There were multiple events and media activities celebrating 55 years of Ford Mustangs competing at Lime Rock Park in the run up to the TA2 powered by AEM feature race. And after the race, the celebrations continued as it was a pair of Mustangs that dominated Saturday’s TA2 portion of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Memorial Day Classic.
Polewinner Thomas Merrill in the No. 26 Big Diehl Racing/Skip Barber Mustang kept Dillon Machavern’s No. 77 Liqui-Moly Prefix Mustang in his mirrors through the entire 100-mile event, leading flag to flag for his second TA2 victory of the season.
Machavern finished second with Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 92 SLR/Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro) rounding out the podium.
“The car was a rocket ship all weekend,” said Merrill, who had snatched pole position in the final seconds of qualifying from Machavern. “I got lucky with the traffic and used it to my advantage to keep Dillon behind me. Dillon is a respectable driver. There were several opportunities where he could have bumped me to take P1, but he kept it clean and I appreciate that.
“Mike Cope Racing really put together a great car at the last minute for me and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
Merrill pulled away at the start, leading Machavern by more than three seconds after just five laps. But his pace started to fade late in the race, allowing Machavern’s red, white and blue Mustang to close in. A late yellow regrouped the field after the No. 12 car experienced mechanical issues on track which required a tow, and that was just Machavern needed to close the gap to Merrill.
On the last lap, Machavern made a determined passing attempt at the uphill, but dropped two wheels off, giving Merrill just enough cushion to cross the stripe about a half a second in front.
“Thomas is good at making his car wide and big, and he really worked all the traffic well,” Machavern explained. “The Stevens Miller Liqui-Moly Mustang was awesome all weekend, but Thomas just bested me on the last lap in qualifying and really the same thing happened at the end of the race. I think we had the fastest car at the end, and we had some passing opportunities; but Thomas just knew how to make his car big.”
Using his NASCAR circle-track experience to full advantage, Lagasse pushed his Camaro from a fifth-place start to a podium finish despite losing power steering late in the round.
“I’m exhausted and ready for a nap,” Lagasse laughed. “To run this kind of a track without power steering was a little bit … interesting. We had a really good race car, but lost some speed after the power steering went out. We had solid race, though, and this track was a lot of fun.”
Championship-points leader Marc Miller also had issues early in the race after contact between his No. 40 Prefix Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger and the No. 25 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro of Tony Ave knocked him back to mid-pack. Working through traffic, Miller managed to finish the race where he started, in fourth.
“We soldiered the No. 40 Prefix Doge Challenger back through the pack to finish fourth,” said Miller. “We just didn’t have the car to win today, but we secured a solid result with no damage before the important Detroit GP double-header next weekend. It was a huge effort by the Stevens-Miller Racing team and Prefix. Also, as the only Dodge in the entire TA2 field, we had a lot of folks visit us during the Fan Walk. It was great to meet everyone and see some old friends. Now it’s time to head home to prepare for the next one.”
Having missed the previous round at Laguna Seca, defending TA2 champion Rafa Matos returned to the lineup at Lime Rock Park, and was able to make up two positions in the race, slotting into fifth.
Doug Peterson won the Masters award following a 10th-place finish in the No. 87 3Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang.
And after negotiating all the traffic cleanly to take the win, Merrill received the Cool Shirt Cool Move of the race.
The TA2 powered by AEM drivers have a quick turn around before the next Trans Am event, heading to Michigan for the Detroit Grand Prix May 31-June 2.
For results, standings, timing and scoring, visit GoTransAm.com.