Dominant Performance Ends with 3 Laps to Go at VIR

September 28, 2014
Dominant Performance Ends with 3 Laps to Go at VIR

ALTON, Va. (Sept. 28, 2014) – Paul Fix captured his second consecutive Trans Am victory from behind the wheel of the No. 4 Ave Racing Chevrolet Corvette at Virginia International Raceway (VIR); while his teammate Doug Peterson, in the No. 87 Chevrolet Corvette, came in second, securing a one-two finish for Tony Ave Racing and the 2014 Trans Am Championship for himself, defending his title from 2013.

In TA2, Adam Andretti, in the No. 44 Engineered Components Chevrolet Camaro, completed a drive for the Trans Am history books, coming up from his starting position of 15th in class to claim victory in what was a exciting, if somewhat tumultuous, finish for the TA2 class, moving within one point of defending TA2 Champion Cameron Lawrence and setting up a showdown for the TA2 Championship at Daytona International Speedway at the season finale.

In TA3’s American Muscle Group, Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 9 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro, led the entire race—capturing victory, but also capturing the 2014 TA3 American Muscle Championship, and in doing so becoming the youngest Trans Am Champion ever at only 16 years of age.

Jason Berkeley was victorious in the TA3 International Group after starting second in class, powering the No. 67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette to its third win this year and taking the lead in the group’s point standings going into Daytona.

The race began with Fix atop the grid of 39 cars, a record for Trans Am and the VIR course, with teammate Peterson alongside and the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette of Simon Gregg in third, Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, in fourth position, and John Baucom, in the No. 86 Baucom Motorsports Ford Mustang, in fifth.

During the first lap of the race Ruman jumped ahead of Gregg for one of her customary fast starts and began her pursuit of Peterson, while Fix quickly built up a gap between himself and Peterson over the course of the first five laps.

In TA2, Tony Buffomante, in the No. 79 Ilmor Powered Chevrolet Camaro, started the race on pole with defending TA2 Champion Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 1 CTEK/NorthStar Dodge Challenger, in second position, and the No. 25 OffSite/Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang of Ron Keith in third

Kevin Poitras, in the No. 73 PostPlastics Chevrolet Camaro, started in fourth, while Bob Stretch, in the No. 98 FixRim/Wheels America Chevrolet Camaro, started fifth.

Buffomante was able to build a slight gap at the beginning of the race, but Lawrence remained no more than a couple car lengths behind, tailing the pole sitter throughout the first 12 laps of the race, until the No. 1 began to experience mechanical issues, forcing the defending Champion into the pits on two consecutive laps, 13 and 14, as the Miller Racing team worked relentlessly to try and get the No. 1 back up to speed.

Ron Keith quickly took advantage of Lawrence’s misfortune, moving up to second, but it was the No. 44 of Adam Andretti that was capturing the spectators’ attention. Andretti had been forced to move to the back of the TA2 field after replacing the tires on the No. 44 machine. Undeterred, Andretti began to move his way up through the field, moving up five positions in his first lap, then settling into a rhythm, grabbing one or two positions a lap until finding himself third on lap 13 of the race, behind the Mike Cope duo of Buffomante and Keith, where the trio remained going into the first full-course caution of the race on lap 16 to retrieve the No. 17 XLR Diesel Trucks Ford Mustang of Steve Kent, Jr., which was stopped on course.

The duration of the yellow would be extended to retrieve the No. 1 of Lawrence, as the champ tried to re-enter the race before suffering a failure at turn five.

Racing would resume on the 21st lap of the race as Fix resumed his work of rebuilding his lead, meticulously logging lap after lap; however, behind him, his teammate, Doug Peterson, was having to fend off the continual challenges of Amy Ruman.

At the end of the day, the competitors would cross the finish line in that order, marking Fix’s second consecutive victory in the TA class in what has been a dominate performance over the past two rounds, as he’s led the past eight sessions on track in relative comfort.

“It’s always a mix of strategy and conditioning,” said Fix. “I work out constantly to build up my stamina just to keep focused on each lap, and that’s a big element. When you’re tired you make mistakes, and I really concentrate on that, turning identical laps time after time, and I hold myself to that standard. That and traffic, the element of traffic really plays into my hand. I like getting into a rhythm and going through it. In the end, Tony Ave gave me a great car, and we were able to go out and execute—a good day.”

Doug Peterson crossed the line in second, but was able to secure the 2014 Trans Am Championship for the second year in a row, becoming one of only the seventh drivers to secure consecutive Championships in Trans Am history, joining Tony Ave, Paul Gentilozzi, Tommy Kendall, Wally Dallenbach, Jr., Peter Gregg and Mark Donohue.

“It’s a great feeling to be among them,” said Peterson. “I don’t know if my name really belongs up with those guys. But we’ve had to work hard for it this year—incredibly hard. We change the setup each race, more than anyone else does; and I drive my heart out every race. But yes, this year has been a struggle. I got hit at Homestead, blew a motor up in Canada, it’s been kind of a tough little year for me. But it’s good to be back on top, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Peterson’s finish also secured a one-two finish for Tony Ave Racing and the team’s fourth Championship in five years.

“This is what we work so hard for— getting these kind of results,” said Ave. “We build great cars and have great engines; so when you put the best cars and the best drivers together, you should get the best results and that’s what we’ve gotten today. But we’re working hard to stay on top; we’ll be building a new car for Doug this offseason and working hard for Daytona, as this class is getting more and more competitive every day.”

Amy Ruman would finish third and will now have her sights set on catching Simon Gregg who finished fourth, in the race for second place come the end of the season at Daytona International Speedway. Meanwhile, John Baucom would finish fifth after falling as far behind as 11th position.

TA2’s finish was far more climatic. Tony Buffomante continued to set the pace from behind the wheel of the No. 79 going into the final three laps of the race, but the Ilmor Powered machine began to experience fuel pickup issues, forcing Buffomante to take measures into his own hands, shaking the car for gas until the rear wheels locked up on the No. 79, causing it to make contact with the No. 44 of Andretti, who was running in second at the time.

Both the No. 79 and 44 spun, and while Andretti was able to regain control, Buffomante remained suspended sideways on track. Teammate Ron Keith came around the corner and, with nowhere to go, made contact with the No. 79, taking both cars out of the race.

Andretti would continue underway; while Kevin Poitras, also of Mike Cope Racing, would move up into second and Bob Stretch would move up into third as the three drivers continued in that order past the checkered flag.

“I was hoping for a top-five finish, maybe a podium,” said Andretti. “But I didn’t see this. But I’ve been inspired by a lot of drives this year, Cameron (Lawrence) driving up from behind so many times, Amy (Ruman) and what she’s done this year. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from this paddock; and my team was preaching patience to me the entire race. I had my dad in my ear the entire time as well, saying the same thing. I’m really proud of our effort as a team.”

The victory moved Andretti within one point of Lawrence in the TA2 Championship standings, setting up a showdown between the two drivers going into Daytona.

“It’s going to be wonderful,” said Andretti. “This is what the fans want, what the Series needs. It says a lot about what the Trans Am Series has accomplished, taking a relatively new class like TA2 and having it be this competitive, this contested. I’m excited about where this Series is headed, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Kevin Poitras would finish second, tied for his highest on the year and moving up into third in the TA2 Championship standings, setting up another battle for end of year position in the class, this time with teammate Ron Keith.

Bob Stretch would finish third, moving up to fifth in the points, while Gar Robinson, in the No. 64 74Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, would finish fourth—his second fourth place finish in a row. Tom West, in the No. 56 Limerick Machine Company/ Treelaine Chevrolet Camaro, would finish fifth.

In TA3’s American Muscle Group, Ernie Francis, Jr., led the way from behind the No. 9 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro the entire duration of the race, as he has on multiple occasions this year. This was his second consecutive victory; but, more importantly, he captured the TA3 American Muscle Championship and the history books, as he became the youngest Trans Am Champion ever at the age of 16, overtaking the mark set by Cameron Lawrence last year and Wally Dallenbach, Jr., in 1987.

“It feels great going into the history books with Trans Am,” said Francis. “It’s been a great place to race all year and an amazing Series to be a part of. We came in missing a few races with some ground to make up. So to comeback up through the ranks and finish with a Championship… it’s been a great year for us and I’m so proud of the result.”

Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 TPR/Tremec/BackStreet Performance Chevrolet Camaro, would finish second after starting third, increasing his points total in his battle with defending Champion Chuck Cassaro for a spot on the end of the year podium; and Rich Jones, in the No. 37 JOMAC Truck Bodies and Cranes/ Deb’s Peppers Ford Mustang, would finish third after starting fifth in class.

In TA3’s International Group, it was Jason Berkeley, in the No. 67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette, who would claim victory after starting second. Berkeley was able to navigate the on course traffic and outlast pole sitter Russ Snow, in the No. 20 Carbotech Chevrolet Corvette who suffered a mechanical failure, for the victory, his second in a row.

“We’ve worked so hard over the course of the weekend. My crew have busted their butts getting us ready to run every session, and we had some great help from one of our competitors, Russ Snow, to help us make the race. It was a great team effort, and we’re happy to have the momentum going into Daytona.”

Berkeley is now the TA3 International points leader, leapfrogging Norm Betts, who finished second in the race behind the wheel of the No. 82 VP Fuels/Hoosier Chevrolet Corvette, for the Championship lead.

Trans Am will return to the track for the finale of the 2014 Trans Am Championship at Daytona International Speedway on November 15, as more Champions are crowned and another year of Trans Am racing goes into the history books.

Provisional Results