Minnesota connections highlight Trans Am Series race

As Trans Am prepares for its annual northern pilgrimage to Brainerd International Raceway, it does so in the midst of the creation of a new tradition, a celebration of both Trans Am’s heritage at this historic home for the Series and our country with the Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic, Round 6 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship July 4-5.

Trans Am brings with it a 41-car field to assist in the celebration, a near record entry at Brainered International Raceway, in the Series’ long and storied history at the Minnesota-based track—marking a drastic increase over the 29-car entry Trans Am fielded only last year.

“With this new date, we’re working to build something special at BIR,” said John Clagett, President of The Trans Am Race Company. “This is unquestionably one of the true homes of Trans Am, one that we’ve been racing at since 1969. Now, with the partnership of Ryan Companies, we’re bringing the spectacle of Trans Am at BIR to a national audience on CBS Sports Network and are working to build an event that celebrates the Fourth of July in style.”

In addition, hometown fans will have the opportunity to root for a large Minnesota contingent of drivers and teams who have made their own names within the Trans Am Series, including: Derhaag Motorsports, Archer Racing, Joe Stevens, Tim Gray, Jerry Greene, Jed Copham and, last, but certainly not least, Tommy Archer.

BIR will mark Archer’s return to Trans Am’s TA2 class, complete with a brand new No. 54 c3controls Chevrolet Camaro, after having sat out the prior four rounds in a final round of treatments in his battle with prostate cancer. Now cancer-free Archer, a Duluth native, will make a return to the drivers seat; as he begins his pursuit of Trans Am podiums once more at his home track of Brainerd International Raceway.

Jed Copham, owner of BIR and now driver of the 07 BIR Performance Chevrolet Corvette, has also thrown his hat into the ring for the weekend as a member of the TA class, competing in Trans Am for the third year in a row, as he prepares to take the meaning of home track advantage to a whole new level.

Joe Stevens, driver of the No. 11 MOPAR Dodge Challenger, hot off his career high fifth place finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park joins the hometrack contingent along with Ryan Companies’ own Tim Gray, in the No. 60 Ryan Companies US Inc Chevrolet Camaro, as they both push for their first podium placements of the year.

Derhaag Motorsports, based out of Minneapolis, will look to rebound at BIR as both Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and Mickey Wright, in the No. 6 Fan Rag Chevrolet Corvette, prepare under the guidance of team owner Jim Derhaag, Minnesota native, who perhaps knows the nuances of the BIR course better than anyone in the Trans Am paddock.

Jerry Greene, driver of the No. 93 Temp Air Porsche 996 GT3, will also carry the Minnesota banner as the lone home-state entrant in TA3, Trans Am’s production based class—a competition that he won at BIR last year.

All eyes will also be on the hotly contested battle for the TA class Championship between current points leader Amy Ruman, driver of the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and Paul Fix, in the No. 4 StopFlex.com/TheCarCoach.com Chevrolet Corvette. Ruman currently leads Fix by a meager 11 points going into BIR, setting up a second half of the season showdown between the two hottest drivers in the Trans Am paddock—both are yet to miss the podium; and while Ruman has four wins to Fix’s one, the pressure is on for both drivers in one of the tightest Championship races in memory.

One would be remise to neglect the presence of Doug Peterson, in the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette. Peterson, two-time defending TA class Champion and 2014 BIR victor has had a less than optimal start to the season, hampered by mechanical issues and poor fortune; however the champ is more than well aware that there are plenty of races remaining on the 2015 circuit and a repeat performance at BIR would go a long way towards spring boarding his title defense.

Peterson, will join the likes of Cliff Ebben, John Baucom, David Pintaric, Claudio Burtin and Jim McAleese in an attempt to put a fresh face on the top of the TA class podium, one that has been dominated by Ruman and Fix so far in 2015.

In TA2 two-time defending Champion Cameron Lawrence will look for a return to form after two races in which his podium pursuits have been ended prematurely by contact on course. While he still holds a large lead in the TA2 point standings, he’s seen his gap over runner-up Adam Andretti, driver of the No. 44 Engineered Components Ford Mustang, dwindle and will be more than ready for a return to normalcy in a class that he’s dominated over the past two years.

Standing in his way will be a bevy of competitors in the 20-car deep talent pool that is the TA2 class, with front runners like Andretti; Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro; Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 UniFirst Ford Mustang, Shane Lewis; in the No. 72 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro; and Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 5 Raybestos Powertrain Ford Mustang, all looking to increase their current top five point standings and force their way into the Championship discussion for the remainder of the year.

Andretti in particular seems to have finally found his niche several races into the ECC team’s switch to the Ford Mustang platform, a switch that finally saw their efforts rewarded with a victory at New Jersey last round. Now, Andretti will aim to keep that momentum alive as he prepares to close the gap on Lawrence and reignite a rivalry with the two-time champ that went down to the wire last year.

As always, fans will be sure to keep an eye on Tony Ave, in the No. 70 Lamers Motor Racing Ford Mustang, as he continues his first season in TA2. The former two-time TA class Champion already has one TA2 win under his belt and has a history of success at Brainerd where he has four TA class victories.

Trans Am’s TA3 class will also be on display with both American Muscle and International Group set to participate. In the American Muscle class, current TA3 points leader and defending Champion, Ernie Francis, Jr., will once more be matched against Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Tremec/SKF/Backstreet Chevrolet Camaro—the two are currently one-two in the points as they head north to BIR where Napieralski was victorious last year—there, they will be joined by Fernando Seferis, Mel Shaw, Tim Rubright and Jason Fichter in the pony car exclusive class.

In the International Group, Minnesota’s own Jerry Greene will see the precision of his Porsche GT3 pitted against the American power of Lux Performance Group’s Dodge Vipers, driven by Cindi Lux and Steve Streimer. Greene will look to continue his success at his home track compared to the competition, as both Lux and Stremier prepare to make their Trans Am debuts at BIR.

Trans Am will kick off the weekend’s festivities on Saturday, July 4th with practice at 10:30 a.m. central, followed by “Fast Five” qualifying at 2:20 p.m. Action will continue on Sunday, July 5th at 9:00 a.m. for a second practice session followed by the second chance to qualify at 9:30 a.m. as teams prepare for the 100-mile, 40 lap, Ryan Companies Independence Day Classic at 1:50 p.m. for Round 6 of the 2015 Trans Am Championship with all three classes participating.

Trans Am will be joined at BIR by drag racing, the National Auto Sport Association, live music and a firework display for a full weekend of celebration and motorsports.

By Trans Am Series