Rafa Matos Secures Indy Trans-Am Pole

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Rafa Matos earned the pole for the Trans-Am Series TA2 class event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Chris Clark Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Rafa Matos captured his second pole of the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli season Friday in TA2 class qualifying for the Berryman Muscle Car Challenge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Matos, the current class points leader and driver of the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Chevrolet Camaro, secured first-place starting position by way of a 1:29.671 lap around the 2.43-mile combined road course at IMS.

The pole puts Matos in prime position to continue his hot streak of five consecutive podium finishes on the back of a win last round at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. Better yet, the pole is another opportunity to race at the fabled speedway for the 2009 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year.

“Here at Indy I ran twice with IndyCar, and I feel like I have unfinished business,” said Matos. “It’s extremely important to get the pole position here; we made some changes and last session the car was working really well and I knew I had to nail that lap. It’s critical to get the perfect lap here, tire management is really important here; and once you pass that sweet spot on the tires, it’s really hard to find that grip again. Our third lap was good enough for pole position. I’m really happy for the whole team, and we’ll see if we can bring home another victory.”

To secure what would be his fourth win of the season Matos will need to overcome a 28-car TA2 field come Saturday while keeping the strong No. 88 and the Pirelli tires underneath it in balance.

“First, we need to keep our nose clean on the start,” said Matos. “Even if something happens and we lose a position, it’s a long race, 75 minutes, it’s all about tire management. It’s going to be similar to Homestead-Miami where we really had to take care of the tires. I feel we have a very strong car, and I have to respect the limits of the car and the tires. I can’t overdrive it… that’s how we can bring home the victory.”

Starting alongside Matos will be sports car veteran Shane Lewis, driver of the No. 92 Turnkey Industries/ Surphis Chevrolet Camaro, who qualified second by way of a 1:29.940 lap. Lewis currently resides third in the points and Saturday’s starting position is his second best of the season. Lewis also stands the only driver in the field to podium at IMS in last year’s TA2 competition.

Scott Lagasse Jr., in the No. 95 SLR/ Fields Racing/M1 Fastrack Chevrolet Camaro, will start on the inside of the second row after a 1:30.312 qualifying effort, with Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Ford Mustang, alongside. Buffomante turned a 1:30.720 in the No. 34 and, like Matos, enters the weekend on the backs of a Detroit victory with his coming in the first of the two races on the double-header weekend.

Thomas Merrill, the points leader for TA2’s West Coast Championship, qualified fifth in No. 81 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang, with a 1:30.970. Merrill already has two Trans Am West wins under his belt in 2018, with victories at Auto Club Speedway and Sonoma Raceway.

The TA2 qualifying top-10 was completed by, in order, John Atwell, Joe Napoleon, Ethan Wilson, Paul Tracy and Keith Prociuk.

Paul Tracy returns to Trans-Am TA2 action in the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Chevrolet Camaro this weekend after his Series debut at Road Atlanta where he started in 25th position, driving up through the field to a seventh-place finish.