Trans Am at Mid-Ohio: Matos, Francis, Jr., Boden, and Funk Fastest in Qualifying

Trans Am at Mid-Ohio: Matos, Francis, Jr., Boden, and Funk Fastest in Qualifying

10.08.2019: Tight battles in each class for the top spotsfor Saturday’s FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge and FirstEnergy 100 Extremely close battles at the top of the Trans Am, TA2, Super GT and GT qualifying sessions for the Trans Am Series presented by Pire

Tight battles in each class for the top spotsfor Saturday’s FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge and FirstEnergy 100

Extremely close battles at the top of the Trans Am, TA2, Super GT and GT qualifying sessions for the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli preview what should be two exciting races on Saturday: the FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge and the FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

With Trans Am season reaching the midway point of the season with an active schedule of iconic tracks, the championship races are beginning to emerge as drivers weigh risk and reward at every corner.  A hallmark of the TA2 powered by AEM has always been close, hard, exciting action. Friday’s qualifying session was no exception, with the top spots changing on every lap late in the session.

When the dust settled, Rafa Matos had placed his No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro on the pole position of the 30-car field for the second time this season, with a lap of 1:24.938-seconds. But Matos will have no relief at the start of the 45-lap, 100-mile race on Saturday, as championship-leader Marc Miller and his No. 40 Prefix/Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger will start alongside, a mere .074 seconds back.

NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Ty Gibbs (No. 26 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) held the top spot for one lap midway through the session, as did Detroit race winner Misha Goikhberg (No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro) and two-time winner Thomas Merrill (No. 81 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang, winner this season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock).

The 20-minute session was abbreviated due to an incident for No. 29 Mitch Marvosh, who found the wall in Turn 5 just as the field completed two qualifying laps. By the time the green flag flew again, only 10 minutes remained – albeit 10 minutes of wild, nonstop action at the top of the speed charts.

Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 92 SLR/Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro) will start third, with Goikhberg fourth, Merrill fifth and NASCAR Xfinity regulars Justin Haley and Gibbs sixth and seventh.

Matos captured the race win at Mid-Ohio last year but lies 57 points behind Miller third in the championship chase. The defending TA2 champion took pole after working hard to get in a clean lap.

 “There are 30 plus cars here so to get a clean lap is a big struggle,” said Matos. “We focused on getting a clean lap, but the red flag messed up our plans. But we were able to get into a groove and find that clean lap and get the pole position. Hopefully it will be like last year and we can win the race! The 3-Dimensional Services crew has worked so hard on the car to ensure that it’s reliable and working well. But we’re playing catch-up a bit here, we’ve got some points to recover to Marc, he’s our benchmark. We’ll keep plugging away.”

Miller was at once happy with his starting position, but also frustrated with the incident-shortened session.

“That was a typical TA2 qualifying session!” said Miller. “We were hoping for a longer run but didn’t get it, with the early red flag. When it came down to one of those “throw down” type things, we just weren’t prepared to get a time in that early. We needed every one of those laps, though I thought we had it on that last lap. I went into the Carousel and over slowed myself, being too careful, but in the end, I’m happy with a front row starting spot.

This team has worked so hard, the Prefix Dodge is better than we expected around this tight, twisty circuit so I think we raised some eyebrows today. We just need to have a good, clean race and where we end up is where we end up. We have the big picture in mind.”

The TA class shot out of the gate with current championship leader Chris Dyson exchanging the top spot with last year’s Mid-Ohio winner – and second place in the title chase – Ernie Francis Jr. But the session was stopped before the midway point when third-place runner Doug Peterson landed his No. 3 Elavon/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro into the sand in Turn 4. The green came back out with mere minutes remaining in the session as Dyson and Francis Jr. re-engaged the fight.

 “It was pretty stressful out there,” said Francis Jr. “Chris Dyson was really close behind and putting down some pretty good laps. It was a close battle and we only got him by 5/100s of a second. It was fun and awesome, and I think the race tomorrow is going to be great. We’ve always been good here at Mid-Ohio: the track is very technical, and you don’t need a whole lot of horsepower to really get around this place, and that helped us out there. We’re going for the win tomorrow and maximizes our points so we can get on the road to this championship.”

When the checkered flag flew, Francis Jr. had placed his No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang into the pole position for the second time this season with a lap at 1:22.287-seconds, a mere .054 seconds ahead of Dyson and his No. 20 Thetford/Norcold Ford Mustang.

“The car has been fantastic all weekend,” said Dyson, winner of the last two races (Lime Rock and Indianapolis). “I thought we would have a strong qualifying, but we lost this morning’s practice with a driveline problem. We were little bit behind the eight-ball, but the guys worked hard to give me a good setup to contend for pole. We were able to match Ernie but for half a tenth. It shows how competitive the series is and I know we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow.”

The SGT and GT qualifying session conducted its 20-minute session completely under green but with a similar duel for the pole, as Mark Boden in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and Ken Thwaits in the No. 35 WilwoodBrakes/FranklinRdApparel Audi R8 LMS swapped the position throughout the session. In the end, it was Boden taking his third pole of the season with a quick lap time of 1:26.560-seconds.

“The Fall Line Porsche has been fast all weekend,” said Boden. “We made a few adjustments for qualifying and I was able to lay down a good lap on the third lap. It was happily uneventful! It should be a fun race; we’ve got four or five fast cars that will be up front.”

Ohio native Larry Funk in the No. 64 Business Advisory Services Ford Mustang is the single entry in the GT class and set his fastest time on Lap 5 with a time of 1:33.588-seconds.

The FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 TA, SGT, GT feature takes the green flag Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, while the FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge takes to the track at 12:40 p.m. For live timing and scoring, event photos and post-race recap videos visit For live race updates follow @GoTransAm on Twitter.

Sunday  Group Management


10.08.2019 / MaP

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