In what turned out to be a three-lap shootout to the checkered flag, defending TA2 powered by AEM champion Rafa Matos wheeled the No. 88 3Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro to his second consecutive victory at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli TA2 class.
The win marks the second for the Brazilian driver this season as the 2018 champion targets a second consecutive TA2 title.
Driving the No. 40 Prefix Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger, Marc Miller claimed his second runner up result of the season, with Dillon Machavern in the No. 77 Liqui-Moly Prefix Ford Mustang completing the podium in third.
All the Big Three manufacturers — Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford — were represented on the TA2 podium.
“It was crazy near the end with all the restarts,” said Matos. “Every one was a struggle. Marc [Miller] has a very fast car on the straight line. He had a really good jump going down the hill [on the last one], and it was not easy to hold him off for the win. My 3Dimensional Services team did an amazing job again this weekend — this is for them!”
Matos took the lead early in the 100-mile, 40-lap TA2 race, edging past pole-sitter Misha Goikhberg on the fifth lap. Battling back, Goikhberg was shuffled off track in Turn 1, and dropped back to mid-field.
Matos produced faster times each lap as his tires got up to temperature, building a sizeable 3.116s gap over second. However, a late-race yellow flag caused by a car off in Turn 4, grouped the cars back together behind the safety car.
Miller challenged Matos on the restart, but his run ended prematurely when another yellow flag slowed the field. Fresh off the second restart, Machavern packed in behind Miller and Matos before a third full-course yellow was called to retrieve a stranded car.
“We were struggling a little bit with pace at the start of the race, but the car seemed to come to me after it cooled down during the first caution,” Machavern said. “Then I was in really good shape behind Marc and Rafa, who did an awesome job.
“I’m really happy to be on the podium for the first time this year for our sponsors and team,” Machavern continued. “The Stevens Miller guys really grinded this weekend, getting the Liqui-Moly Mustang up to speed. They put so much work into this program and deserve this podium.”
With three laps remaining, Matos and Miller battled for position, with Matos getting to the checkered flag first by about five tenths of a second.
“I thought I had a good start on the first two restarts, [but] Rafa got a little tricky on me on the last one,” said Miller. “Those last two laps were the hardest I’ve ever driven. I was doing everything I could just to get back to Rafa’s bumper. The two guys standing beside me on the podium bring out the best in me on the track.
“The Prefix Hemi power on the straightaway was just incredible,” Miller added. “That was the great equalizer for us.”
Doug Petersen won the Masters award following a seventh-place finish in the No. 87 3Dimensional Services Ford Mustang, while 16-year-old rookie Ty Gibbs won the CoolShirt Cool Move of the Race award after charging from a 14th-place start to a sixth-place finish.
“I am a circle track driver typically,” said Gibbs. “This is my first time on a road course and in a TA2 car. I logged more than a 1000 laps on the simulator to prepare for this race because I was so nervous! But this was a ton of fun in these cars with the power and downforce that they have. I had a blast out here. It’s a totally different world, but the seat time was great.”
The TA2 presented by AEM class action continues May 3-5 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. For more information on the classes and race results, visit GoTransAm.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @gotransam.