On This Day in Trans Am History: March 22, 2009
March 22, 2021
March 22, 2009
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli roared back to life at Road Atlanta with its first race in nearly three years.
The series went dormant after a pair of events at Heartland Park Topeka in 2006, after 41 consecutive years of operation. The series’ comeback was based on SCCA GT-1 rules and regulations, run in conjunction with major SCCA National weekends. Muscle Milk was title sponsor of the championship.
The 91-mile Road Atlanta race featured a 19-car entry, with Tony Ave winning the pole and leading the opening 19 laps in the McMahon Group Ford Mustang. R.J. Lopez took the lead in the No. 06 WabashPower.com Corvette. Lopez built up a three-lap lead before his engine expired with three laps remaining, just as Ave tangled with another car and ended up in the Turn 1 gravel trap.
That gave the lead to Pickett in the No. 6 Muscle Milk Jaguar XKR.
"This is a little fairy tale, winning the first race in the series that Muscle Milk sponsors," said Pickett, founder of CytoSport, parent company of Muscle Mile. "I'm just tickled for the SCCA and our Muscle Milk brand. Trans-Am is back!
"It was a difficult race,” Pickett added. “I've done a lot of these races, and you can't push too hard -- it just won't work over the course of a race. RJ [Lopez] was going faster than I wanted to go at that point. But he was gradually coming back to me. It was too bad for him, but look -- we have two GT-1 cars on the podium. That's fantastic. We need more people to bring their GT-1 cars out to race with us in Trans-Am!"
Tomy Drissi seemed headed to second in the No. 5 X-Men Origins – Wolverine Jaguar XKR, but he ran out of fuel on the final laps.
That gave second to Trans Am debutant Mike Skeen in the No. 70 Atlantic Autosports Corvette. Skeen was the 2008 NASA Spec e30 National Champion with 21 poles and 22 victories in 34 races. He set a record fastest lap of the race, 1:22.650-seconds. Skeen also earned the Flowmaster Star of the Race and Sunoco Hard Charger of the Race for his exhausting drive from 19th to second.
"This is our first race this long and I don't have a cool suit," said Skeen, the 2020 TA2® champion. "In fact, we've only had the car a month and weren't really sure we were coming until last week. In qualifying, we had a wheel separate and didn't turn a time. We knew we would have a good pace because we were good in practice and that was on old tires -- we only had one set of sticker tires.
"From the start, we just went for all the marbles. I knew I was catching the Jaguars, and figured Tony [Ave] was running away. Toward the end, I was starting to get hot, but I was still keeping up. It's great to finish second."
Amy Ruman finished third in the McNichols Corvette, equaling her father Bob Ruman’s best finish. Drissi was classified fifth, one lap down.
Other top 10-finishers included Jon Leavy in seventh and Bob Monette, eighth. It was the Trans Am debut for Monette, who is entered in this weekend’s race at Road Atlanta.
Another current competitor, Simon Gregg, was 16th with engine trouble in the No. 59 Corvette.
Drissi went on to capture the championship, with Ave finishing second.
Photo of Mike Skeen in 2009 action by Mark Windecker