'Texas-size' field for COTA as Trans Am title chases heat up

Image by Chris Clark

'Texas-size' field for COTA as Trans Am title chases heat up

Trans Am

'Texas-size' field for COTA as Trans Am title chases heat up

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The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to racing this weekend, November 6-8, for the Austin SpeedTour with SVRA at Circuit of The Americas, kicking off the final stretch of the 2020 season.

With a season-high number of entries, the Trans Am National Series and West Coast Championship fields unite for a weekend of intense action as drivers from both series vie for several titles. But, with added competition from Texas natives chasing the Southern Cup title and legendary drivers like Boris Said and Paul Tracy looking to top the podium, the fight for precious championship points gets even tougher as Trans Am returns to the modern Texas circuit.

One of the largest-ever TA2 powered by AEM fields will storm the 20-turn, 3.41-mile F1-grade circuit this weekend, boasting several seasoned veterans including former NTT IndyCar Series driver Tracy. Piloting the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang, Tracy will fill in for Doug Peterson.

While Tracy made his Trans Am debut two years ago, this will be his first appearance with the series at COTA.

“I am looking forward to competing this weekend with Trans Am at Circuit of The Americas,” he said. “The competition is always tough, but, by partnering with Doug Peterson’s championship-winning team, we expect good results.”

Reigning champions Stevens-Miller Racing is leading the TA2 title chase, with Mike Skeen behind the wheel of the No. 77 Liqui Moly / Turn 14 Ford Mustang holding a 43-point lead over second-place Thomas Merrill. With the latter forced to miss this event, Skeen looks to put even more distance between them before the two meet again at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

SMR has also put a priority on securing the Northern and Southern Cup with Ohio-based drivers Alex Wright and John Paul Southern Jr.

Traveling with the team to COTA in the Arlington, Tex.-based Berryman Mustang, Wright can relax this time out as he clinched the Northern Cup title during the previous round at Virginia International Raceway.

However, young gun Southern Jr. trails veteran racer Maurice Hall (No. 57 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro) by 12 points in his Southern Cup campaign. Bouncing back after suffering a weekend-ending crash at VIR, Southern Jr. will get another go at clinching his first Trans Am title in his rookie season in the newly rebuilt No. 61 Pittrace.com / Southern Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Trans Am offers several championships throughout the year including Northern and Southern Cups. The two regional groupings of Trans Am competitions were designed to reward competitors and teams that tackle certain segments of the Trans Am schedule, but do not undertake a full season commitment.

In TA, class title holder and current points leader Ernie Francis Jr. (No. 98 OneSouthFloridaWealthAdvisors Ford Mustang) is hoping to fend off Tomy Drissi (No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro), as the duo are separated by 37 points leading into COTA. Francis Jr. won on the Texas circuit in 2018, but last year, after dominating most of the race, he lost power steering and a podium position in the final laps of the race.

Said: “COTA is a track that rewards being aggressive – my kind of place!”

Francis Jr. also has to worry about Said challenging his seventh consecutive charge to the championship. The pair went head to head at VIR, and, in a battle that went down to the finish line, Francis Jr. held off Said’s pole-sitting No. 2 Weaver Racing / Techniques / SRI Performance Dodge Challenger.

Though he is not in championship contention, Said will be fighting for the checkered flag he missed out on at VIR.

“I’m looking forward to COTA – it’s an awesome track,” commented Said. “It’s a track that rewards being real aggressive, so it’s my kind of place! I am excited to be back racing with Trans Am.”

Two new Southwest drivers will join class-points leader Ken Thwaits (No. 5 Franklin Road Apparel Audi R8 GT3 Ultra) and Kevin Long (No. 15 Franklin Road Apparel Audi R8 LMS Ultra) in the XGT class. New Mexico-based Jason Daskalos will bring a Vintage 423 Audi R8 Ultra to the newest Trans Am class while Texas native Dan Knox will run the lone XGT Mercedes (No. 80 ACS Mfg. Mercedes AMG GT3).

Four-time winner Lee Saunders will lead the SGT assault in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper. His push to clinch an early title will be challenged by rookie Adrian Wlostowski (No. 96 F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang), who is fresh off his maiden series victory.

With his closest competition in points missing Round 6, Tim Horrell (No. 45 Breathless Racing Porsche GT4 Clubsport) will use COTA as an opportunity pad his lead before the penultimate event at Road Atlanta.

Greg Pickett is the lone driver on the roster entered for both the National and the West Coast competition this weekend. Pickett has raced a perfect season so far out west, clinching the championship two rounds early with four victories in the No. 6 Pickett Racing Ford Mustang.

Trans Am veteran Pickett returns to the National Series fray. Image by Seth DeDoes

Entering as both a National and West Coast competitor, Pickett can score points and podiums in both series. The 73-year-old multiple Trans Am champion is up for the challenge.

“I missed my good friend Simon (Gregg) at Sonoma,” said Pickett. “I’m glad to see him back in the Camaro so we can go against each other in the same class this round. I also was excited to see my friend Tomy Drissi win this year at Brainerd and Chris Dyson win at Road America. It will be fun racing with them again.”

After clinching the West Coast XGT class championship two rounds early in an AMG Mercedes-Benz GT3, champion elect Simon Gregg will put his focus on the National Championship in the TA class this weekend, wheeling the more familiar No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Gregg has garnered 133 championship points, and is five points behind third-place Dyson and three points in front of two-time champion Amy Ruman.

Hailing from Las Vegas, Michele Abbate (No. 30 Gearhead Coffee / GrrRacing.com Chevrolet Camaro) became the first female to finish on the TA2-class podium earlier this year. Building off her season momentum, Abbate’s goal for COTA is to top the West Coast podium and finish the weekend with the championship lead. A narrow margin of nine points separates the Grr Racing driver from class points leader Tim Lynn. However, forced to cancel at the last minute, Lynn will not compete at COTA, leaving the door open for Abbate.

After missing the double-header feature at Sonoma due to schedule conflicts, Natalie Decker returns to the West Coast SGT class, driving for Tony Ave in the No. 04 N29 Technologies LLC Audi R8 GT4.

Joe Bogetich, in the No. 65 Westover / Albireo Energy Chevrolet Camaro will look to extend his lead in the GT West Coast points while battling hometown driver Sean Young in the No. 74 Corsair Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

COTA will host to a thunderous mix of 56 TA, TA2, XtremeGT, SuperGT and GT class machines, the weekend kickick off with optional testing on Friday. On Saturday, the drivers will participate in practice followed by split-class qualifying sessions that start at 4:10 p.m. CT. Sunday commences with a pair of 100-mile races starting with TA2 at 11:00 a.m. CT followed by the TA/XGT/SGT/GT feature at 1:05 p.m.

ENTRY LIST

Streaming for the Austin SpeedTour begins Saturday on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App.

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