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The 2017 Trans Am Finale at Daytona International Raceway saw teams and drivers battle early showers, multi-class traffic and an ever-changing track with Ernie Francis, Jr., and Tony Buffomante grabbing TA and TA2 class victories to close out the 2017 Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli. Sharing in the spoils were Tim Kezman, in the TA3 class, and Todd Napieralski, finally capturing a 2017 TA4 victory after five second place finishes and nine podiums.
For Francis, who locked up the TA class championship two rounds ago, the victory marked his 10th of the season in the No. 98 FramelessShowerDoors.com Ford Mustang. However, early showers seemed set to spoil Francis’ day, as the early stages of the race belonged to Tomy Drissi, in the No. 8 Murder on the Orient Express Chevrolet Corvette, who was the only member of the TA class to take to the 3.56-mile Daytona track with Pirelli rain tires.
Drissi would build a lead spanning over 40-seconds on Francis, the pole sitter, during the first eight laps until the field went under a full-course caution. The race would restart on the 11th lap; however, the track had dried considerably forcing Drissi to pit for a tire change on the 12th lap. Francis, then running second, took the lead and comfortably led the remaining 17 laps en route to the checkered flag.
“It was definitely an interesting race,” said Francis. “First off, I’ve got to thank Frameless Shower Doors, R & B Company and the Buoniconti Fund. I was honestly questioning the strategy at the beginning going out on slicks, those first couple pace laps were very, very slippery. Even the start, it was probably one of the most lack luster starts in TA we’ve ever had, no one really went anywhere. Drissi was out there on wet tires, so we knew he’d be fast. We knew the track would most likely come our way; and after the restart it dried out considerably and we took the lead, and cruised to the finish from there.”
2017 marked Francis’ debut in the TA class after three consecutive TA4 class championships, a debut that turned into domination with the No. 98 capturing ten wins, seven poles and 11 podium finishes.
“It’s been crazy,” said Francis. “A year ago we were just starting to think about this, trying to put together a TA program that could compete or even win a race. It was a far off dream to win a championship, never mind 10 races. The first season in the TA class, with the No. 98, it’s just been incredible and we look forward to next year.”
Francis was followed past the checkered flag by RJ Lopez, in the No. 06 Republica Brewing/ Optica Lopez Chevrolet Corvette, who finished second, capturing his second podium finish of the year in his third appearance. Lopez began the race in sixth position, running third early on before falling back to sixth before the restart—finally taking second position on the second to last lap.
Vinnie Allegretta, 2017 championship runner up in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, would finish third for his seventh podium finish of the year after starting second and running as low as seventh on lap 15.
The TA class top five was completed by Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and Tomy Drissi finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Ruman’s finishing position was enough to secure third on the year end podium, tied with Simon Gregg in points but winning the tie breaker by virtue of more second place finishes (two to one).
In TA2, Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Best Line Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, emerged victorious for his fifth win of the season. Like Francis, Buffomante began the race on pole but was quick to relinquish the position, falling back to sixth position in the 19-car TA2 field.
Curt Vogt, the sole member of the TA2 field on rain tires, led the initial laps in the No. 12 Cobra Automotive Ford Mustang, with Cameron Lawrence, in the No. 79 Class Auto Centers Chevrolet Camaro, taking the TA2 lead on the restart. Buffomante continuously climbed, taking third on lap 17, second on lap 22, and finally overtaking Lawrence for the lead on lap 27.
The victory marked a substantial rebound for Buffomante and the Mike Cope Racing crew, having been knocked out of TA2 championship contention and the race one round prior at COTA after contact from behind on the No. 34’s first lap out. The finishing position also secured second place in the year end points, overtaking Shane Lewis 304 to 299.
“We knew the pace would come once the track started to dry out,” said Buffomante. “Frankly, I didn’t want to do anything dumb in the first half of the race. We knew that the No. 34 Mike Cope Ford was super fast, being on the pole with a track record; so we knew we had the pace, but again, we played it safe the first half. I was just listening to my dad on the radio, listening to times and for when to go; and when it was time to go, it was time to go. It feels good; I’ve never won here before. Thanks to Mike Cope, Wilwood and Ilmor; it’s been an up and down year but they just don’t give up and my crew chief Travis Cope just makes it happen. I just can’t thank the Mike Cope team enough; the win here at Daytona is small consolation, but its consolation nonetheless.”
Lawrence would finish second, closing out the 2017 season in fine form with three podium finishes in as many appearances, while debutant Josh Bilicki, in the No. 25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro, finished third. Lawrence would end the race with the most laps led and the fast lap of the race for TA2, a 1:52.732.
The Robinson Racing duo of Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and Gar Robinson, 2017 champ and driver of the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA2 class top five, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. The TA2 class top ten also included, in order, Louis-Philippe Montour, Scott Lagasse, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Matt Parent and Keith Prociuk.
In TA3, Tim Kezman, in the No. 4 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3, led every lap but the pace for his third victory and fifth win of the 2017 season. Kezman’s victory, paired with Mark Boden’s TA3 championship-clinching fifth place finish in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3, capped of a stellar season for the Fall-Line Motorsport team.
“It’s been a great season,” said Kezman. “The team is everything. The Fall-Line guys, on the shop, on the road, we couldn’t do this without them. We knew something bad would have to happen to Mark for us to have a shot at the title, but it didn’t. He earned it; congratulations to him on the championship. It’s great to win at Daytona, thanks to Trans Am, to Pirelli tires, and Lemons of Love.”
Kezman had been in title contention with Boden entering the round; however, the latter only needed to finish fifty-percent of his laps at Daytona to clinch the title—a feat made somewhat difficult by a flat tire midway through Boden’s race.
“We certainly made it interesting,” said Boden. “We unfortunately lost a tire running second, but it was absolutely an interesting race with all those cars out there and those conditions. Cars were every which way and traffic tying things up, but it was a great day for Fall-Line with Tim’s win and Tom’s (Herb) third— it’s been a fun year, thanks to Trans Am and all the great tracks we’ve been to and the great crew at Fall-Line. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Lee Saunders, in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper ACR-X, finished second while setting a new track record 1:55.008 lap, while Tom Herb, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, finished third. The podium placements represented Saunder’s second in two starts and Herb’s fourth in 11.
Conor Flynn, in the No. 94 Irish Mike’s Automotive Porsche 997, finished fourth in TA4 while Boden finished fifth.
In a TA4 class competition that saw four different race leaders, Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ Tremec Chevrolet Camaro, finally secured his first win of the 2017 season after five second place finishes. Napieralski began the race in second position, falling back to fourth over the initial wet laps, before moving up through the field and eventually overtaking TA4 champion Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, for the lead with only three laps remaining.
“We took a chance on a full dry setup,” said Napieralski. “We didn’t disconnect any sway bars, and in the beginning it was just survival out there. Once the track started to dry out I was able to find some traction out there, and once it was fully dry Brian (Kleeman) and I had a great battle going— he’s a great driver and congratulations to him on the championship. We were able to manage things and tried to get by him three or so times, and he was just too strong. Then with about three laps to go we got around him and got our first win of the season. Going into the off-season with this momentum is great and winning at Daytona, it’s a bucket list victory— it feels awesome.”
Kleeman would finish second for his ninth podium of the season, while Ramin Abdolvahabi, in the No. 02 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage GT4, captured his first career Trans Am podium with a third place finish.
For moving up through the TA2 field over the final stages of the race, Tony Buffomante was awarded the COOLSHIRT Systems Cool Move of the Race; while the Total Performance Racing team of Todd Napieralski was awarded the Pitboxes.com Crew of the Race for securing their first win of the season. Napieralski’s crew chief Aaron Carson was awarded the Traq Gear Crew Chief of the Weekend as well.
The 2017 Trans Am Finale ran for 29 laps, 103.24 miles, around the 3.56-mile road course, going under a single full-course caution from laps 8 to 10 to retrieve the No. 75 Franklin American Mortgage Co Ford Mustang, of Carl Wingo stopped on course in an unsafe position. The race marked the first time that TA2 has run alongside TA, TA3 and TA4 in multi-class competition all season.
In total, 43 competitors participated in Trans Am’s ultimate round, with the TA2 class capturing seven of the top ten overall positions.
The following penalty was enforced by Trans Am Series Officials following the conclusion of the race: Claudio Burtin, in the No. 7, was penalized for avoidable contact and excluded from the results.
Top Three Trans Am Championship Points By Class
Ernie Francis, Jr. 386
Vinnie Allegretta 288
Amy Ruman 253*
Simon Gregg 253*
*Ruman wins tiebreaker (2 second place finishes to 1)
Gar Robinson 341
Tony Buffomante 304
Shane Lewis 299
Mark Boden 283
Tim Kezman 278
Tom Herb 211
Todd Napieralski 297
JR Pesek 190
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the track in 2018, opening the season at Sebring International Raceway on March 4.
Hurley Haywood scholarship winner and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Champion Jake Eidson earned yet another valuable trophy in the process - the keys to a brand-new Porsche 911, his to use for the next year.
Eidson inside his new car
Brittany Force, Robert Hight, Bo Butner and Eddie Krawiec were feted as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series champions Monday during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
After running select races together in 2017, NASCAR driver Chase Dowling and team owner Rob Fuller have announced that they will partner to run for a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) championship in 2018.
“This is something Chase and I have discussed throughout the season,” said Fuller, President of LFR. “With the success we had this season, it seemed like a good decision for both our sponsors and Chase to go after the championship.”
In just nine NWMT races in 2017, Dowling earned his first career pole, led 21 laps and earned a career-best five Top-5 finishes in one season. It was one of his most productive seasons to date.
“After our accomplishments we had in 2017, I can’t wait to run a full season with Rob and the LFR car,” said Dowling. “I feel we were a threat at every event this season and I look forward to carrying this momentum into the 2018 season.”
Dowling, a Roxbury, Conn. native, became the youngest Sunoco Rookie of the Year award winner in Whelen Modified Tour history in 2015 at the age of 17. In his three years competing in the NWMT, he has a total of nine Top-5 finishes and 20 Top-10s.
S&S Asphalt Paving and 15-40 Connection will be the primary sponsors on the No. 15 LFR car. Dowling has been supported by S&S Asphalt Paving since he began his racing career at the age of 7. This will be the sixth year that 15-40 Connection will partner with LFR to share the message of early cancer detection with race fans this season making it one of the longest sponsor/ team relationships in the series.
Stephen Kopcik will serve as the crew chief and the LFR shop foreman running the day-to-day operations of the team.
LFR has secured the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship every year since its inception in 2014. Fuller is a 30-year veteran racer with previous championships including 1998 and 1999 with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
In addition to his full time NWMT schedule, Dowling will run a LFR SK modified for Glenn Johnson and run for the SK championship at Stafford Motor Speedway.
“With my everyday involvement at LFR, it just seemed like the right thing to do at this time in my career,” said Dowling. “I have been extremely fortunate to have been with some of the best teams Stafford has to offer. Glenn is a great guy and has fielded a LFR car for two seasons and I look forward to working with Rob and all of Glenn’s guys to build a competitive SK team at Stafford.”
Glenn Johnson has fielded cars at the Connecticut short track for over 25 years and is looking forward to teaming up with his new driver in 2018.
“Chase is a young and very talented driver,” said Johnson. “I feel we have great equipment and can be competitive week in and week out with the right driver in the seat and I now feel like we have that.”
LFR will begin its 2018 race season at New Smyrna Speedway in February and then start the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season at Myrtle Beach on March 17.
LFR Chassis PR
Considered by many in the industry as one of the very best Crew Chiefs in the long history of NASCAR racing, Larry McReynolds will be appearing on Saturday, January 20th at the Pioneer Pole Buildings Motorsports 2018 Racecar and Trade Show Presented by Sunoco and Fueled by Insinger Performance. McReynolds will be appearing at the Jeff Hammond Store display located at the front entrance to the show.
Now a popular FOX Sports personality McReynolds guided the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. to his only Daytona 500 victory back in 1998. His teams also finished in the Top 10 close to 50% of the races in which they competed. Included were 23 Cup victories with two Daytona 500 wins along with 21 poles.
Over the years Larry has worked with such standout Cup talents as Earnhardt, Sr., Davey Allison, and Ernie Irvan.
McReynolds will be able to share stories of his career accomplishments, answer questions from the audience and sign autographs.
With the 33rd edition of the popular race car and trade show set to take place January 19-21, 2018, less than two months away, there will be much happening in regards to show activities and the new website (www.motorsportstradeshow.com), designed for easy use will be jam packed with the latest information as the show dates come closer.
The show again takes place at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA and all 250,000 square feet show display space will be filled with just about everything imaginable in motorsports including over 200 race cars of all kinds.
“Exhibitors are encouraged to share their show plans, specials, and announcements with us beforehand so we can build some buzz leading into the event,” said show promoter Len Sammons.
With the Tony Stewart announcement that the three time NASCAR Cup Series champion will be meeting with fans and signing autographs on January 20th (12 noon to 2 p.m.), and now McReynolds, interest is running high and will continue to grow during the weeks leading up to the show.
Many area speedways and sanctioning organizations will be exhibiting and will feature top drivers along with announcements regarding their 2018 season.
Exhibitors and those planning to be exhibitors have all the information they need on the new website to plan their participation.
"The show floor is more than 75% full,” said Sammons. “Companies looking to exhibit are encouraged to contact show manager Danny Sammons at 609-888-3618 for available show space before it's too late."
Diamond Resorts International®, a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, provided race fans a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy the Can-Am 500 on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, at Phoenix International Raceway with NASCAR legend and Diamond Resorts Ambassador Michael Waltrip.
Their exciting day began with a ride to the racetrack in a luxury party bus from Diamond Resorts Scottsdale Links Resort. The group then met with Waltrip, who escorted them to the pit road for an exclusive tour. Members got up close with many of the NASCAR drivers and their cars before watching the race from premium, shaded seats that included personal screens with in-car camera streams.
“Spending a day at the racetrack with a professional race car driver is a unique experience for our members and their families,” said Michael Flaskey, Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Resorts International®. “We are constantly looking to expand our Events of a Lifetime® series with vacation experiences that are family-friendly and cater to a range of interests.”
The experience was provided to members through Events of a Lifetime®, Diamond Resorts’ experiential vacation program. To learn more about Diamond Resorts, visit DiamondResorts.com.
Diamond Resorts PR
Erick Rudolph’s standard-setting winning ways on the Indoor Auto Racing Series Fueled By VP Racing Fuels races are a matter of fact.
The Ransomville, N.Y., driver is an eight time A-Main winner and three time Indoor Racing Series champion. Rudolph was a close second to Ryan Flores in last year’s title chase after winning the series finale in Atlantic City, N.J.
Heading into the 2018 Indoor Auto Racing Series events Rudolph will be coming off a career best outdoor season on dirt that produced 17 wins and the BRP big-block Modified Tour championship.
But there’s more: Rudolph, who has won all of his indoor races and titles driving cars designed and built by Ransomville neighbor Mark Lafler, will be charging through the field in an all new chassis this season.
Rudolph’s on-track TQ Midget indoor heroics are legendary.
“It’s not easy driving these things,” Rudolph said after winning his most recent Indoor Auto Racing Series championship in 2016. He makes it look that way, however, with a smooth driving style that always finds him near the front at the end.
The 2018 Indoor Auto Racing Series opens at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA., for the Ironton Telephone sponsored events on Friday and Saturday, January 5 and 6. Each night offers a complete show for the headline TQ Midgets.
The Ironton Telephone Allentown event schedule calls for racing to start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday with the Champ Karts as part of the program and 7 p.m. on Saturday with the Slingshots joining the TQ Midgets.
The NAPA Auto Parts Indoor Auto Racing Weekend follows in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on January 26 and 27. And the first ever Indoor Series race event in New York State, set for February 9-10, 2018 in the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, N.Y.
Though many would consider Rudolph to be a favorite, as many as 60 competitors have decidedly different ideas.
Two Connecticut champion drivers Keith Rocco, and Ryan Preece are in the field. Rocco has entered for the first time in a car formerly driven by Preece. Preece in turn, is driving the car formerly driven by the late Ted Christopher.
New Jersey native Ryan Flores of Mooresville, N.C., will be racing the same No. 15 Lafler he drove to two wins and the championship last year.
Also expected to be a contender for victories and the championship is Jimmy Blewett of Howell, N.J., recently crowned Wall Stadium 2017 Modified champion.
Driving a TQ Midget on the Indoor Series is a perfect off-season workout for the drivers. The TQs are open wheel race cars, specifically adapted for racing in the tight indoor speedway confines.
Powered by a 750cc motorcycle engine, the car and driver weigh only 825 pounds allowing them to ignite to speeds up to 75 mph. The unbelievable racing, with lap times under eight seconds, has produced huge fan attendance.
These are not cookie cutter race cars held in a box by a large rule book. The suspension and car design are open to the team, making it a throwback style of racing.
For choice Allentown tickets, contact the PPL Center Box Office by phone at 610-347-TIXX (8499), online at pplcenter.com. The 2016 event was a sell-out.
The series moves next to the NAPA Auto Parts Indoor Auto Racing Weekend in Atlantic City. For tickets, contact Ticketmaster, the Boardwalk Hall Box Office, or the Area Auto Racing News office at 609-888-3618.
The finale will be a first annual event in New York State, on February 9-10, 2018 in the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, N.Y. For choice tickets, contact the Times Union Center Box Office, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000, or visit online at ticketmaster.com.
TechForce Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on championing and aiding aspiring vehicle technicians, is administering a scholarship program established by Roush Yates Engines to support students enrolled in the CNC (computerized numerical control) Machining Technology program at Universal Technical Institute’s (UTI’s) NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC.
Of the eight $4,000 CNC Machining scholarships to be administered, four will be named after Roush Yates Engines’ co-founder Robert Yates, while the other four will be named after co-founder, Jack Roush. Awarding of the scholarships will start in the fourth quarter of this year with the remainder being awarded in 2018 and 2019.
“We are elated to administer these scholarships — first, for such an innovative company as Roush Yates Engines and second, for the specific need they address,” said TechForce CEO and Executive Director Jennifer Maher.
“Students will get the hands-on training a CNC machinist needs to create and engineer everything from aerospace parts and industrial applications to medical equipment and high-performance engine components.”
Doug Yates, president and CEO of Roush Yates Engines, pointed out the importance of the scholarships: “CNC machining is critical to the current and future success of Roush Yates Engines and manufacturing in the U.S. and beyond. By partnering with UTI we have created a platform for success in the CNC manufacturing industry.”
He continued, “The Roush Yates Engines’ scholarships support our belief in the next generation of CNC manufacturers. The future is bright and we are 100 percent dedicated to this dynamic industry.”
Mary Ann Mauldwin, Roush Yates Engines’ Chief Operating Officer, said “The manufacturing industry has evolved, seeking highly skilled workers who have not been easy to identify nor hire, but are in great demand.”
To help solve that problem, she said, “We are committed to this partnership with UTI, which leverages each of our business’ strengths, because it provides the framework to ensure our industry has a pipeline of future CNC machining technicians with the skills and experience to fuel this growing segment of our business.”
“On behalf of UTI’s students, I want to thank the TechForce Foundation and Roush Yates Engines,” said Kim McWaters, president and CEO of UTI. “At UTI, we’re committed to student success, which is why we partnered with Roush Yates Engines to create the CNC Machining program. With these scholarships and the ongoing support of the Roush Yates Engines’ team, more students can access our training and the abundant career opportunities available for CNC machining technicians across multiple industries.”
Mauldwin summed up the importance of collaboration for the benefit of the students, “We want to invest in our collective future together.”
CNC students at NASCAR Tech can apply for the scholarships at www.techforcefoundation.org
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wrought widespread devastation in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, leaving many families distressed and displaced from their homes. Through its disaster response efforts, Habitat for Humanity thoroughly assesses the shelter and housing needs caused by these storms and works to help rebuild and repair homes alongside homeowners in need of a decent place to live. DEWALT is proud to announce its partnership with Habitat for Humanity and contribute over $800,000 in tools and monetary support for Habitat's recovery and rebuilding efforts.
"We're incredibly proud to support Habitat for Humanity in their recovery efforts," said Frank Mannarino, President of DEWALT. "We know that disaster recovery is a long journey, but with the right tools and support we hope to make the process a little easier."
DEWALT and Habitat for Humanity of the Lower Keys will kick-off this partnership at the NASCAR Homestead-Miami Race in Florida on Nov. 19. Nearly 900 homes were destroyed and more than 1,000 families suffered damage in the Keys due to Hurricane Irma.
On Nov. 19, No. 20 Toyota Driver Matt Kenseth will sport a special paint scheme supporting Habitat for Humanity with a call to action, asking viewers to give at DEWALT-DONATE.com. All funds raised will be donated to Habitat's disaster response efforts.
"I'm excited to support Habitat for Humanity in this race," said Matt Kenseth, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Driver. "I'm always motivated to win, but even more so today, knowing that we're encouraging fans to give to a great cause."
In addition, DEWALT employees are volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of the Lower Keys for a rebuilding day on Big Pine Key.
"Habitat for Humanity is thrilled to have DEWALT's support," said Colleen Finn Ridenhour, senior vice president of Development, Habitat for Humanity International. "Having a tool brand such as DEWALT in support of our disaster response work is incredibly impactful for us."
Additional Highlights of the Partnership:
- On Thursday, Nov. 16, volunteers will help give back to two families in need of a decent home.
- Tony and Rima both work for Sugarloaf School in Summerland Key, Florida, which was damaged by the storm. They live on Big Pine Key with their two children, Claire and Antoine.
- Rebecca is a school counselor, and her husband Miguel, served in the US Airforce and now works as a security and alarm specialist. They live in the Lower Keys with their three children, Janelle, Collin and Marleigh.
- Days before the Homestead-Miami race, DEWALT will leverage its tailgate and fan zone presence to raise additional funds for Habitat for Humanity of the Lower Keys. For each fan who signs a 2x4 wood stud, DEWALT will donate $1 to the organization.