Rafa Matos prevailed in a back-and-forth battle with Mike Skeen to capture the pole for Sunday’s Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli TA2® powered by AEM race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Driving the No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro, Matos toured the 15-turn, 2.4-mile circuit in 1:25.585-seconds to earn his 10th career Trans Am pole. The session was run in late-afternoon sunshine after rain plagued most of the Saturday activities at the circuit.
“I am very happy with our qualifying strategy today,” said Matos, who finished third in the 2020 season-opening round at Sebring International Raceway in March. “I was able to put a great lap together while on the sweet spot of the tires early in the session. I was surprised by the gap so we took the chance of sitting in the pits to see what was going to happen. Our one lap was good enough to get the pole position. This weekend is a bit of a redemption after missing the win after being so close here last year. We are sitting in the best place right now for the long race tomorrow. With tire management and being smart, I feel very confident going into it."
Skeen stood atop the charts twice in the early going before settling for second with a lap of 1:25.801-seconds in the No. 77 Liqui Moly/Turn 14 Camaro. The Charlotte, N.C. driver won at Sebring from the pole and leads the points championship.
"We had made a good go at qualifying and felt like we had gotten the most out of the car,” Skeen said. “It was a good lap for what we had so we pulled in with five minutes left in the session to save the tires. We will have a strong race tomorrow. Being back in a physical race car is excellent. We all live for this sport and the feelings we get when we drive the car so being back together is a wonderful experience. The competition level is very high, so it is always a good challenge. Tomorrow is race day and my goal is to push as hard as I can to hopefully make something happen."
Thomas Merrill was third with his quick time of 1:25.977-seconds in the No. 81 Diehl-Merrill Racing/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang.
"We have a glass half-full,” Merrill said. “We wanted to do much better but have been chasing an electrical gremlin in the engine all weekend. We haven't been able to find it yet, but to qualify third speaks to the quality of this racing chassis. The entire Merrill Racing crew did a wonderful job. I wouldn't mind some rain tomorrow so it shakes things up. I am so happy to be back - it's a wonderful feeling trading in the simulator for my real race car! The Trans Am car is the funnest car I have ever gotten the pleasure to drive, so it's great to be back in it."
Merrill will be joined on the second row by Scott Lagasse (1:25.994-seconds) in the No. 92 M1 Racecars/B2D Neyer Motorsports Camaro. Two-time TA2® champion Cameron Lawrence will be gridded fifth (1:26.146-seconds) in the No. 8 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang.
Sunday’s 45-lap, 100-mile race is scheduled to take the green flag at 1:45 p.m. ET with live coverage on the Tran Am by Pirelli Racing App beginning five minutes prior to the race start.
By downloading the app, fans can access exclusive Trans Am content. Fans can watch the live stream of the races, follow their favorite drivers through the field by switching from six different camera angles, access live timing and scoring, keep up with the latest news and download the event program all from the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App (https://bit.ly/3dxc6Lg).
Streams will begin five minutes before the start of each race on Saturday and Sunday.