Sheehan Ready for Detroit Spotlight
May 15, 2018
Why the TA2 Veteran is Loading Up for the Motor City and After Nearly 7 Years, TA2 is Still Home
MIAMI, Fla. [May 15, 2018] — With 74 career starts in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, Tom Sheehan stands as the longest tenured competitor in the TA2 class, a competition he has called home since August of 2011.
Now, nearly seven years later, Sheehan is loading up the No. 97 LTK Insulation Technologies Chevrolet Camaro and heading west from his Bow, New Hampshire, home to what he considers the biggest event of the Trans Am season, the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, where on June 2-3 the TA2 class will hold two separate races on the famous Belle Isle circuit: The 3-Dimensional Services Muscle Car Challenge and The 3-Dimensional Services Motor City Dash.
“Detroit is so unique,” said Sheehan. “It’s a street course with a great audience while we run alongside a marquee series like IndyCar— it’s our super bowl.”
And Sheehan’s not wrong. Trans Am’s history in the Motor City stretches back to 1984 when Tom Gloy secured the maiden Trans Am victory in Detroit from behind the wheel of a Mercury Capri. For 18 consecutive years, Trans Am took to the streets of the Motor City with drivers like Wally Dallenbach, Jr., Scott Sharp, Dorsey Schroeder, Ron Fellows, Tommy Kendall and more securing victories with over 500 entries participating. Then after 2001, Trans Am would not return until 2016.
Now, on the cusp of Trans Am’s third consecutive appearance at Belle Isle, Sheehan is not about to miss out on another opportunity to race in the Motor City, especially with the impending two race weekend for the TA2 class. On top of all that, Sheehan anticipates a classic TA2 show for those in attendance.
“The circuit can be a bit of a bullring track in these cars; it’s not so much about setup but rather driving the car,” Sheehan continued. “You’ve got to be mistake free; and if you keep your car clean, you’ve got a shot at Detroit. The track is a lot of fun to drive; it’s important to remember that it’s a great racing track— it keeps the field close, unlike some of the tracks we visit where the field can get strung out. Detroit… it’s always a pack of wolves in there and there are always a lot of opportunities for the whole field.”
While previous iterations of the surface on Belle Isle featured a somewhat bumpy ride, Sheehan considers the current surface, which debuted last year, one of the best Trans Am visits all year.
“I was really impressed by results,” said Sheehan. “The Detroit Grand Prix took it upon themselves to grind the surface, and they did a fantastic job. They fixed it. And that doesn’t happen every time a place decides to go to work on a race track, but they really truly fixed it. It’s smooth but still has plenty of grip; they didn’t do anything but truly improve the surface. That’s pretty unique.”
Sheehan and the No. 97 tackling the "improved" Belle Isle course in 2017
An additional change for 2018 comes on Trans Am’s end: bringing TA2 exclusively to Detroit, showcasing Trans Am’s modern iteration of the pony war in the spiritual home of the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for TA2,” continued Sheehan. “Fortunes will be made or lost at Detroit. Any bad luck in the first race, it’s really going to impact the second race— you have to be smart out there and take care of your car. For the Series to put TA2 front-and-center in Detroit in front of that crowd and in that venue, it’s fantastic. For competitors, if you run well at Detroit, there are more eyes on you than anywhere else; and with two races, if you’re smart, you could come out of there on Sunday looking pretty good in the points.”
Over the past seven years, Sheehan has seen TA2 grow and change, rising from what was a limited collection of stock cars thrown on a road course to one of the most competitive road racing formats around— and Trans Am’s largest class.
“All racing is always somewhat fluid,” said Sheehan. “TA2, from the very beginning to where it is today, has been moving around the target of cost controlled racing while having really competitive cars and close racing. It’s accomplished those goals; the level of competition keeps rising. It’s harder and harder to run in the front— a lot of guys with a lot of talent come in to run races and find that out first hand. I just think it speaks positively for the Series that guys like Paul Tracy, Rafa Matos and Shane Lewis come in here and compete. I have drivers from other series tell me all the time that they think TA2 is one of the best things going on in racing—all these guys who could go anywhere and have all these opportunities but they’re trying to figure out how to get themselves in a TA2 car.”
“Everyone always has opinions on how things should be done, but ultimately someone has to make the decision. The Series has been a good steward of TA2, and I hope to see it continue and grow and the level of competition keep going up.”
Sheehan in the No. 65 at Road Atlanta in 2011
So after over 7,000 miles run in Trans Am competition, Sheehan plans on running TA2 for a long time, not just Detroit. It’s that platform that still makes the most sense to him.
“TA2 is the only place in motorsports where I can show up and have the best equipment in the paddock,” said Sheehan. “There’s no other racing series where I could afford that or put together packages and funding to keep my equipment absolutely up-to-date for the season, every season. For me anywhere else would be an impossible task. And I’ve raced a lot of stuff, I’ve raced Grand-Am, I’ve raced ST, GT— they’re unsustainable to keep putting those packages together to stay competitive from a privateer’s standpoint.”
“For anybody who is investing their money in any equipment in racing, they understand it’s really equipment costs that drive up costs. And with the TA2 chassis, what Howe has done, what Cope has done, these chassis have a lifespan that’s much longer than any tub car. You can update the components, update the chassis, just as quickly as one built in the current year. That’s unique in racing, and I believe to people who’ve been around racing and put together programs it has to be alluring and attractive to them.”
2018 Trans Am TA2 class competition at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear is a high-stakes double points weekend. The two races, the 3-Dimensional Services Muscle Car Challenge, on Saturday June 2, and the 3-Dimensional Services Motor City Dash, on Sunday June 3, will feature the iconic TA2 class battle among the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger right in the very heart of the Motor City.
The Trans Am Series will bring with it an estimated 20 TA2 cars, featuring the likes of points leader Rafa Matos, Michigan’s own Marc Miller, 2016 Champion Tony Buffomante, Ernie Francis, Jr., and more.
Competitior registration for the event remains open.
Both single-day and multi-day ticketing options are available online at www.detroitgp.com/tickets
Trans Am Coverage:
Broadcast: The weekend’s 3-Dimensional Services Trans Am races will be recapped in a 90-minute highlight show on CBS Sports Network premiering Sunday, June 17, 2018, at 1:00 PM ET with an encore at 5:00 PM ET the same day.
Live Streaming: The 3-Dimensional Services Motor City Dash will be live streamed from 11:45 AM to 1:00 PM ET on Sunday June 3, on Motor Trend On Demand.