Peterson takes checkered flag in Trans Am Series race

Doug Peterson started on the pole for Sunday’s Trans Am Series race and held off a tight field to win the final act of the 25th Annual Muscle Car Shootout.  The Trans Am field consisted of 22 cars, the largest entry for Trans Am at BIR since 1989.

Doug Peterson, winner of the Trans Am Series race
Doug Peterson, winner of the Trans Am Series race

The 40-lap, 100-mile Trans Am Series race, which featured Trans Am, Trans Am2 and Trans Am3 classes on the track at the same time, punctuated the Muscle Car Shootout. The event also included the grand finale of the three-race Muscle Car Series on the drag strip and the SCCA Jack Pine Sprints, which shared the 2.5-mile Competition Road Course with the Trans Am Series.

Behind Peterons and his #87 Chevrolet Corvette was defending TA Champion Simon Gregg and the #1 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette and Cliff Ebben, driver of the #66 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang.

The TA class began the race with a quick reshuffling of the leaders as Tony Ave, in the #4 Lamers Motor Racing/PME Engines/RPX Chevrolet Corvette, overtook both Ebben and Gregg to move up two positions on the first lap.  Amy Ruman in the #23 McNichols Chevrolet Corvette mounted a similar effort, pushing past Gregg and Ebben as well.

Ruman’s push was cut short as she hit a soft spot on the track and spun; and, while she recovered quickly, she lost the position she had so quickly acquired. Several laps later the #66 of Cliff Ebben spun as well but was unable to continue, leaving Gregg in third, behind Ave and Peterson.

Ruman made up ground at a furious rate, turning a lap record time of 1:28.974 in her efforts.  She caught up to Gregg  and his teammate, Jed Copham, driver of the #40 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette and BIR track owner, on the eighth lap of the race and overtook them with several quick, committed passes.

The group of Peterson, Ave, Ruman and Gregg continued in that order through a pair of double yellow flags and past the checkered flag, but not for the lack of trying, the entire group finished within one and a half seconds of each other.

“I knew that I wanted to set a quick pace for the first few laps to create a bit of a gap between myself and the competition,” Peterson said.  “Amy had a few issues early on so we were able to do that and I went into cruise control for a while.  But then we did go under yellow and it brought everyone back together and Amy was very fast at the end of the race—I congratulated her on that, but fortunately we were able to hold position for the victory.”

The victory was the fifth of the year for Peterson, who now holds a commanding points lead; however, he insists he will not be taking any of the upcoming races for granted.

“I don’t know exactly where I am in the points, but we do race by race and hope for the best,” Peterson said.  “The team really does a phenomenal job setting up these cars and that makes it easy for me.”

Trans Am2 (TA2)  began with Robert Huffmaster, driver of the #27 Kryder Racing/ VirSec Chevrolet Camaro, in first position followed by the #11 Ctek/Motorstate/NorthStar Battery Chevrolet Camaro of Cameron Lawrence in second and Bob Stretch, driver of the #98 Wheels America/ Fix Rim Mobile Chevrolet Camaro, in third.

Stretch shot up to second position, passing Lawrence on the first lap, but was unable to close the gap with Huffmaster, who was continuing to create space between himself and the rest of the TA2 pack.

Then, just as quickly as Stretch had moved his way forward, he dropped off—entering the pits during the fourth lap of the race, where he remained for the duration, retiring due to a mechanical failure.

Pete Halsmer, in the #12 Ctek/Motorstate/NorthStar Battery Chevrolet Camaro, moved up into the third position as Lawrence pushed into second.  They remained there until after the full course yellow, when, upon the restart lap, Huffmaster suffered a mechanical failure shortly after the green flag and limped his way back to the pits and a mechanical retirement from the race.

Lawrence was now the class leader, Halsmer moved up to second and Gregg Rodgers, driver of the #33 Pinnacle Autosport Chevrolet Camaro, took advantage of the situation to bear down on Halsmer.  Despite Rodgers’ efforts, Halsmer was able to fend off the #33 Camaro and the trio crossed the finish line in that order.

“We knew that Robbie and Bob had run fast all weekend,” Lawrence said.  “But I just focused on driving smart, and it eventually paid off.  It’s great to take home another victory for Miller Racing, and going forward we’re just going to play it smart.  We have a good point lead, and we’re going to keep the car in good shape.  We don’t need to push for first place every time or that extra point for pole, so we’ll save the car and race smart like we always do.”

Lawrence walked away with the TA2 class track record of 1:33.779 in hand as well.  The victory was his fifth of the season.

The Trans Am race also featured the Trans Am3 (TA3) class, Trans Am’s production class. David Seuss and the #9 Northern Light Porsche 996 GT3 emerged victorious and with the track record in hand, with Minnesota native Tim Gray, in the #60 Ryan Companies US Inc. Porsche GT-3 Cup 997, in second and the #16 Carribean Food Delights Ford Mustang of Rob Bodle in third.

Next up on the Trans Am circuit will be Round 8 at Virginia International Raceway on Sunday September 29, 2013.