LEXINGTON, Ohio. [August 12, 2017] – Ernie Francis, Jr., and Tony Buffomante were victorious in their respective Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli races today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the First Energy 100 and First Energy Muscle Car Challenge. Mark Boden and Brian Kleeman would also claim TA3 and TA4 class victories in the FirstEnergy100 as the Series held its 30th running at Mid-Ohio.
For Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang, the win marks his fifth victory in seven competitions this season and the 28th of his Trans Am career across all classes while furthering his lead atop the TA class points. While the No. 98 spent much of the weekend under the wrench with engine issues, Francis began the race on pole after yesterday’s qualifying sessions were cancelled, leaving the grid to be determined by points.
Francis endured early pressure from two-time defending champion Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, and late pressure from TA class debutant Martin Ragginger, in the No. 50 GoShare/Axalta Chevrolet Camaro, particularly on a final restart with only three laps to go.
"At the beginning of the race we were just trying to get our temperatures up and try and get some speed out of the car," said Francis. "We struggled with that over the first few laps; once I got my head down we ran some consistent laps and built up a gap. The yellow flag came out when we didn't want it; then Martin got on our tail again. We weren't able to pull a gap, it was tough; Martin definitely had some power on us down the straights. We tried to nail the exits, build up an air gap— and were able to bring it home for another win."
"The crew did a great job this weekend," continued Francis. "We didn't even get the engine into the car until late last night and didn't have the car ready until about two hours before this race. Katech did a great job rebuilding our motor all of yesterday; it was a group effort by the team and our sponsors this weekend— I can't thank them enough."
Ragginger would finish the race second, after moving his way up from 14th, and last, starting position to second over the initial 15 laps. Even with several full-course cautions, Ragginger came up just short with Francis able to distance himself and fend off a final charge on the last two laps. Francis set his fast lap of the race, a new track record, during that span to the tune of 1:22.236. Ragginger was awarded the COOLSHIRT Systems Cool Move of the Race for his charge from the back to the front.
Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights and Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, would finish third maintaining second position in the TA class points. Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, and Tomy Drissi, in the No. 8 Ave Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, completed the TA class top five.