TA2 pole for Matos in wreck-shortened Mid-Ohio qualifying

Images by Chris Clark

TA2 pole for Matos in wreck-shortened Mid-Ohio qualifying

Trans Am

TA2 pole for Matos in wreck-shortened Mid-Ohio qualifying


A hallmark of the TA2 powered by AEM class in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli is close, exciting action. Qualifying for the FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was no exception, with 30 cars battling for position and the top spots changing hands on every lap late in the Friday afternoon session.

When the dust settled, Rafa Matos had placed his No. 88 3Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro on the pole for the third time this season, with a best lap of 1m24.938s. But Matos will have no relief at the start of the 45-lap, 100-mile race on Saturday, as points-leader Marc Miller (No. 40 Prefix/Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger) will start alongside, qualifying just .074s back.

NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Ty Gibbs (No. 26 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) held the top spot for one lap midway through the session, as did Detroit race winner Misha Goikhberg (No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro) and Thomas Merrill (No. 81 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang), a winner this season at both WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock.

Mike Cope Racing put a quartet of young NASCAR stars in its TA2 Ford Mustangs; two parked before qualifying, but Justin Haley and Ty Gibbs (above) qualified an impressive sixth and seventh.

The 20-minute session was abbreviated due to an incident for No. 29 Mitch Marvosh, who found the wall in Turn 5 after just two laps. By the time the green flag flew again, only 10 minutes remained in the session — 10 minutes of wild, nonstop action at the top of the charts.

Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 92 SLR/Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro) will start third, with Goikhberg fourth, Merrill fifth and NASCAR Xfinity regulars Justin Haley and Gibbs sixth and seventh.

Matos won here at Mid-Ohio last year, but lies 57 points behind Miller, third in the championship chase. The defending TA2 champion took pole after working hard to get in a clean lap.

“There are 30 cars here so to get a clean lap is a big struggle,” said Matos. “We focused on getting a clean lap, but the red flag messed up our plans. But we were able to get into a groove and find that clean lap and get the pole position. Hopefully it will be like last year and we can win the race! The 3Dimensional Services crew has worked so hard on the car to ensure that it’s reliable and working well. But we’re playing catch-up a bit here. We’ve got some points to recover to Marc; he’s our benchmark. We’ll keep plugging away.”

Miller was at once happy with his starting position, but also frustrated with the incident-shortened session.

“That was a typical TA2 qualifying session!” said Miller. “We were hoping for a longer run but didn’t get it, with the early red flag. When it came down to one of those “throw down” type things, we just weren’t prepared to get a time in that early. We needed every one of those laps, though I thought we had it on that last lap. I went into the Carousel and over-slowed myself, being too careful. But in the end, I’m happy with a front row starting spot.

“This team has worked so hard,” Indianapolis-winner Miller continued. “The Prefix Dodge is better than we expected around this tight, twisty circuit so I think we raised some eyebrows today. We just need to have a good, clean race and where we end up is where we end up. We have the big picture in mind.”

The FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge for the TA2 powered by AEM class — part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Mid-Ohio — takes the green flag Saturday at 12:40 p.m. EDT. For live timing and scoring, event photos and post-race recap videos, visit GoTransAm.com. For live race updates, follow @GoTransAm on Twitter.