Trans Am weekend kicks off
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I don't follow Trans Am racing, I just think that was a SWEET looking Challenger!SEBRING — The 2015 Trans Am Series will be starting off in impressive fashion this weekend, as a field of 72 cars for Sunday’s Trans Am Racing’s Foametix Trans Am 100. The 72-car field is an all-time record for the series, which first began at Sebring International Raceway in 1966.
“I think it’s terrible,” quipped Doug Peterson, two-time defending champion in the TA class. “I’d much rather see 20 cars out there.”
Peterson said that when he first joined Trans Am several years ago field sizes were less than half the size that will start Sunday, which he said was an indication of how far the series has come and the direction it’s heading.
“It’s a great series,” he said.
Peterson isn’t the only one looking to make it three straight series wins, as Cameron Lawrence is also back to defend his TA2 championship.
“I’m definitely excited,” Lawrence said. “It’s been a long off season even though I’ve been doing some other stuff. We haven’t touched this car since Daytona so it’s good to get back in it and see where we need to be.”
Lawrence is being a bit modest when he says “other stuff” as he was one of the drivers in the No. 93 TI Automotive/ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R that won the GTD class at last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Peterson said that Sebring is a track where you can’t afford to take any breaks, while Lawrence said he was looking forward to racing at SIR.
“It’s not too bad since I’m from Orlando and this is like my home track,” he said. “I have probably the most time here of any track compared to anywhere else so for me it’s a good thing.”
Both Peterson and Lawrence agreed that the modest price control is one reason for the popularity of the series with teams and drivers.
“It’s more price control than some other series and I think some people will like it and some won’t like that aspect, but they’re trying to keep everybody on the same playing field,” Lawrence said.
The Trans Am race will run alongside the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Spring Vintage Classic, which features some of the finest race cars of the past 60 years. While Trans Am occasionally runs as a support race for other series, Lawrence said it’s also nice to be the featured race.
“It definitely cool to get people to come check us out,” he said. “We’re just getting on some people’s radar so it is cool to headline like this.
“It’s fun to run with NASCAR, as well, because they always draw a big crowd. Even the NASCAR guys will walk through and come check out the cars. They like it too. It speaks for the series and where it’s going.”
The Trans Am Series will have one practice session today at 11:10 to 11:40 a.m. and will have its first qualifying session between 3:30 and 4:10 p.m. in which the five fastest drivers in each class can cement their qualifying position. A second opportunity for qualifying will take place on Saturday, with Sunday’s race beginning at 2:45 p.m.
Lawrence said he knows that he has a target on his back as two-time defending champion, but is looking forward to the challenge of defending his title once again.
“Everyone’s kind of been gunning for us since last season so I’m used to it,” he said. “For me, it’s more about pressure on myself to always keep going better. We know we can run up front and we know what it takes to run up front so it’s just pressure on ourselves to keep doing our normal things.”
Among the challengers for Lawrence this season will be Tony Ave, a two-time TA driving champion.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity to race Tony,” Lawrence said. “But there’s a lot of competition, not just Tony. It’s going to be tough up front. It’s going to be really interesting with a lot of new guys and everybody getting used to the series.”
Peterson said with a new season beginning it was a perfect time to thank an under-appreciated group — the corner workers.
“They don’t get 1 percent of the credit they deserve,” Peterson said. “They’re not out there to make money, they’re out there for love of the sport.”
Tickets for the next three days are $35 for all three days or $25 per day.
Among the highlights of the SVRA Spring Vintage Classic are tonight’s 90-minute enduro beginning at 6 p.m., along with a 60-minute race on Saturday and a 90-minute enduro following Sunday’s lunch break.