Hometown Heroes Sweep Trans Am Qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speedway

RJ Lopez, Shane Lewis, Randy Mueller and Ernie Francis Jr. secure poles in respective classes
Miami area drivers imposed a stranglehold on Trans Am qualifying today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. RJ Lopez, Shane Lewis, Randy Mueller and Ernie Francis, Jr., all call the eastern coast of South Florida home; and it certainly showed in today’s qualifying sessions as they swept pole positions in their respective classes in preparation for tomorrow’s two 102.15-mile, 45-lap races around the 2.273-mile modified road course.
In TA2, Shane Lewis, driver of the No. 72 Pura Vida Tequila / 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro hailing out of Jupiter, took full advantage of his hometown expertise laying down a blistering 1:21.732 lap to set a new TA2 qualifying track record while capturing pole in the act. The pole position is Lewis’ second of his career, the first coming at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2015. A TA2 victory has eluded Lewis so far in his Trans Am career despite frequently running in the top five, but the resident of Jupiter, Florida will be eager to defend his home court and now will start in the ideal position to do so.
Starting alongside Lewis in TA2 will be Lawrence Loshak, driver of the No. 5 Pennzoil Platinum / MOMO / ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, who turned a 1:21.754 lap to secure the outside for tomorrow’s race. Lewis’ teammate, Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila / 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro, was third fastest in the session with a time of 1:22.110—giving Robinson Racing two of the top three qualifiers.
Loshak’s Mike Cope Racing teammates Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Mike Cope Ford Mustang, and Dillon Machavern, in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang, were fourth and fifth in the qualifying session with times of 1:22.602 and 1:22.980, respectively. The remainder of the TA2 top ten featured, in order, Tom Sheehan, Justin Haley, Jordan Bernloehr and Keith Prociuk.
In TA, RJ Lopez, in the No. 06 Republica Brewing/ Optica Lopez Chevrolet Corvette, captured his third consecutive pole at Homestead-Miami with a 1:17.540 lap time. This is Lopez’s fifth career Trans Am pole, the most recent coming at Sebring International Raceway to open up the 2016 Trans Am Championship. Lopez was victorious at Homestead-Miami in 2014, leading the field flag-to-flag on his way to a fourth career Trans Am win. Lopez was also victorious earlier this year in one of Trans Am’s exhibition races at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
Lopez was followed in the session by Cliff Ebben, in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group/ Lamers Ford Mustang, who currently sits fourth in the Championship points, albeit just 12 off that of current points and defending Champion leader Amy Ruman.
Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, was third quick with a time of 1:18.591. While Florida native Jon Leavy, in the No. 18 info@MORpringting Chevrolet Camaro, and Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, completed the top five with lap times of 1:18.682 and 1:18.871, respectively.
The TA class top ten also featured, in order, David Pintaric, Charles Wicht, Claudio Burtin, Daniel Urrutia and Kenny Bupp.
In Trans Am’s production classes, TA3 and TA4, the Miami contingent continued its stranglehold atop the charts with Miami native Randy Mueller, in the No. 0 Epic Motorsports/ BMW M3, grabbing the pole in TA3 with a 1:23.910 lap time; while Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Beta Tools/ Liquid Performance Ford Mustang, secured pole in TA4 with a time of 1:25.567.
In TA3, Mueller was followed by Randy Kinsland, in the No. 11 Crossroads Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, just behind with a time of 1:24.073—setting up what could be another back-and-forth battle between the two competitors. Mueller’s teammate Michael Camus, driver of the No. 08 MCM Holdings BMW M3 out of Miami Lakes, was third quick in the class with a time of 1:24.970. The TA3 top five was completed by Fernando Seferlis, in the No. 28 Compulab Panama/ Aston Martin Vanquish, and Mel Shaw, in the No. 22 Bay Commercial Group Chevrolet Corvette, with times of X and X, respectively.
Following Francis in TA4 was Thomas Ellis, in the No. 00 Palm Express Ford Mustang, with a time of 1:27.599 and Dave Rici, in the No. 71 Southeast Guardrail Chevrolet Camaro, with a time of 1:30.027—well off of Francis’ time of 1:25.567.
Prior to each qualifying session Trans Am held a second practice session with the following drivers leading their respective classes: Paul Fix, in TA, Lawrence Loshak, in TA2, Randy Kinsland, in TA3, and Dave Ricci, in TA4.
*Due to a penalty awarded by Trans Am Officials in the wake of Round 8 at Virginia International Raceway, Justin Haley will be penalized four starting positions for the start of tomorrow’s TA2, presented by AEM, race.
*The No. 50 Chevron Chevrolet Corvette of Paul Fix originally qualified in second position in the TA class during qualifying but was moved to the back of the TA class grid for a technical violation.
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