American muscle returns to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta this weekend for a championship showdown of Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli racing staged as part of the Atlanta SpeedTour, November 19-22.
With the recent cancellation announcement of the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the TA2 powered by AEM field will now have just two races to determine the champion after a dynamic 2020 season that first kicked off at Sebring in March.
In the doubleheader finale, 70 points are still up for grabs, including a possible 10 bonus points — three bonus points for snagging each pole position in qualifying and extra points in each race for leading a lap and leading the most laps.
Pole position for Sunday’s race will be based on the fastest race lap set in Saturday’s 100-mile feature.
Leading the TA2 title chase is Stevens-Miller Racing pilot Mike Skeen (No. 77 Liqui Moly/Turn 14 Distribution Ford Mustang). Despite having to make a chassis change mid-season when a fiery crash at Road America left his Camaro beyond repair, Skeen’s consistent performance has positioned him 37 points ahead of second-place contender Rafa Matos. Skeen has been reliably rapid, with four victories further bolstered by two additional podium visits.
Having headed the tables since taking a Sebring win to open the year, the change of schedule hasn’t changed Skeen’s approach as he looks forward to the Road Atlanta weekend.
“The cancellation doesn’t really change our strategy,” explained Skeen. “If anything, it takes a little pressure off as there are fewer opportunities for something to happen and derail our efforts toward winning the championship. My goal this weekend is to win some more races and if we can make it through Saturday without an incident, we will be pretty safe going into the final round.”
But, if there’s anyone on the grid who is looking to turn the tables this weekend, it is 2018 champion Matos.
Matos is hot off a win in the No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro at Circuit of The Americas, and backing up his first victory of the season is four additional podium visits, one of which saw him start 25th and storm to a third-place result.
Matos has proven that it doesn’t matter where he’s gridded in the starting line-up, he’s a threat for podium contention, especially at Road Atlanta. Matos remains undefeated in TA2 on the 2.54-mile road course, securing the win from pole-position in 2018 and following it up with another victory in 2019.
“This championship is far from over, the victory at COTA reassured that the Silver Hare team is going to be very well prepared for this last stretch of the championship,” said Matos. “As a driver, I’m super excited to be in the hunt. I have won Road Atlanta in the last two years and would be nice to have another win. Now with the double header, it’s going to be a huge weekend for the points.”
With just two rounds remaining, a perfect points weekend while holding Skeen to a scoreless pair of races is the only chance that Cameron Lawrence (No. 8 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang) has at being a three-time champion. Entering the finale, Lawrence trails Skeen by 64 points.
Though, if 2020 has thought anything it is to always be ready for the unexpected to happen. Lawrence’s return to TA2 has not been without its obstacles, but his end-of-season run is on an uptick. At COTA, the Peterson Racing driver finished second, his fourth podium of the season, and just last week Lawrence won big at Sebring in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
While another title is mathematically possible for Lawrence, ending his season with a victory is more probable and his top focus for Atlanta.
“I certainly hope the Trans Am podium at COTA and IMSA Sebring win will be good momentum going into Road Atlanta,” Lawrence said. “The guys at Peterson Racing have been improving car setup every weekend and Road America, VIR and COTA is a testament to that. I’ve done well in the past at Road Atlanta so hopefully we can move up one more spot on the podium.”
Though Skeen, Matos and Lawrence are battling for a title, they have a stacked field of competition entered on the weekend who are happy to help take that fight down to the wire, as past winners like Thomas Merrill, Scott Lagasse and Misha Goikhberg are quite capable of swooping in and stealing valuable points from the championship campaigners.
Returning to the roster is the Canadian duo of Goikhberg and BC Race Cars. Last season under the BC Race Cars banner, Goikhberg (No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro) edged Matos out of a pole-position start at Road Atlanta. This season, he’s armed with a new teammate in West Coast TA2 second place in points Michele Abbate as she makes her National Trans Am debut this weekend with BC Race Cars.
“I truly cannot put into words how thrilled and thankful I am for this opportunity,” said Abbate. “I am most excited to be driving for Blaise and Penny of BC Racecars because the amount of knowledge, experience, and prep work that their entire team puts into their program is bar none. Their results speak for themselves and the experience will be invaluable to me as a driver.
“I will literally have everything I need to set me up for success and I am more than excited to capitalize on the opportunity to learn throughout the weekend,” continued Abbate. “It will be really great to see how I compare to the national tour drivers in this setup — unlike my much older chassis that we are running in the West Coast.”
The Atlanta SpeedTour event starts on Thursday with testing. The official weekend commences on Friday, November 20 with practice in the morning followed by qualifying in the afternoon starting with the Trans Am class at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Saturday begins with the TA/XGT/SGT/GT race at 10:45 a.m. Eastern followed by the TA2 powered by AEM feature at 3:55 p.m. Eastern. The combined class finale will take the green on Sunday at noon Eastern.
The Atlanta SpeedTour is open to fans. Tickets are available at: SpeedTour.net.
All three races will be live streamed (starting Saturday) on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App. Download here: https://nagrasports.app.link/lIQjdAuxq7