BRASELTON, Ga. – Mike Skeen unofficially wrapped up the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli TA2 powered by AEM championship with a thrilling flag-to-flag victory in the Atlanta Speed Tour season semifinal at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Saturday.
With the sun setting in the background, Cameron Lawrence made a pass to the outside of Skeen in turn three to take the lead in a late restart with only two laps remaining.
Undeterred, Skeen fought back and regained the lead in turn seven, going on to win by .867 seconds in the No. 77 LiquiMoly/Turn 14 Distribution Chevrolet Camaro.
The victory marked Skeen’s fifth win of the season. He now has an insurmountable 57-point lead (unofficially) over Rafa Matos, who finished third.
It would be the second consecutive title for team owner Joe Stevens, who also won last year with Marc Miller.
The nine-race campaign comes to a close at noon ET on Sunday with a 100-mile race for all five Trans Am classes. Skeen will start from the TA2 pole by virtue of scoring the fastest race lap of 1:25.159.
“That thing felt like it would never end,” Skeen said, after having to make three restarts following yellow flag periods. “I had an awesome LiquiMolly car from Stevens-Miller car. Like they’ve done all year, they’ve given me a fantastic piece. It’s been an awesome weekend. We’ve had incredible piece all weekend long, but I was afraid I’d get jumped on one of the late restarts. Cameron had a killer run on that last one, and I thought it was over.
“I didn’t want to fight him too hard into turn one, but he had a little mistake in turn seven and I was able to slip by again. That puts an exclamation point on the championship!”
Lawrence finished second in the No. 8 3-Dimensional Services Ford Mustang.
“The 3-Dimensional Services Peterson Racing guys gave me a great car,” Lawrence said. “We were disappointed with where we qualified yesterday. We knew we had a car that could run up front, but it’s good when you’re disappointed with fourth place in qualifying when you have such good guys in front of you. The guys made some awesome changes. It’s been a fun year; (it’s) crazy it’s almost over.
“We are going to give it one more go tomorrow to see if we can get one step higher on the podium.”
Matos ran second for the opening seven laps before losing the position to Lawrence, with TA2 rookie Franklin Futrelle getting by on a restart six laps later.
Matos held on, regaining the podium spot on the late-race restart.
Thomas Merrill, running without his left-front fender, finished fourth in the No. 81 Diehl-Merrill /HPT Tuners/Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang.
Futrelle took fifth in his TA2 debut, driving the No. 58 B2 Motorsports Ford Mustang. Futrelle made impressive passes to the outside of both Lawrence and Matos, and ran as high as second before Lawrence managed to get by.
Futrelle then lost a podium finish on the final restart, and was shuffled back another position on the final lap.
A veteran of open-wheel competition – winning the 2008 Formula Renault SCCA National Championship – Futrelle took the last five years off to concentrate on his business.
Another great drive was turned in by Keith Prociuk, who came from the back of the field and finished sixth in the No. 9 HP Tuners /Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang. He missed the most recent event at Circuit of The Americas due to a migraine on race day.
Doug Peterson was the Masters winner, placing seventh in the No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang.
Up-and-coming NASCAR driver Connor Mosack was running sixth in the No. 96 M1 Racecars Camaro, but pulled off in the closing laps due to overheating.
TA West contender Michelle Abbate finished 15th in her National debut in the No. 20 BC Race Cars Camaro.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham made his Trans Am debut in the No. 26 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang and ran as high as 23rd.