Saturday’s Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Muscle Car Challenge was all about survival. On Sunday, the TA2 powered by AEM drivers amped up their aggressiveness for the Motor City Dash, risking everything for a chance to join the prestigious list of Detroit Trans Am winners.
Celebrating his 100th career Trans Am start, Tony Ave (No. 25 BC Race Cars) took the lead in the final laps of an eventful race to claim his 19th career Trans Am victory, and his first-ever Trans Am win on the streets of Belle Isle.
Dillon Machavern (No. 77 Liquid-Molly Prefix Ford Mustang) dodged lapped traffic and accidents to finish second, while 2018 winner Tony Buffomonte (No. 34 Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang) recovered from a spin into the barriers and fought his way back for a third-place finish.
“I’ve been trying to win this race since 1994!” Ave exclaimed. “I’ve led it a bunch of times, but I haven’t been able to hit that top spot. We didn’t have quite enough speed early so I just stayed close. My car got good toward the end and I was able to run [the leaders] down, but passing was going to be an entirely different issue. Then, what usually happens at these places started to happen, with everyone going sideways, grabbing gears and spinning tires. I thought, ‘This is living!’ We were just scrambling, but we came out with the lead and I couldn’t be happier.”
Ave’s teammate Misha Goikhberg started on pole in the No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro, but lost the lead to Buffomonte as soon as the green flag dropped. Buffomonte quickly gapped the rest, leading the pack in the early laps by more than a second before losing it all on his own in Turn 7. He spun backwards, making hard contact with the barriers, but fortunately his Mustang was able to continue under its own power.
Buffomonte never regained the lead, though, as Machavern’s Mustang seized first.
“I had that one locked up and threw it away; so sorry to my guys,” said Buffomante. “I was just pacing, minding the gap and then wheel-hopped it going into Turn 7. I lost the back end and stuck it in the fence. I pulled it out of there and took off, doing some really fast laps, just trying to catch up.
“That shows just how fast the car was — it was ridiculous. Next time. Congratulations to BC Race Cars on a great finish.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s race winner Goikhberg was hounding Machavern, but, in a bid for the lead, hit the curbing on the Horseshoe turn, spinning and collecting unlucky podium-contenders Rafa Matos and Lawless Alan in the process.
Goikhberg and Alan continued, but reigning TA2 champ Matos’ charge to the top ended with his No. 88 Lear 3Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang being towed back to the pits. The incident brought out the first of two full-course cautions.
Goikhberg steadily worked his way back through traffic up to second and challenging Machavern — again — for the lead only to make contact with the Turn 7 tire barriers. At the same time, Machavern lost momentum clearing the lapped traffic in front of him, opening the door for a hotly pursuing Ave who pounced to grab the lead just before the safety team was deployed to clean up the debris from Goikhberg’s accident.
Time was limited and the debris was not cleared before the 75-minute limit was reached, the race ending under yellow. It was a big win for Ave, while Machavern could at least on a big move up in the point standings.
“It was a really good points weekend for us, though it was a frustrating race,” said Machavern. “Tony (Buffomante) was really the class of the field. He ran an awesome race and was fast all weekend, but those bumps can throw you off under braking. But I’ll take a lead any way I can get it.
“Once I got through, I thought we had it won, but then I got bottled up behind lapped traffic. Misha got into the back of me and the only thing that kept me from spinning was the wall. You hate to lose the lead that way, but the most important thing in the end was the podium and the points. This was a very special win for Ave and I’m glad we could celebrate with him.”
Local drivers Marc Miller and Jordan Dick also had their share of issues on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile course. Dick lined up for the start of the Motor City Dash but scratched with mechanical issues. Points leader Miller started the race in fourth, but early contact sent him into the Turn 3 wall. The home state favorite recovered and charged from the back of the field into the top five, but a late-race braking issue set him back and he finished an unhappy 13th.
“The car was awesome, but I got taken out by another driver early,” said Miller. “I drove back up through the pack to fifth, was taking it easy, and was matching the leader’s pace. Then, suddenly, the brakes went down to the floor. I had to shove it into second to make the turn, but then I had to bail and went right into the tire wall.
“It’s frustrating, fighting back twice with a car we think could have won,” he added.
Matt Parent in the No. 14 Venture Construction Ford Mustang received the Cool Shirts Cool Move of the Race award following his best finish of the season in seventh.
The TA2 drivers now have a two-month break before returning to the prestigious Indianapolis Motor Speedway Aug. 1-4 supporting SVRA. For full results, championship points and photos from the event, visit GoTransAm.com.