Posted (09/01/2013) -
When the Trans Am Series headed northward to Brainered International Raceway for Round 7 of the 2013 Season, many members of the Trans Am paddock were skeptical of what lay ahead of them.
They faced a newly resurfaced track with modifications to the surface width and minor elevation tweaks. In the past, teams were forced to painstakingly adjust their car setups little by little to save tires on what was the most abrasive surface on the Trans Am schedule. It was a survivor’s track. A track that always seemed to throw something unexpected the driver’s way and resulted in some of the most exciting and unpredictable racing each year.
The Trans Am Series rolled into the paddock at BIR for the 26thAnnual Muscle Car Shootout with the largest car count to grace the historic track since 1989—and while the 23 cars in participation do account for the smallest field of the year for Trans Am, it outsizes the prior entries from 2012 and 2011 by a long shot—a show of progress on the Northern track for the Trans Am Series.
After a Friday full of much needed testing as teams attempted to feel out the new surface, learning the new lines and braking points, Trans Am took to the track for the first official session of the weekend, a 10:00 a.m. practice.
In TA2, Robert Huffmaster showed off the talent that has earned him the highest point position of any rookie this year. He powered the #27 Kryderacing/VirSec Chevrolet Camaro to a time of 1:33.960; beating out the likes of two-time defending TA2 Champion Bob Stretch, in the #98 Wheels America/Fix Rim Mobile Chevrolet Corvette, and current points leader Cameron Lawrence, in the #11 Ctek/Motorstate/North Star Battery Chevrolet Camaro.
It was a similar story in TA2 as rows of LS3s choked on the thick hot air. Stretch led the session with a time of 1:34.592, just edging Huffmaster by a mere half second as Cameron Lawrence held the third position. Still, despite slowed conditions, the top three remained the same in the class.
Come Sunday morning for qualifying, the weather had changed once again. Instead of dealing with harsh heat and an oily track, Trans Am competitors had a freashly washed surface and cool weather, courtesy of a series of thunderstorms through the night.
With the engines reinvigorated the Trans Am paddock headed out for the morning qualifying session, spilt into two fifteen minute segments, one for the TA class and one for the TA2 and TA3 classes.
In TA2, Robert Huffmaster and the #27 Kryderacing/VirSec Chevrolet Camaro put on a show, setting a new qualifying record of 1:31.980 for the class and beating out then, and current, points leader Lawrence. Huffmaster’s time was a full second ahead of Lawrence’s and a good three seconds faster than most of the TA2 pack.
Following Lawrence was Stretch and the #98 Camaro, and Lawrence’s teammate, Pete Halsmer in the #12 Ctek/Motorstate/Chevrolet Camaro.
Conditions remained relatively stable over the course of the day for the 4:00 p.m., 40 lap race on the 2.5 mile competition course. As the cars lined up in pre-grid a very evident reality set in. For those who frequent Brainerd International Raceway they know that the historic track has an intimate setting for grid and pre-grid. It allows the fans to line up along the cars, nearly an arm’s reach away, as they go down the lane and wrap along the curve at the edge of the paddock. It provides one of the most intimate and interactive environments in motorsports. However, in past years at BIR the cars took just the first few sections of the grid.
Now that line of cars extends, filling the grid in its entirety. Numbers on a page are one thing for car count, but to see the physical Trans Am field filling a track’s grid is another. It’s a physical representation of how far Trans Am has come—for all to see.
The race began with Doug Peterson, Robert Huffmaster and David Seuss in first position in their respective classes. But the TA class underwent a quick reshuffling of cars during the first lap. Tony Ave shot from fourth to second immediately, rushing past both Gregg and Ebben. Amy Ruman mounted a similar effort, overcoming both Gregg and Ebben as well.
In TA2, Huffmaster started in first position and quickly asserted himself on the track. Stretch shot up from third to second, overtaking Cameron Lawrence in what has become his signature fast start—however, he was unable to close the gap with Huffmaster, who was continuing to create space between himself and the rest of the TA2 pack.
Then just as quickly as Stretch had moved his way forward, he dropped off—entering the pits during the fourth lap of the race, where he remained for the duration, retiring due to a mechanical failure.
Peter Halsmer, in the #12 Ctek/Motorstate/North Star Battery Chevrolet Camaro, moved up into third position as Lawrence pushed into second. They remained in that order from lap four to lap 31, through two full course cautions. Then upon the restart, Huffmaster was faced with a mechanical breakdown and was forced to limp his way back to the pits, a disappointing end to an otherwise commanding performance by the rookie, as he led the most laps of the race for the TA2 class.
Lawrence moved up into first place, Huffmaster’s misfortune now his fortune, and was now the class leader. Halsmer followed him in second, and Gregg Rodgers, driver of the #33 Pinnacle Autosport Chevrolet Camaro, took advantage of the situation and began to bear down on Halsmer. Despite Rodgers’ efforts, Halsmer was able to fend off the #33 car and all three crossed the finish line in that order.
Next up on the Trans Am circuit will be Round 8 at Virginia International Raceway on Sunday September 29, 2013.