AUBURN, Calif. -- Veteran open-wheel racing team Margraf Racing will enter two Qvale Mangustas and a Ford Mustang in the April 13 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup race during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend in California.
AUBURN, Calif. -- Veteran open-wheel racing team Margraf Racing will enter two Qvale Mangustas and a Ford Mustang in the April 13 Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup race during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend in California. Trans-Am Series veteran Rick Lee will team with former open wheel racers George Nolte and Marvin Jones. Lee and Jones will pilot the two Mangustas, while Nolte will drive the Mustang. The team plans to run several races this season in hopes of competing for the championship next year.
The team will run Huffaker chassis. Engines for two of the cars will come from Jennings Engineering and Huffaker will build engines for the third.
Team owner Bill Margraf, who has fielded cars in the Toyota Atlantic Series, Indy Lights, and, most recently, the American Cities Racing League, thinks the Trans-Am Series was the perfect next step for his team.
"We felt that the production-based arena is a lot stronger right now," said Margraf. "Open-wheel racing is just not very strong. We also looked at ALMS and Grand-Am and felt that the Trans-Am Series offered the best bang for the buck.
"The cars are interesting, have high horsepower and large tires," added Margraf. "They are like a road-race hot rod. We really like the package."
Margraf thinks the Trans-Am Series has a bright future.
We've done a lot of different things in many different series," said Margraf. "I think with what we're seeing, like at St. Pete, and all the feedback and energy around the Series--with the Jaguar program and Gentilozzi being involved--I think there's a lot of potential. I've watched the Trans-Am Series over the years while we were running Atlantic. As we get more involved in the Series, we feel pretty confident there is a lot of potential here. Gentilozzi has really psyched everyone up. From everything we are hearing and seeing, from a team standpoint, it's a good place to be.
"I think, also, you're getting a little boost from NASCAR," added Margraf. "NASCAR is still the premiere thing in the States. The Trans-Am Series is the road-racing version of NASCAR, and it's got a lot of potential for a team, a sponsor and everybody else."
Margraf plans a part time effort this year, followed by a full assault on the Trans-Am Series championship in 2004.
"We know we're going to do everything on the West Coast in 2003, including Denver," said Margraf. "There's also talk of Cleveland and Road America. We'll just have to see.
"Things can come to you and we're emphasizing being there at the end of the race, but we're not expecting realistically to be a front-running team this year," added Margraf. "Then, we'll see how things develop for next year and plan accordingly.
"We've been speaking to sponsors, and the people we've talked with, we've discussed long-term commitments. We see the potential here and we'd like to pursue it."
Margraf has secured BG Products as an associate sponsor and expects to have more backing as the season progresses.
"BG Products came with us from the Atlantic Series," said Margraf. "They've got a lot of experience in Busch and some other things. They're actually sponsoring the Atlantic Series. They're really interested. They haven't paid that much attention to the Trans-Am Series, but now they're really interested. We're also talking about some other programs and things could develop."
Lee, who competed in 10 Series races from 1996-1998, looks forward to returning to the Trans-Am Series this season. Lee has two top-ten and one top-five finish to his credit.
"The Trans-Am Series is just a great series," said Lee. "When I ran it before, I had a lot of fun and it was a great time. It has a great group of people, who put on a great show with fast cars.
"I like the sprint race format," Lee added. "I like the idea of a road racing version of a NASCAR-type car. I like the horsepower. It fits my taste for a racing weekend, without having to invest two weeks and millions of dollars and a huge team to go run a 12-hour or 24-hour race.
"There's just a sort of magical camaraderie that surrounds the Trans-Am Series as far as the history is concerned. I think it's an internal desire to be involved in the Trans-Am Series."
The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup features closed-fendered, production-based, V-8-powered sports cars. The Trans-Am Series is America's oldest continuously running sports car racing series and celebrates its 38th anniversary in 2003.
-scca pro racing/transam-