qualifying
2:50 PM – 3:10 PM TA Qualifying
3:10 PM – 3:30 PM TA3/TA4 Qualifying
Sunday October 8, 2017
9:25 AM – 10:15 AM Fan Walk and Opening Ceremonies
10:25 AM – 11:35 AM New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge, featuring TA2
1:55 PM – 3:05 PM Trans Am New Jersey 100, featuring TA, TA3, TA4
*all times eastern
Live Timing: All on-track sessions can be followed at www.gotransam.com and on the Race Monitor app available on Windows, Android, iOS and OSX.
Text Commentary: Updates provided throughout sessions on Twitter at @gotransam.