AVONDALE, La. [October 15, 2016] – Tony Buffomante led every lap of the Trans Am Series’ TA2 race at NOLA Motorsports Park (NOLA), maintaining the lead on every lap, despite strong challenges from Justin Haley and Shane Lewis throughout the race, eventually powering the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang past the checkered flag to secure his fifth TA2 win of the year. The win bolsters Buffomante’s points total to 256, putting him 33 points clear of defending champ Robinson with two rounds remaining.
While the victory was Buffomante’s fifth of the year, it was only his second from pole with the No. 34 previously needing to work its way up through the field in previous rounds.
“We needed this,” said Buffomante. “We’ve been manufacturing ways to win these last few races but needed to find the speed— and we found it. Travis Cope, Ilmor power, that old Mike Cope chassis—it all came together. I love driving that old chassis— it’s a 2013; and I ran my first race with Mike Cope in it in 2014 at VIR and have been having fun with it ever since. The guys are just learning, trying new things, and trying to get more speed out of that car.”
The previous four rounds have been good to Buffomante, finishing first at Road America, first at Virginia International Raceway, second at Homestead-Miami and now first at NOLA—something Buffomante attributes to the crew’s hard work and collaborative nature of the Mike Cope team.
“We’re just getting faster,” said Buffomante. “I’m getting some great coaching from my dad, Mike Stahl, Mike Cope—they’re all on the radio talking me through it. My teammates are pushing me hard too; we’re all learning together. We’re sharing data with Justin, Lawrence, Dillon and Keith— I mean how about Keith finishing fifth? What a phenomenal job he’s done. So even at some of these tracks I don’t necessarily like, we’re pulling one out and that means big things for us. I’ve never been to COTA, but I’m confident in the team’s ability to set up the car and put me in the best possible position.”
With only two rounds remaining Buffomante holds what might be considered by others a commanding lead, but it does not feel like it to the veteran road-racer.
“It doesn’t feel like it,” said Buffomante. “Everyone is just too fast. Justin has too much speed, Gar and Shane are coming on strong, you just can’t coast here and drive around thinking you’ll collect points—everyone is just too fast. So we’re trying to keep it clean, upfront. I just can’t thank Mike Cope enough for all he’s done, and I’m just happy to repay him with another win.”
Buffomante was joined on the podium by Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, who finished second and third respectively. Lewis ran second for much of the second half of the race but was never quite able to catch the No. 34 of Buffomante. With Robinson very much in championship contention, Lewis yielded way to Robinson on the final lap—allowing Robinson to overtake Justin Haley for second overall in the TA2 championship points.
Also out of the Mike Cope stables were Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Pennzoil Platinum/ MOMO/ ETE Reman Chevrolet Camro, who would finish fourth and Keith Prociuk, in the No. 5 HP Tuners Chevrolet Camaro, who secured a career best fifth place finish. Loshak would secure the fourth place finish with a last lap pass of Prociuk, ending a race-long battle between the two teammates.
Justin Haley, in the No. 99 Braun Foundation Ford Mustang, started second and remained there for the first half of the race before clutch issues saw him drop back to seventh position. Likewise, Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang, began the race in fourth and ran there for 14 laps before being sidelined by a mechanical failure of his own.
Leaving the event, the top five in TA2 points stands as: Tony Buffomante with 256, Gar Robinson with 223, Justin Haley with 221, Lawrence Loshak with 218 and Shane Lewis with 211.
For capturing a career best fifth place finish, Keith Prociuk was awarded the CoolShirt Systems “Cool Move of the Race,” while Stevens-Miller Racing was awarded the Pitboxes.com “Crew of the Race” for their efforts in repairing the No. 12 Speedlogix Racing Dodge Challenger of Jordan Bernloehr after a test day collision.
The TA2 class, and all of Trans Am, will now head to Circuit of The Americas for Round No. 11 on November 5th before heading to Daytona International Speedway for the Trans Am’s 50th Anniversary Season finale on November 12th.