Tommy Kendall podiums, Naiperalski and Greene take TA3 wins.
Doug Peterson (in photo from a previous event) showcased why he’s the defending TA Champion with a green-to-checkered victory at Brainerd International Raceway, his second at the Minnesota based track in two years, holding off strong challenges from Amy Ruman and navigating traffic on what was an unquestionably a slippery course.
The victory was Peterson’s second consecutive victory at the Minnesota-based track and added to his growing points lead in his ongoing pursuit of his second Trans Am Championship in two years behind the wheel of the Tony Ave Racing prepped Chevrolet Corvette. Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, finished second, while Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group Ford Mustang, took third.
“The race worked out well for us,” said Peterson. “We were going back and forth with setup all weekend and got it right for the race. Tony Ave Racing once again gave me a great car. It’s still early to be talking about the Championship; we still have three races left and anything can happen. We’re just going to keep on racing for the win in every race and everything will sort itself out.”
Ron Keith, in the No. 25 Offsite Management Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang, captured his first ever TA2 class victory and the first TA2 victory for Ford. The race finished with the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro all on the podium, the first time ever in TA2, courtesy of a second place finish by Tommy Kendall, in the No. 11 Miller Racing Dodge Challenger SRT, and a third place by Adam Andretti, in the No. 44 Engineered Components Chevrolet Camaro.
“It’s a good win for Ford,” said Keith. “At the beginning of the year I wanted to be different, and Mike Cope and I went ahead and decided to build a Ford Mustang. It was a great choice—the body is beautiful and the Phil Harper motor has been outstanding. At the same time, the car is only as good as the team and Mike Cope Racing and the Offsite Image Management team did a great job this weekend, like they always do.”
Greene tops TA3
In TA3, Jerry Greene, in the No. 93 Ever Greene Jewelry Porsche GT3 Cup, emerged victorious in the International Group while Todd Naiperalski, behind the wheel of the No. 39 Tremec/SKF/Backstreet Performance Chevrolet Camaro, took home a victory in the American Muscle Group.
Peterson, behind the wheel of the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, started the day as he finished it, in first position as the Series grid for the race was based on Championship points, a result of the washed out qualifying session the previous day. Alongside him was the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette of Simon Gregg, with Ruman starting in third and Ebben in fourth.
As the green flag flew, Peterson was challenged immediately by Ruman, who passed Gregg for second position during the first lap. Peterson and Ruman would battle back and forth for nearly half of the race until Peterson, slowly but surely, began to build his lead and Ruman began to find her hands full with the challenge of the No. 36 of Cliff Ebben, who had moved up to third after passing Gregg during the 19th lap of the race.
Ruman and Ebben would swap positions during the 27th lap of the race, but Ruman would retake second place before the completion of the race. Meanwhile, Peterson had continued to build his lead; and the three would cross the checkered flag in that order, with Peterson winning, Ruman in second and Ebben in third. Simon Gregg would finish fourth while Jim McAleese, in the No. 03 McAleese and Associates Chevrolet Corvette, finished fifth.
Peterson’s points total increased to 233 over the 194 of Ruman and 191 of Gregg going into the three final races of the 2014 Trans Am Championship. Jim McAleese’s fifth place finish also solidified his standing in the lead of the chase for TA Rookie of the Year honors.
TA2 a tight one
The TA2 race began with defending TA2 Champion and current points leader Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 1 Miller Racing Dodge Challenger SRT, on pole with Adam Andretti alongside, Ron Keith in third and Kevin Poitras, in the No. 73 Mike Cope Race Chevrolet Camaro, starting fourth and Bob Stretch, in the No. 98 FixRim Mobile Wheel Repair Chevrolet Camaro, in fifth.
Lawrence would lead for the first five laps of the race while Andretti, Keith and Stretch battled for the following three spots, with Keith pulling ahead into second and Stretch charging up to third. During the fifth lap of the race, the No. 1 fell behind as Keith, Stretch and Andretti all capitalized and moved ahead with Lawrence in pursuit.
From that point on Keith surged ahead putting his skills to the test as he slid and navigated through the course and traffic, showcasing his background in dirt racing on what was unquestionably a difficult track surface.
“It was really slick out there, and it just kept getting slicker,” said Keith. “You had to keep on moving your mark, between the change in track and tires you couldn’t rest whatsoever.”
While Keith continued, thoroughly entrenched in the first position, Andretti and Stretch continued to fight for the second position, with Andretti leading through the 25th lap until Stretch overtook the No. 44 for the coveted second position.
Meanwhile, Tommy Kendall, in the No. 11 Miller Racing Dodge Challenger SRT, was making his way up the field, after starting 11th, a consequence of gridding off points. After eight laps, Kendall had made his way up to seventh position—after 20 he found himself in fourth. Then, with only three minutes remaining, Kendall turned on, powering up past Stretch, who had fallen behind Andretti, and with one lap remaining was challenging for second place, passing Andretti going into turn 13 and fending off Andretti for the remainder of the lap, crossing the checkered flag just a car length ahead of the No. 44, giving the Dodge Challenger its first podium in TA2 in only its second race.
Kendall 'still learning'
“I’m still learning what I want the car to be like at the start, what the arc of the race is, how much everything changes throughout the race—the car felt good,” said Kendall. “When I worked my way up to fourth, they said I was about 18 seconds back; and I almost relaxed and settled in but the car was getting better and better so I just put my head down and starting digging. I got a solid chunk off and then Adam hurt his splitter and I was able to make a move.”
“It’s been a six-week thrash for us. For all of us, guys spending their off hours helping out, this is a nice payback for them; and to get on the podium for the first time in ten years feels pretty good too. 11 having a good showing, having the Challenger back on the podium, I’m happy with the direction we’re heading.”
Andretti’s third place finish helped close the gap on Lawrence, who still leads the points with 228 after a fifth place finish at BIR; as Andretti leaves Minnesota with 214 points to his name, well within Championship contention. Ron Keith saw his total continue to grow as well, now firmly entrenched in third place with 188 points.
Francis on pole in TA3
TA3 began with Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 9 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro, in first position for the American Muscle Group followed by defending Champion Chuck Cassaro, in the No. 76 StackData/Aeromotive/ Metallica Ford Mustang, in second and Todd Napieralski, in third.
Norm Betts, in the No. 82 Hoosier/ VP Fuels Chevrolet Corvette, began the race leading the International Group with Jerry Greene in second.
Francis would fall behind during lap three; as the No. 9 was forced to visit the pit lane for technical adjustments, leaving Cassaro to pull forward. However, the defending champ’s lead was short lived; as Napieralski overtook him for the lead only a lap later—a lead he would not relinquish for the remainder of the race. Fernando Seferlis, in the No. 28 Compulab Panama Chevrolet Camaro, moved his way up through the pack from his starting position of fifth, eventually overtaking Cassaro for second on the sixteenth lap.
Meanwhile, Francis was moving back up through the field, eventually overtaking Cassaro and then Seferlis, solidifying a second place finish for the No. 9, as Seferlis finished third, giving Breathless Performance two spots on the American Muscle group podium as Napieralski finished first in the group.
“We kind of fell off mid-season,” said Napieralski. “But its good to have two strong races here… I don’t know if we’re in the championship hunt quite yet, but we still have three races to go and a lot can happen. We had a great car at the beginning, and unfortunately it got away from us a bit so we backed off but came on strong at the end. It was a bit slick out there, but we had a great race, no full course cautions, just racing and it was a lot of fun.”
Jerry Greene would outlast Betts for the first overall position in the International Group, putting the No. 9 Ever Greene Jewelry Porsche GT3 atop the podium for his first ever Trans Am win in his home state of Minnesota.
“It’s a special feeling to win here in front of friends and family,” said Greene. “They’ve supported me all weekend, and it means a lot to pull off the victory here for them.”
Greene’s win moved him up to fifth place in the TA3 International points, while Bett’s second place finish propelled him up to second place with 116, leapfrogging Jason Berkeley in pursuit of current points leader Russ Snow, who stands at 138 points.
Francis, Jr., remains atop the TA3 points with 213, while Chuck Cassaro remains in second with 196, and Todd Napieralski moves up to third with 181.
Trans Am will now head to Lime Rock Park for Round 9 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship on September 20th as the season heads towards its climax with only three events remaining.