Halfway there: Trans Am pauses in midst of a growth driven 2013 Season

July 19, 2013

Halfway there: Trans Am pauses in midst of a growth driven 2013 Season
As Trans Am drivers and teams take advantage of a mid-season lull in the 2013 schedule, they can look back at what has been a season unlike any other in recent times. 
The 2013 Season has been one of marked growth and widespread enthusiasm for the Trans Am Series.   Car counts have been high, competition intense and the racing has been of the quality expected of the vaunted Trans Am name—better still, these recent developments show no indication of slowing down.
The biggest difference between this year and last is readily apparent in the decade-high car counts Trans Am continues to log from location to location.  With all three classes growing and in full swing, event entries have produced high caliber races that showcase what Trans Am has always stood for—road racing of the highest quality. 
Emerging from the increased competition are two drivers, each separating themselves from the crowd by producing podium after podium—the result of consistent quality racing.  Those two drivers now hold the point leads in both classes and are neither has missed a podium placement.  They are Doug Peterson in the TA class and Cameron Lawrence in TA2. 
Peterson had a solid 2012 outing, finishing fourth overall in the points standings and coming away with two victories on the year.  2013, however, has been a completely different year.  With four victories to his name to date, Peterson and the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette have pushed ahead of defending TA Champion Simon Gregg, driver of the #1 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun so far this season,” Peterson said.  “Working with Tony Ave and his family has been a great experience—you always know you’re going to get a great car.  And when these cars are set up properly, which Tony does, they’re very easy to drive—and that’s what I like, cars that are easy to drive.”
Peterson’s immediate success does not mean he feels any immediate pressure to maintain his point lead.
“Counting points and doing the math—that doesn’t come till the very end of the season.” Peterson continued.  “I’m just going to go out on the track and race.  We’ll deal with things like that later; there’s still half a season to go.”
Peterson’s success has contributed to the ongoing streak by Tony Ave Racing, a TA victory streak that dates back to round nine of last year— some seven races ago.  The victory streak has been maintained by the trio of Peterson, Ave and Paul Fix, the last of whom rejoined Trans Am after a several year hiatus. 
In TA2, it’s been a season dominated by Cameron Lawrence.  Lawrence in the #11 Ctek/Motorstate/Northstar Chevrolet Camaro, has won three races so far this year—his first full season with Miller Racing.  Last year, as a Trans Am rookie, Lawrence joined Miller Racing at Watkins Glen, Round 5 of the 2012 Season, filling the void in the #11 when team owner Mike Miller was unable to attend.  Lawrence performed so well that he was invited back to become a full time member of the Miller Racing team—partnering him up with veteran Pete Halsmer. 
“Cameron is a great young driver.”  Miller said.  “He’s got the right mentality for racing and he’s a great kid.  I call him a kid because he’s young, but everyone’s a kid to me.  He’s becoming a sophisticated, smart young man with great presence.  We noticed his talent right away when he first arrived in Trans Am, and we’re very proud of what he has accomplished with Miller Racing.” 
“We have been extremely lucky so far this season.” Lawrence said.  “We have had a few close calls that could have changed our results completely. But our success comes from our team working so well together. Everyone works hard on and off the track to ensure everything goes as smooth as possible during the race weekend.” 
“I don't feel pressure from anyone to keep up these results.” Lawrence continued.  “Any pressure or expectations that I feel come straight from myself, internally.  I go into races with the mindset that I expect to run well and I have a car with the ability to run up front—no matter the track.  The competition is what really keeps me going and pushing myself; it’s part of my nature. 
Lawrence’s rise within the Trans Am Series signifies a revolution of sorts.  Trans Am has, in the recent past, been a series of veterans—full of drivers who have spent years fine honing and tuning their craft and machines.  Now, Lawrence, 20 years old, has stepped in and revolutionized that dynamic—proving that Trans Am can be a young man’s game as well.
Joining Lawrence on the lower side of 30 is Robert Huffmaster, driver of the #27 Kryderracing/VIR Sec Chevrolet Camaro.  Huffmaster, while he has faced some struggles of late, found immediate success in Trans Am, placing second in TA2, coincidentally to Lawrence, at Sebring International Raceway during the first race of the 2013 Season and third at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Trans Am has really been a great experience so far.”  Huffmaster said.  “These cars are far more powerful than anything I’ve driven before—but at the same time they’re a great value and a great move into a pro series.  It’s fun racing and an exciting series to be in.” 
But Trans Am is not just a young man’s game in TA2.  Bob Stretch, driver of the #98 Wheels America/Fix Rim Mobile Chevrolet Camaro, is still the defending two-time TA2 Champion and, despite early struggles at the first two venues of the year, he’s come on strong over the past three races—resulting in one first place victory and two second place finishes in TA2.  Stretch’s victory at Lime Rock Park was a historic one for both Trans Am and TA2, as he became the first TA2 driver to ever win a Trans Am race outright.  In fact, three TA2 cars took the top three overall places, taking advantage of a thoroughly soaked track and wet conditions which the 800-plus horsepower TA cars are less than ideally equipped to handle.
As it stands at the halfway point, Cameron Lawrence leads all TA2 drivers with 100 points.  Following him is the two-time-defending TA2 Champion Bob Stretch with 65, and in third is Lawrence’s teammate, Pete Halsmer with 57.  Tom West and Robert Hufmaster are not far behind with 51 and 50, respectively. 
The TA class is also home to a fairly tight point battle behind the class leader.  Doug Peterson currently leads all TA competitors with 104 points, followed by defending Champion Simon Gregg with 67 while Cliff Ebben, driver of the #36 Stump Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang, is in third place with 64 points. 
2013 has also been a renaissance year for production racing in Trans Am.  While Trans Am began as a production series, it has since evolved into a series filled entirely with purpose-built racecars.  That is until now, as production racing has made a strong return to the Trans Am Series under the banner of TA3 in the American Muscle and European subgroups. 
Leading the American Muscle subgroup is the defending TA3 Champion Chuck Cassaro.  Cassaro, driver of the #76 StackData/Aeromotive/Metallica Ford Mustang, had stood firm with TA3 and believes that its future is bright.  
“I could have just as easily gotten a TA2 car,” Cassaro said.  “But you have to understand how relevant production racing is to manufacturers, fans and Trans Am’s history.  This is a class that I’m confident will not only grow to be a great class in Trans Am but also a strong alternative to other production classes in road racing.” 
So far Cassaro has been correct, as four rookies have already committed to TA3’s American Muscle subgroup this year, the most successful of which has been Rob Bodle, in the #16 Caribbean Food Delights Ford Mustang, who is currently second only to Cassaro.
In the European subgroup, David Seuss and the #9 Northern Light Porsche 996 have won a class-high three races, overcoming the likes of Tim Gray in the #60 Ryan Companies US Inc Porsche GT3 Cup 997 and the #43 Mills Racing BMW M3 of Mickey Mills, who are second and third in the group, behind Seuss. 
The Trans Am Series has five races remaining in the 2013 schedule and will next head to the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course along with NASCAR Nationwide on Saturday Aug 17, 2013. 
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