Trans Am’s TA2 class returns to Sebring with deep field of talent

Trans Am’s TA2 class returns to Sebring with deep field of talent

Trans Am

Trans Am’s TA2 class returns to Sebring with deep field of talent

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The thunderous roar of American muscle returns to Sebring International Raceway this weekend as the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli headlines the Sebring SpeedTour Feb. 19-21. Fans are welcome at the former airfield for the three-day event (click here for ticket information).

The roster of contenders in TA2 continues to get more crowded with IndyCar veterans, NASCAR legends, IMSA greats and youthful rookies filling out the entry list with a strong 30-car field for the stand-alone 100-mile TA2 race on Sunday.

“Last season the TA2 field gave us some of the closest races and dramatic finishes all year,” said John Clagett, president of the Trans Am Race Company. “As the field continues to grow with talented drivers, this championship will be even more competitive than its been in the past, and that is saying something!”

The full SpeedTour event, including Trans Am qualifying sessions, will be live streamed starting Saturday on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App.

As the new season is ready to launch there are a number of key storylines that are set to develop in 2021:

Champions return
Click here for Trans Am Sebring Entry List

Reigning TA2 champion Mike Skeen returns to defend his title, wheeling the Liqui-Moly/Turn14Distribution Chevrolet Camaro under a new number, No. 1 – the position he ended with in 2020.

Skeen opened his championship-winning season with a victory (his first of six for the year) at Sebring last year, grabbing the lead following a restart with less than two laps remaining. Skeen claimed his first checkered flag of 2020 only 0.489s ahead of second place, which set the tone for the TA2 class the rest of the season.

“The 2021 TA2 Championship is shaping up to be a great season with many new and returning contenders,” said Skeen. “Having Liqui Moly and Turn 14 back on our Howe Racing Camaro from Stevens-Miller Racing will ensure that we can continue to fight at the front and defend our championship.”

Challenging Skeen’s bid for a second championship is 2018 TA2 champion Rafa Matos. Matos opened 2019 with a win at Sebring, and last year edged himself onto the podium in the final seconds of the TA2 race with a third-place finish.

“Sebring is a track that I love and we have won there in 2019, so we have a good reference and data to make sure we are on the right path as far setup is concerned,” explained Matos. “Winning races and staying consistent throughout the season will be the key to winning the championship.”

After racing with another team in 2020, Matos is back with his championship-winning 3 Dimensional team in the yellow and red No. 88 3 Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang for a full-time championship effort in 2021.

“I’m extremely excited to be back with Peterson Racing,” said Matos. “I had the chance to test the car and I was really happy the way the No. 88 3 Dimensional Services car felt and also the confidence of the team on the car’s preparation.”

Doug Peterson (No. 87 3 Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang) and Maurice Hull (No. 57 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro) were co-champions last season in the TA2 Masters Class. The team owners turned drivers return this season for another bout at the top step in the championship.

Chasing titles
TA2 continues to attract a deep roster of talented drivers backed by strong teams, and the rise to championship glory will be even harder this season with several drivers looking to stake their claim to the title.

Last season, Thomas Merrill led 25 of the 27-lap feature at Sebring. Following the late-race restart Merrill spun out of the lead to finish 14th. But, the California native is looking to put the 2020 heartbreaking finish behind him as he makes his full-season campaign with Mike Cope Racing in the No. 81 HPTuners/MikeCopeRaceCars Ford Mustang. As a driver and road racing expert, Merrill will also take on double duty as he expands his role as team driver coach for the rest of the Mike Cope Racing stable. Last season, Merrill was always a front-running factor, finishing fourth overall in the championship with one victory, two podiums and six top-10 finishes in his eight starts.

Scott Lagasse Jr. has more than 115 starts across the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series. While Lagasse Jr. has been a contender in TA2® since 2016, 2021 will mark his first full-season campaign with TeamSLR in the No. 92 Chevrolet Camaro.

“The level of competition in Trans Am increases each year and it’s one of the best in racing,” said Lagasse Jr. “This will be the first year we run the entire schedule and compete for a championship. There are a lot of great competitors and it takes a lot to win each race. The cars are some of the most fun racecars I’ve driven in my career. You can hustle these cars for the entire race, just like qualifying laps. It’s been a good training tool for me. I’ve seen improvements in my road-racing ability and it’s a great series.”

As road-course racing becomes more prominent in NASCAR’s national touring series, TeamSLR will give more seat time to aspiring NASCAR drivers, using Lagasse Jr.’s veteran experience in both series to coach racers like ARCA Late Model driver Connor Mosack (No. 28 NicTailor/IFS M1-SLR/Fields Chevrolet Camaro). After a starting in select races in 2020, Mosack will join Trans Am for a full season of racing.

NASCAR Xfinity Series pilot Michael Self will climb into a TA2 car this season outfitted in a familiar green Sinclair Oil color scheme featuring the red dinosaur on the side of the No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro. Self has coached drivers in the TA2 class since 2015, and was recently hired by Silver Hare Racing as general manager where, in addition to driving, he will oversee operations. Having come up through the ranks of karting, open wheel and sports cars, Self is shifting focus from full-time oval racing back to his roots.

“I’ve always had a passion for road course racing and would always circle those events on the ARCA or K&N schedules as races I looked forward to,” said Self on his transition back to road racing. “The partnership I’ve been fortunate enough to build and grow with Sinclair has really led to all of these opportunities being opened up for me. They took a chance on me with the oval racing a few years ago, and I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished over there together, now I’m anxious to see what kind of splash we can make in the road-racing world. I can’t wait to have Dino on the side of our SHR TA2 car.”

Entering the 100-start club last season, Tom Sheehan set the record for the most starts ever in the TA2 class with 104. Sheehan returns for his 10th season of TA2 racing in the No.  87 LTK Insulation Ford Mustang.

The 2020 Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli West Coast TA2 champion Jim Gallaugher hopes to retain his Iron Man status, making a bid on both the West Coast and National TA2 title.

New drivers, new teams, new cars
Four drivers, Ike Keeler (No. 15 Keeler Racing Ford Mustang), Al Prieto (No. 01 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang), Bruce Raymond (No. 54 Ford Mustang) and Ty Young (No. 26 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang), will make their Trans Am debut at Sebring in the TA2 class.

Young is one of four drivers fielding cars for Mike Cope Race Cars this season who will be making his introduction to TA2 after claiming multiple championships in the SCCA and NASA ranks.

“TA2 looks like a ton of fun,” said Young. “I’m looking forward to drive the higher HP cars at some of the most iconic tracks in the world.”

But, the new drivers will have to get through some heavy hitters who are also looking to claim Rookie of the Year status.

After a successful run in the Trans Am by Pirelli Esports Championship, Tyler Kicera suited up for two in-person racing events in 2020, driving from pole to claim his first Trans Am national win at Virginia International Raceway. This season, the Esports Vice Champion signed a full-season deal with Silver Hare Racing to drive the No. 5 Ford Mustang.

“It’s been a long off season since our win at VIR last September and I’m excited to get to work with the Silver Hare Racing crew in our Waukegan Farms, Sabelt No. 5,” said Kicera. “Despite this being my first full-season campaign in TA2 competing for a championship, I think my approach remains the same. Trust in myself, focus on consistency, staying out of trouble and being there at the end of the to maximize the result. If we can do that, I have no doubt we’ll be a championship contender come November.”

Adrian Wlostowski took the SuperGT title chase down to the last race in 2020, taking second in the championship in his first full season of Trans Am racing. This season, Wlostowski is stepping out of his SGT Mustang into a F.A.S.T Racing Team prepared Chevrolet Camaro with the help of Hawk Performance.

“I could not be more excited about joining the ultra-competitive TA2 category and having Hawk Performance as our primary sponsor,” Wlostowski said. “It’s a big jump from SuperGT to TA2 but I’m really looking forward to the new challenge. There’s always a large field in a TA2 race so you’re always in a battle with someone and I’m excited to be able to go wheel to wheel with these great drivers. We had a great year in Super GT and hope to keep the momentum going in TA2.”

Although it will be his first year competing in TA2, Wlostowski’s F.A.S.T. Racing Team fielded Doug Winston alongside Wlostowski’s SGT efforts last year. The F.A.S.T. Racing Team will expand to a two-car TA2 effort when Winston returns to action at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in March.

Trans Am ProAm Challenge
Indiana-native Raymond will field the first Trans Am ProAm Challenge TA2 car in the No.  54 Ford Mustang.

Partnering with SCCA, Trans Am launched the crossover program during the off season. Making an easy path for road racing teams to crossover to Trans Am is the primary focus of the new ProAm Challenge, with the 2021 schedule and rules package providing flexibility for teams and drivers to chase both their ProAm Challenge and their SCCA Road Racing goals in the same year.

Raymond has spent most of his racing career driving in the Ultimate Street Car Association.

Canadian charge
After COVID-19 put a hold on its 2020 season plans, Canadian-based BC Race Cars returns with a two-car TA2 effort for Sebring, bringing a new TA2 Camaro to debut this weekend alongside Misha Goikhberg (No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro) on the notoriously bumpy circuit.

Built during the pandemic lock-down, the new Camaro features many deviations from BRC’s previous builds, as most of the work was brought in-house. With BCR custom interior, re-packaging of components, hanging brake pedal assembly and X-bracing, among other updates, the result is a car with lower center of gravity and reduced polar moment.

Sebring Schedule
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will join the SVRA Sebring SpeedTour in a thrilling weekend, mixing great race cars from the past and present.

Each of the four Trans Am classes will have testing sessions on Friday to open on-track activities. Saturday begins with practice at 11:00 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying for each of the classes beginning at 4:10 p.m. Sunday features two 60-minute races with a massive TA2 field taking the green at 11:15 a.m. ET followed by the mixed class of TA/XGT/SGT/GT taking the green at 1:35 p.m.  The full weekend will stream on the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App (click to download).

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