Elkhart Lake, Wisc. – Tony Buffomante, in the TA2 class, and Cliff Ebben, in TA, did not just survive the elements at Road America in today’s Trans Am races, they thrived in them—withstanding the Midwestern downpour on their way to overall victories in the ETE Reman Transmissions Muscle Car 100 Presented by Pura Vida Tequila, featuring TA2, and the Trans Am 100, featuring TA, TA3 and TA4.
The two drivers were joined in the celebrations by Mark Boden and Ernie Francis, Jr., who walked away with class victories in TA3 and TA4 while running in the front of the field, passing the vast majority of the TA competitors on the drenched 4.048-mile surface.
In the ETE Reman Transmissions Muscle Car 100, Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Ford Mustang, began the race in fourth position before falling back to fifth by lap eight of the 25-lap race. Buffomante was able to work back up to fourth before a second full course yellow and used the regrouped field to his advantage, moving up one position on the restart and another over the next two laps.
Buffomante’s charge culminated with an outside pass in turn one over then-leader Shane Lewis, in the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro. Buffomante would proceed to lead the remainder of the TA2 race despite challenges from eventual second and third place finishers Justin Haley, in the No. 99 Braun Foundation Ford Mustang, and Wisconsin native Tony Ave, in the No. 04 Roehrig Engineering Chevrolet Camaro.
“This whole weekend has been something special,” said Buffomante. “We were down in the points and had a couple bad races. We were looking to bounce back and rebound, and Mike Cope racing just continued to work and work so hard. I just wanted to drive so hard for them. Racing with Tommy Archer, Tony Ave, some of the best road racers in North America, out there side-by-side, door-to-door and outside in turn one—it doesn’t get any better than that.”
While the wet conditions may have caused some TA2 drivers to alter their setups heading into the race, Buffomante opted not to make sweeping changes and instead savored the opportunity.
“We added a little more downforce to the car and made sure we didn’t have any sway bar in it—just wanted the car to be able to move around” said Buffomante. “We thought it might dry out—looking at the weather—we didn’t want to go too crazy on the setup. We were joking around last night ‘you know what a good wet setup is? A dry setup!’ so we slapped some rain tires on it and went racing. I can’t tell you how much fun that was, racing that car in the rain, sliding around going 130-plus mph in the wet, as a driver you live for that.”
The victory powers Buffomante into first place in the TA2 Championship, overtaking defending TA2 champion Gar Robinson, driver of the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/ 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, for the top position 161 points to 157 points. Robinson’s race was cut extremely short, going off course in the first turn of the race suffering a hard impact driver’s left that kept him out of contention. The win is Buffomante’s third of the year, with his previous victories coming at Road Atlanta and New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Haley, who finished second to Mike Cope Racing teammate Buffomante, began the race on pole, falling as far back as fifth before regaining his position on the penultimate lap with a last gasp pass on Ave. Ave, who finished third, began the race in 20th position, moving up eight positions on the first lap and entering the top three on the 15th lap.
The TA2 top five was completed by Louis-Phillipe Montour, in the No. 12 DCW Dodge Challenger, and Shane Lewis, in fourth and fifth respectively. The top ten also featured, in order, Lawrence Loshak, Jordan Bernloehr, Brian Kubinski,
Tom Sheehan and debutant Tyler Thielman.
Tommy Archer, in the No. 54 ECC/Kolar Chevrolet, set the fast lap of the race with a 2:24.274.
The wet conditions were equally, if not more, rampant throughout the Trans Am 100 with TA, TA3 and TA4 drivers trying to manage the conditions. One driver who went unfazed by the conditions was TA victor and Appleton, Wisconsin, native Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group/ Lamers Ford Mustang, who started on pole and led every lap of the race an his way to a third career Trans Am victory at Road America. This marked Ebben’s fifth consecutive pole in the TA class, but only his first win of 2016.
“It’s nice to finally finish a race on top,” said Ebben. “I’ve been running here in the rain for a long time, racing here since 1971; you learn where the traction is, where the car can give you the most. We’re not sure if we’ll be running the full season and competing for the championship—but this is fun. That’s why I do it, when it’s not fun anymore I’ll stop—but days like these, well, they’re pretty fun.”
Ebben’s previous Road America wins came in 2009 and 2011, while todays’ win constitutes the fourth of his career, snapping a nearly three year winless streak for the driver. Ebben now resides in 2nd position in the Championship with 164 points, behind only defending Champion Amy Ruman who remains in first with 178 to her name.
While Ebben was joined on the TA class podium by Paul Fix, in the No. 50 StopFlex.com/ TheCarCoach.com/ Chevron Techron Chevrolet Corvette, and David Pintaric, in the No. 57 StopFlex.com/TheCarCoach.com Cadillac CTS-V, in second and third respectively, Ebben’s stiffest competition of the day came in the expected form of TA3 class victor and second place overall finisher Mark Boden, in the No. 47 FallLine/ Calypso/ Beverage Flavor International Porsche 997.
With many of the larger 850-plus TA class cars unable to put their power fully down on the drenched surface, Boden, and multiple other production class racers, used the elements to their advantage, moving up through the multiclass field.
Boden started the race third in the TA3 class and fully behind the 13-car TA class field, but quickly moved up to the top five eight laps in. Boden would assume second position on lap 14 of 24, pursuing Ebben through a restart on lap 17 and the remainder of the race—holding a distance of two car lengths for multiple laps. However, Ebben was able to mind and maintain the distance, denying Boden a storybook ending.
“We had a great race out there,” said Boden. “We’ve turned plenty of laps here at Road America, and our Fall Line Porsche was exactly where we needed it to be today. The weather definitely made it interesting, working up through the TA field; but Cliff and I had a great race out there; and while we were competing for different trophies in different classes, it was nice to showcase what our team is capable of and the show this TA3 class can put on.”
Boden was joined on the TA3 podium by teammate Tim Kezman, in the No. 4 FallLine/ Calypso Porsche 997, giving the Fall-Line team a one-two sweep, and Randy Mueller, in the No. 0 Epic Motorsports/ Bizbloom.com BMW M3. The Lux Performance Group duo of Steve Streimer, in the No. 42 Lux Performance Dodge Viper ACRX, and Cindi Lux, in the No. 45 Lux Performance Dodge Viper ACRX, completed the top five, unable to get the complete power of their Vipers down in the wet to challenge for higher positions.
In TA4, Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Beta Tools/Liquid Performance Ford Mustang, secured his seventh win in seven races this year—capturing the TA4 class victory while finishing seventh overall. Like Boden, Francis was able to capitalize on the conditions, also cutting through much of the TA field while building a generous gap on the remainder of the TA4 class.
“The wet is something I’ve always been in love with,” said Francis. “I’m from Florida, so I’m used to driving in it all the time—it’s natural. Our car has plenty of grip in the corners and can still put the power to the pavement really well coming out of them, we just tried to keep things smooth—keeping away from the walls— and ended up mixing it up with some of the TA and TA3 drivers, so it ended up being a really fun race and I did a few victory donuts in turn five.”
Francis’ victory continues to build his points total, with a third consecutive championship looking less and less like a possibility and more and more like an eventuality.
Francis was joined on the TA3 podium by Rich Jones, in the No. 37 JOMAC/ Sparta Steel Ford Mustang, who finished second and Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Tremec/SKF/Backstreet Performance Chevrolet Camaro, who finished third.
For his pass on the inside of turn one for the lead, Buffomante was awarded the CoolShirt Systems Cool Move of the Race, while Fall-Line Motorsports was awarded the PitBoxes.com Crew of the Race for securing a one-two finish in the TA3 class.
Trans Am will return to the track for Round 8 of the 2016 Trans Am Championship at Virginia International Raceway September 24th.
How to watch on CBS Sports Network
The Trans Am 100 at Road America, featuring TA, TA3 and TA4 – Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 4:00 PM ET
The ETE Reman Transmissions Muscle Car 100 Presented by Pura Vida Tequila, featuring TA2 – Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 10:00 AM ET
Additional Upcoming Broadcasts:
The Pura Vida Tequila Muscle Car 100 Presented by ETE Reman - Saturday, September 17 at 10:30 am ET
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