Who to watch during Sunday’s pair of Trans Am Series races

As the Trans Am Series approaches the season midpoint, competitors make their way north to Brainerd International Raceway (BIR), Round 5 of the 2016 Trans Am Championship, for the Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic, July 2-3.

The weekend will feature two 100-mile Trans Am races around the 2.5-mile Competition Road Course, with the TA2, powered by AEM, class holding an independent race and the TA, TA3 and TA4 classes holding an additional multi-class race. The annual northern pilgrimage to one of Trans Am’s historic homes marks the series’ 25th appearance on the Brainerd track.

The track, which Trans Am first visited in 1969, is known throughout the paddock as a “survivor’s course” due to its susceptibility to sandy and slick conditions, creating a pivotal stop on the Trans Am tour for all classes and championship hopefuls.

The stand-alone TA2 race marks the first of its kind at BIR and comes at a time when the 2016 TA2 Championship race has finally begun to take some semblance of shape. In attendance will be the current joint points leaders, Gar Robinson, defending TA2 Champion and driver of the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, and Tony Buffomante, driver of the No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang, tied atop the charts with 102 apiece.

While Robinson will be aiming to at least replicate his third place finish last year at BIR, Buffomante will prefer a more radical change from his 13th in 2015. They will be joined as initial favorites to finish up front by Trans Am veteran and Minnesota’s own Tommy Archer, in the No. 54 ECC/ KolarChev.com Chevrolet Camaro, and last year’s race winner Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang, who currently sits third in the points as well.

Included in the Minnesota contingent are drivers Jordan Bernloehr of Lakeville, in the No. 07 BCR/MillersOil/ProKart/AirJax Chevrolet Camaro, Tim Gray of Eden Prairie, in the No. 60 Ryan Companies US Inc Ford Mustang, and Cole Carlson also of Eden Prairie, in the No. 12 Stevens Miller Racing Dodge Challenger, who is making his first appearance in the Trans Am Series.

Additional drivers in the talent-packed TA2 class include Adam Andretti, John Atwell, Justin Haley, Shane Lewis, Lawrence Loshak, Chris Lucas, Louis-Philippe Montour, Keith Prociuk and Tom Sheehan.

The TA class competition will once more be headlined by defending TA Champion Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, who currently stands atop the class points with 118 to her name. Ruman will face a cast of familiar challengers including Round 4 victor Paul Fix, in the No. 50 StopFlex.com /TheCarCoach.com Chevrolet Corvette, and last year’s TA class runner-up at BIR, Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/ McMahon Group/ Lamers Ford Mustang.

Ruman has landed on the podium in four of the past five Trans Am races at BIR with two victories in those appearances, a win in 2012 race two of a double-header and last year in 2015.

Ruman’s primary challengers in the championship point standings, David Pintaric, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Chevrolet Corvette, and Kerry Hitt, in the No. 19 Advanced Composite Products Cadillac CTS-V, will need a different outcome on the weekend if they’re to start working away at Ruman’s current 30-plus point advantage on second and third place in the championship hunt.

For the second straight year, BIR track owner Jed Copham, in the No. 4 BrainerdRaceway.com Chevrolet Corvette, will be competing in the TA class, joining the likes of Vincent Allegretta, Claudio Burtin, Simon Gregg, Jim McAleese, Tim Rubright and Mickey Wright.

Trans Am’s production racing contingent will also be in attendance in the form of the TA3 and TA4 classes, with the Lux Performance Group Duo of Cindi Lux and Steve Streimer, in the No. 45 and 42 Lux Performance Group Dodge Viper ACRXs, once again joining the TA3 class at BIR.  Last year Lux and Streimer finished 1-2 atop the podium.

Joining them in the pursuit of the TA3 silverware this coming weekend will be Keith Anderson, of Rochester, Minnesota, in the No. 81 Archer Racing Dodge Viper ACRX, and Mel Shaw, in the No. 22 Bay Commercial Group/BETA Chevrolet Corvette.

TA4 will feature two-time defending Champion Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 BetaTools/Liquid Performance Ford Mustang, and Trans Am newcomer Trevor Janke, in the No. 31 Janke Auto/ Pender Racing Dev Chevrolet Camaro.

How to Watch on CBS Sports Network:

The Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic, featuring TA/TA3/TA4 will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network July 23 11 a.m.

The Ryan Companies Muscle Car Challenge, featuring TA2, will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network July 31 at noon.

Event Schedule:

Saturday, July 2, 2016
10:30 AM – 10:50 AM – TA2 Practice 1
10:55 AM – 11:15 AM – TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 1
1:00 PM –  1:20 PM – TA2 “Fast Five” Qualifying
1:20 PM –  1:40 PM – TA “Fast Five” Qualifying
1:40 PM – 2:00 PM –     TA3/TA4 “Fast Five Qualfying
5:00 PM –  5:20 PM – TA2 Practice 2
5:20 PM – 5:30 PM – TA/TA3/TA4 Practice 2
5:45 PM – 6:00 PM – 2nd Chance to Qualify

Sunday, July 3, 2016
1:00 PM – 2:15 PM – Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic Muscle Car Challenge featuring TA2, powered by AEM
3:10 PM –4:25 PM – Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic TA/TA3/TA4 Race