Loshak, Matos Score Wins During Trans Am Season Opener
The 2019 Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli kicked off a new season at Sebring International Raceway with victories being awarded during a double-header on Sunday. The first race featured was the TA2 powered by AEM category, and the second race included TA, SuperGT and GT on the same grid.
In TA, a late-race restart proved to be no problem for polesitter Lawrence Loshak, who drove to a flag-to-flag overall victory. Defending champion Ernie Francis Jr. pressured Loshak for the opening six laps before pitting with a transmission issue, costing him 12 laps.
A late caution set the stage for a charge from Chris Dyson in his No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang, but Loshak prevailed in the five-lap shootout and won his third career TA class race event by 3.047 seconds. Completing the podium was R.J. Lopez, driving the No. 06 TinaBazucaCraftAle Corvette.
“Finally, I won at Sebring – this place has always been bad luck for me,” said Loshak, driver of Burtin Racing’s No. 3 Pennzoil/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro. “We’ve been fast all weekend, but we’ve been fast here before, only to have some gremlins take us out. To start the season with a win is what the team deserves.”
The SuperGT and GT winners also finished on the 27th and final lap. Lee Saunders drove the No. 84 V10PWR Racing Dodge Viper to victory in his home state with a close decision over Mark Boden.
“It was a good, clean, amazing race,” said Saunders. “My hat’s off to Mark (Boden). He had a flying car, but we were just a little stronger on the restarts. But on the long runs, he was definitely faster. We probably got a little lucky at the end with the restart. This win is for my crew – they did a heroic rear-end swap just before qualifying.”
Milwaukee’s Jeff Courtney nabbed the top spot on the GT podium with a great drive in the No. 88 Matrix/RecStuff.com Maerati GT4.
“Actually, there was more drama out there than I expected,” said Courtney. “I thought Steven jumped the restart after the first caution (on lap 10). Then, on the next caution, he kind of overcooked it in Turn 17. Kind of a give-back, but I would rather have raced for it. We were catching him, but I had to go to the dirt to avoid two TA cars. I got a lot of debris on the tires, but then I was able to click off a few good laps.”
In 2019 TA2 powered by AEM competition, Rafa Matos enjoyed sweet revenge, leading flag to flag to win the 25-lap season-opening event.
One year after losing the TA2 race at Sebring to Marc Miller in the closing minutes, Matos kept the field in his rear-view mirror to win in the No. 88 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Camaro after being chased all the way by Miller’s No. 40 Prefix/Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger. Miller finished second, with Scott Lagasse coming home in third ahead of two-time Sebring Trans Am winner Doug Peterson, as Tony Buffomante finished fifth in the No. 12 Mike Cope Racing Mustang.
“Today was a redemption race, definitely,” said Matos, the defending TA2 champion. “I was determined I was not going to lose the race this year. I knew that Marc was saving his tires, he was being smart like he did last year. I did everything I could did in the middle of the race to save my car in case I needed it at the end. And when I needed to push the 3Dimensional car, it responded perfectly. It was a great day for everyone on our team. It’s been an amazing time.”
The Trans Am presented by Pirelli next travels to Road Atlanta on March 29-31. The series returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time in 15 years for Trans Am SpeedFest on May 3-5. Trans Am SpeedFest will also be a championship points race for the Trans Am West Series and feature Historic Trans Am and 12 historic race groups from the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA). Tickets and information are available by clicking here or calling 831-242-8200.