Ernie Francis Jr. and Shane Lewis captured Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli poles today at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the series held qualifying sessions in preparation for its duo of races come tomorrow, the South Florida Sportscar Challenge and TA2 Muscle Car Challenge presented by AEM Infinity, Round 3 of the 2018 Championship. Also securing pole position was Randy Kinsland, with his second consecutive pole in the TA3 class.
In the TA class, Francis, in the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang, secured his second pole of the 2018 season behind a new track-record 1:15.558 lap around the 10-turn, 2.27-mile modified road course at Homestead-Miami. Aside from being the defending TA class champion, Francis is also the defending victor at Homestead-Miami — a course he considers his home track and one worth defending.
“We had to stake a claim here,” said Francis. “This is our home track. Coming in second, it’s not something we want to do here. Our Frameless Shower Doors, Buoniconti Fund, R&B Company Ford Mustang was set up really well. We’ve had pace all weekend here; the guys at Breathless did a great job with the setup. We’ve been fastest every session, and we knew the car had this kind of lap in it. We threw on a new set of tires and laid down the time. We’re excited to go out there for the race tomorrow; it should be a good one.”
Francis was able to set pole on his sixth and final lap, two to four laps fewer than most of his TA class competition — what he considers an important advantage on what is a notoriously tough track surface.
“We made a point of trying to get a fast lap in the least amount of time possible,” said Francis. “Every lap you go around this track, you’re putting a lot of wear on your tires. Especially on the banking, NASCAR Turns 3 and 4 are very rough on these cars, particularly at the speeds we’re going; the less time, the better. I think we’ve got one of the freshest sets of tires out there and, hopefully, it’ll serve us well come tomorrow.”
Starting alongside Francis will be the No. 2 Pennzoil/ETE/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro of Lawrence Loshak, who turned a 1:15.868 lap of his own. After battling mechanical issues all of last round at Road Atlanta, both Loshak and the No. 2 seem more than up-to-speed for tomorrow’s multi-class, TA, TA3 and TA4 race.
Road Atlanta victor Chris Dyson, in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang, will start in third position after a 1:16.309 lap, with RJ Lopez, in the No. 4 Tina Bazuca/ Republica Brewing Chevrolet Corvette, starting alongside courtesy of a 1:16.327 lap of his own. Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, completed the qualifying top five with a time of 1:16.584.
The TA class qualifying top ten also included, in order: Amy Ruman, Daniel Urrutia, Jr., Jeff Hinkle, Kenny Bupp and Tom Ellis.
In TA2, Shane Lewis captured his first TA2 pole of the season after turning a track qualifying record 1:19.739 from behind the wheel of the No. 92 Turnkey Industries/Surphis Chevrolet Camaro. Lewis will lead a 21-car TA2 field past the green flag tomorrow for the TA2 Muscle Car Challenge, also ready to defend his home track from a hard-earned pole.
“These TA2 poles are so hard to come by,” said Lewis. “The competition in TA2, every year it gets stronger; and when you think it can’t get any harder, it does. The pointy end of the stick gets pointier. To have the pole, it’s a privilege and an honor here at one of my home tracks. I love that it’s here at Homestead and that it’s for Napoleon Motorsports. It’s awesome.”
Starting alongside Lewis will be TA2 points leader Rafa Matos; while names like Kyle Marcelli, Jan Haylen, Tony Buffomante and Marc Miller occupy the top ten. The field will present a tough challenge for the No. 92 in fending them off, an unenviable task for Lewis, but one for which he’s very much prepared.
“I think these guys are going to be out for blood tomorrow,” said Lewis. “I mean that in as positive of a way as possible. We’ll have to be smart with this thing. We have to look at the weather; we’ve got some clouds moving in, possibly some rain moving in. I think it’s not just going to be the fastest guy; it’s going to be the smartest and the fastest guy who is going to win this race.”
Matos, on the heels of his first career TA2 class victory at Road Atlanta, will start second after a 1:19.928 lap of his own; while Kyle Marcelli, in the No. 96 AARD Inc/ FerPal/ MBRP Chevrolet Camaro, secured the inside of the second row with a 1:20.187.
Two-time V8 Thunder Cars Finland runner up Henri Tuomaala, in the No. 11 Puuilo/Prefix Dodge Challenger, will make his Trans Am debut from fourth starting position for the Stevens-Miller team after turning a 1:20.265; while Jan Heylen, also making his TA2 debut in the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA2 top five with a 1:20.282 qualifying lap.
The remainder of the TA2 top ten also featured, in order: Tony Buffomante, Marc Miller, Scott Lagasse, Jr., Louis-Philippe Montour and Keith Prociuk.
In the TA3 class, Road Atlanta race winner and defending Homestead-Miami victor Randy Kinsland secured his second consecutive pole from behind the wheel of the No. 11 RF Engines Chevrolet Corvette. Kinsland’s lap, a 1:21.838, will see him start on pole at Homestead-Miami for the second consecutive year.
Sebastion Carazo, making his Trans Am debut in the No. 61 Allied Car & Truck Rental Porsche 991.1, will start alongside Kinsland after a 1:22.023 lap of his own; while Shane Lewis, pulling double duty in the No 28 Team TLM Porsche 997.2, completed the TA3 qualifying top three with a time of 1:23.701.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will hold two 102.15-mile, 45-lap races come tomorrow, Sunday April 15: the multi-class South Florida Sportscar Challenge featuring TA, TA3 and TA4 at 9:20 AM EDT and the TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM at 2:00 PM EDT. Both races will constitute Round 3 of the 2018 Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli.
All results provisional until posted final.