AUSTIN, Texas – Rafa Matos took the lead from Cameron Lawrence on the 10th lap of the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli TA2 race and pulled away on a late restart to claim his first victory of the season Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.
Matos, the 2018 TA2 powered by AEM champion, won under caution over Lawrence in the No. 8 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang, scoring his 10th victory.
It was a big day for the first-year Silver Hare Racing as team principal Maurice Hull finished 15th in the No. 57 Camaro, winning the Masters class in the provisional results.
“Today was a hard one,” said Matos. “My cool suit wasn’t working before the race, and it was really hot, especially when we were stopped in the pits. But I had a really good car, with really good balance. We were able to pull away on the restarts. I felt we had the pace all weekend, but we missed a little bit yesterday in qualifying. This is a really proud moment for our young team.”
Matos went from third to first at the green flag, but Lawrence went to the front by the end of the lap.
The race was green for only one minute when Elias Anderson spun in the No. 31 AccioData/Sampsonn Race Engines Mustang, bringing out the caution. An incident on lap 6 involving the No. 23 Cobra Automotive Mustang and the No. 63 Nelson Motorsports Mustang resulted in the second caution.
Lawrence took the lead on a restart, but lost it to Matos two laps later. With 37 minutes remaining, Doug Winston hit and damaged the wall in turn 19, resulting in stoppage of nearly 20 minutes to repair the wall.
Matos got a great jump on the restart, while Skeen had a great battle with Lawrence for second before an incident brought out the fourth caution with only 5:30-seconds remaining, effectively ending the race.
Championship-leader Skeen finished third in the pole-winning No. 77 LiquiMoly/Turn 14 Ford Mustang. Not content to “points race,” Skeen failed to lead a lap but made several aggressive moves to improve his position, finishing the race with damaged rear bodywork.
The late caution failed to help Scott Lagasse Jr. Starting at the back of the field due to being late for the grid, Lagasse charged all the way up to fourth in the No. 92 M1 Racecars Camaro. An extended caution/black flag/red flag for wall repair allowed the Floridian to close in, but he had nothing left for the top three on the restart with 14 minutes remaining but still won the Cool Shirt Award for his efforts.
When Keith Prociuk found himself unable to compete with a migraine headache on Sunday morning, Boris Said was pressed into service to drive the No. 9 HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang. Prociuk qualified 10th, with Said moving to the back of the 28-car TA2 grid.
Said followed Lagasse through the pack, eventually finishing ninth in the borrowed car.
Indy car veteran Paul Tracy raced near the front in the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Camaro. He was fourth after the opening lap but admitted flat-spotting his tires early on. He raced in contention throughout the event before pitting with a cut right-front tire under the final caution, finishing 16th.
Michele Abbate scored her first victory in Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship victory in the No. 30 Grr/ Scosche/ PRYDE/Scrubblade Camaro, passing two cars in the closing laps. After getting by Jim Gallaugher in the No. 16 Madison Development/Mike Cope Mustang to take second, Abbate gained the lead when leader C.J. Cramm went off in the No. 04 Cedar Creek Energy Camaro, bringing out the race-ending yellow.
The victory was a history making moment for the TA2 as Abbate is the first female to score a win the class. Abbate now leads the West Coast TA2 points championship heading into the final round of West Coast competition.