On this Day in Trans Am History: July 26-27, 1986
July 26, 2020
July 26-27, 1986
Fans at the 1986 Trans Am Series Presented by Pirelli weekend got double their money’s worth, with a pair of exciting races at Road America. The 4-mile circuit hosted a 60-mile qualifying race on Saturday, followed by the 100-mile main event on Sunday.
Pete Halsmer won both races, driving the No. 3 Motorcraft/Mac Tools Merkur SR4Ti prepared by Jack Roush Racing.
Wally Dallenbach captured the pole for the qualifying race, turning a lap of 2:14.979 mph in the No. 2 Protofab Racing Chevrolet Camaro, and led the opening three laps. Halmser took over on lap 4 and led the remaining 12 laps, beating Dallenbach to the checkered flag by 2.160-seconds.
Jim Miller took third in the No. 28 Protofab Camaro, followed by Halsmer’s teammate, Chris Kneifel, in the No. 2 Motorcraft/Mac Tools Mercury Capri. Elliott Forbes-Robinson rounded out the top five in the No. 6 Performance Motorsports Buick Somerset, followed by Paul Newman in Bob Sharp’s No. 33 Nissan 300ZX Turbo.
Greg Pickett started third in the No. 3 Protofab Camaro and turned the fastest lap of the race, but went out with engine problems with two laps remaining.
Halsmer took over where he left off on Sunday, leading all 25 laps and beating Dallenbach by 1.229-seconds. Kneifel finished third, followed by Jim Fitzgerald in the No. 38 Newman-Sharp Racing Nissan 300ZX Turbo and Mike Miller in the No. 44 Budget Rent-a-Car Merkur XR4Ti.
“Elkhart was always an interesting track,” Halsmer recalled. “It was a combination of long straightaways and some real interesting, challenging corners. It had some real variety, some fast corners and sections along with some tight stretches.
“Also, I grew up in Indiana and some of the family was able to come to those races – Wisconsin was not that far away. There was usually a few people from the family that made it to the races. They camped out, and Road America was a great track to do that.”
Halsmer finished the year by winning the St. Petersburg season finale, ending the campaign with two victories and finishing second to Dallenbach in the final standings. The following year, he won four races and placed third in the points behind Scott Pruett and Les Lindley. He drove in only one race in 1988.
“It was fun racing against Wally, Pruett and some of those people, they were pretty darn good,” Halsmer said. “They really tested you, and I enjoyed the challenge,”
Twenty-four years later, Halsmer enjoyed a successful second career in TA2®, winning four of 16 races in 2012-13 and finishing second in the 2012 championship.
“I really enjoyed coming back with Mike Miller’s TA2® team,” he said. “I won a few races, and spent time mentoring Cameron Lawrence, who came into the team and showed he really had some talent. I really enjoyed the chance to be around and watch him, and maybe help him with some of the experience. It was fun to watch him grow and be as successful as he’s become.”
Today, Halsmer is enjoying the slower pace. A life-long flight aficionado, he tinkers with projects on small, experimental aircraft, adapting fuel injection to carbureted aircraft.