Francis and Buffomante take Trans Am poles in New Jersey
October 7, 2017
JR Pesek secures career first pole in TA4
MILLVILLE, NJ. [October 7, 2017] – Ernie Francis, Jr., and Tony Buffomante secured their respective Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli poles today in qualifying for the New Jersey Trans Am 100 and New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge, a pair of 101.25-mile races for Round 11 of the 2017 Trans Am Championships slated for tomorrow at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Also in qualification for the multi-class New Jersey Trans Am 100 was the TA4 class, with JR Pesek securing his first career Trans Am pole.
For Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang, his pole setting fast lap of 1:16.842 around the 2.25-mile, 14-turn “Thunderbolt” track stood as one of his first at speed of the entire weekend.
After suffering engine issues in testing sessions on Friday, the Breathless Pro Racing team worked to replace the No. 98’s motor, forcing Francis to sit out the first official practice session while being limited to simple shakedown laps in the second. Still, with a fresh engine nestled under the hood of the No. 98 Francis secured his sixth pole of the 2017 season, continuing the strong qualifying streak that has seen him start on the front row all year long—playing no small part in his current position atop the TA class points.
Starting alongside Francis will be Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman, the two-time defending TA class champion, turned a 1:17.173 lap of her own, as she pursues her first win of the 2017 season— on a track where she has three career TA class victories.
Current TA class points runner-up Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, would qualify third with a 1:17.315-lap around his home track, while Jim McAleese, in the No. 03 McAleese & Associates Chevrolet Camaro, and Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, completed the TA class top five with times of 1:18.210 and 1:19.051.
In TA2, Tony Buffomante secured his sixth pole of the 2017 season, and eleventh of his Trans Am career, from behind the wheel of the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang for Mike Cope Racing Enterprises.
The pole comes to Buffomante by way of a new qualifying track record 1:18.858 lap, well over a second below the previous record 1:20.171 set by Justin Haley just last year. Buffomante’s fast lap came on his 7th of the 20-minute session, leapfrogging championship rival Gar Robinson for pole position—but only by a .125 of a second.
Robinson, who set his fast lap of session, a 1:18.983, on his fourth of 10 laps, will start alongside Buffomante come tomorrow’s TA2 competition in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro. Robinson also holds the TA2 points lead with 40 over Buffomante, who resides second.
Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and Keith Prociuk, in the No. 9 HP Tuners Chevrolet Camaro, qualified third and fourth, with times of 1:19.130 and 1:20.393. Tom Sheehan, in the No. 97 LTK Insulation Technologies Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA2 class qualifying top five with a time of 1:20.928.
In TA4, Trans Am rookie JR Pesek captured his career-first pole position with a time of 1:25.747 from behind the wheel of the No. 10 Rennsport KC Ford Mustang.
Pesek made his Trans Am debut at Homestead-Miami during Round 2 of the 2017 Championship, securing a third place finish— since then Pesek has climbed his way up the point standings currently residing in third with five podium finishes to his name and a Brainerd victory. Now NJMP and the New Jersey Trans Am 100 provide Pesek yet another opportunity to build on a strong rookie season, that ultimately could culminate in class Rookie of the Year honors.
Starting alongside Pesek will be current-points runner up Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ TREMEC Chevrolet Camaro, after turning a 1:25.937. Napieralski stands 37 points behind points leader Brian Kleeman, with both drivers vying for their first Trans Am championships—and with only three races remaining, tomorrow’s race will likely have strong implications for both drivers.
Chris Outzen, in the No. 97 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, qualified third in class for TA4 with a 1:26.159, while rookies Andrew Entwistle, in the No. 78 Phoenix Performance Ford Mustang, and Steven Davison, in the No. 2 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage GT4, completed the class’ top five with times of 1:26.646 and 1:28.145, respectively.
Points leader Brian Kleeman will start tomorrow’s TA4 competition from the back of the field, serving a penalty from last round at Virginia International Raceway. Kleeman, who has been fast in practice sessions throughout the weekend, will need to replicate that speed in the hopes of moving through the field and defending his points lead.
The TA2 class will hold their 101.25-mile, 45-lap New Jersey Muscle Car Challenge at 10:25 AM tomorrow, Sunday October 8, followed shortly by the TA, TA3 and TA4 classes holding the New Jersey Trans Am 100 at 1:55 PM ET.
All results provisional until posted final
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.