Trans Am returns to Daytona for 2013 Season Finale

November 13, 2013

Trans Am returns to Daytona for 2013 Season Finale

 29 years ago Willy T. Ribbs powered a Roush-prepped Mercury Capri across the finish line at Daytona International Speedway, becoming one of only 5 drivers who can say, truthfully, that they have won a Trans Am race at Daytona, a merging of a legendary series and a legendary track—in that moment he also became the last driver to do so. 

 
For the next 29 years Trans Am and Daytona went their separate ways.  Daytona continued as a revered track and one of the icons of American motor racing; Trans Am powered through the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s in spectacular fashion with drivers like Kendall, Dallenbach Jr, Gentillozzi, Haywood, Pruett, Sharp and Schroeder. 
 
 Then everything changed for Trans Am, leaving a modern-day Series that has always been considered secondary to the Trans Am of old.  A Series continuously belittled by continuous mentions of the good old days, how it once was and how it will never be again.  And for a while, it all seemed true.  The remnant shell of a once great series was simply treading water.  
 
How things have changed. 
 
The field that travels to Daytona for the NorthStar Battery Ctek Chargers 100 is representative of the racing renaissance Trans Am has undergone over the course of the 2013 Season.  Appropriate, given that this will be the final race of the year—a send off celebration for a season that has seen car counts continuously escalate and racing return to the competitive ranks that Trans Am always exuded in the hailed golden years.  To put it simply, Trans Am has put on a show.
 
While Daytona will be a last chance for Trans Am glory for most of the competitors in the Trans Am paddock, it is also a moment of Trans Am stepping out of its own shadow and into the future, no longer what could have been but what will be. 
 
Trans Am’s transformation is evident in the field that visits Daytona this weekend.  Out of the 41 cars that will roll into the paddock, 16 are Trans Am rookies and seven will be making their first ever Trans Am appearance.   The race will also feature a banner entry for the TA2 class, with 19 entries; this will be TA2’s largest field in Trans Am ever.  Finally, to top it all, this will be Trans Am’s largest entry at Daytona, ever, larger than in ’84, ’68 or ’67—Trans Am’s only appearances at the Florida-based track. 
 
While all but one of Trans Am’s Championships have been claimed and locked away for another year, there’s still plenty to race for.  A Trans Am victory is still a Trans Am victory, and better yet, it’s one at Daytona.  No one knows this better than the 2013 TA2 Champion Cameron Lawrence. 
 
“You don’t come out to the racetrack if you don’t want to win,” Lawrence said.  “We still want to run hard, and we’re always working on the car.  If nothing else, we’re developing the car for next year—trying to go faster—trying to get better—trying to win.”
 
Lawrence, driving the #11 Ctek/Motorstate/NorthStar Battery Chevrolet Camaro, captured the TA2 title earlier this year at Virginia International Raceway, but followed up the event with yet another win, his seventh of the year and sixth in a row.  If he wants to continue that streak he’ll have to fend off challenges from the largest TA2 field he’s come up against. 
 
Meanwhile, the race for second and third in the TA2 Championship is alive and well as Gregg Rodgers, Bob Stretch, Kurt Roehrig and Tom West each have a strong chance at claiming either of those spots.  The competition should bring about some of the best racing the TA2 class and Trans Am have seen all year, as drivers put it all on the line one last time this year.  
 
The TA class will feature a list of Trans Am mainstays, drivers who have proven their worth time and time again, including former Champions Tony Ave, in the #4 Lamers/PME Engines/ RPX Chevrolet Corvette, Simon Gregg, in the #1 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and freshly minted 2013 TA Champion Doug Peterson, in the #87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, putting the winners of the past four Trans Am Championships on the course together.  
 
Gregg will not be reclaiming his title this year, but he’s still second in the point standings, a position he’ll need to defend against Cliff Ebben, in the #36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang, who is currently third to Gregg by only eight points. 
 
For Doug Peterson, the 2013 Trans Am Championship may be secure, but the champ will still be looking for a victory in his home state.
 
“I love Daytona,” Peterson said. “It’s a great track and an absolute blast to race on.   I’m looking forward to really pushing the car on a track I know well.  This is an event I’ve looked forward to racing at all year.”
 
TA3 will feature a strong showing from the American Muscle Group, the last class without its 2013 Champion crowned—meaning the heat will be on for Chuck Cassaro and the #76Cassaro Enterprises/ Stack Data/ Aeromotive Metallica Ford Mustang. 
 
His main challenger is Rob Bodle, piloting the #16 Carribean Food Delights Ford Mustang.  Bodle trails Cassaro by a fairly healthy margin, making Cassaro’s clinch more likely than not; but, as most racers know, anything can happen come race day. 
 
Last round at Road Atlanta, Trans Am was treated to one of the best races of the season as Todd Napieralski, in the #39 TPR/SKF/TREMEC/ BackStreet Performance Chevrolet Camaro, battled back and forth with Steve Kent, Jr., in the #17 XLR8 Diesel Trucks/SKS Equipment Ford Mustang.  The duo switched places a total of eight times in an iconic battle between Camaro and Mustang.
 
Trans Am will also be joined by HSR, the Historic Sportscar Racing, which will feature cars that have raced in Trans Am’s past, assisting Trans Am in putting on a show that still honors the past while looking to the future.  
 
Trans Am will take to the track at Daytona International Speedway for the first time in 29 years at 11:00 am EST on Friday, November 15, for one of the day’s two practice sessions, the second of which will follow at 3:30 p.m.  Qualifying will take place at 10:30 am the following day, Saturday, November 16, featuring two split 15-minute sessions in preparation for the 99.68-mile race on Sunday.  
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