August 16, 2014 marked a momentous day in the history of Sports Car Clubs of America (SCCA) and the iconic Trans Am Racing Series. As if the return of four-time champion Tommy Kendall was not enough, Miller Racing and SRT (Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology wing) have partnered to introduce the SRT Dodge Challenger as a mid-season TA-2 entry for the remainder of the 2014 season. Two separate Miller/SRT entries joined the field for the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The first was piloted by 2013 Mid-Ohio winner Cameron Lawrence and the second by SCCA legend Tommy Kendall.
The core fibers of muscle car history are permanently intertwined between the three major American automakers and their desire to excel in the SCCA Trans Am Series of Racing. The Trans Am series began in 1966 with two classes (under 2.0-liter and over 2.-0-liter) using modified factory produced machines. It has evolved over the years to include the high-flying TA1 class cars that feature lightweight fiberglass bodies, a tube-frame chassis and over 850-horsepower. The mid-level class TA-2 class cars are also constructed using a tube-frame chassis with Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, or Ford Mustang bodies and TA-3 class cars are based on factory production Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang vehicles, as well as a long list of import vehicles. The TA-3 class is broken down further into two groups called International and American Muscle.
Trans Am Series Racing conditions more closely mimic an actual street driving environment than any other form of racing. Straightaways, hair-pin curves, and rolling hills are often incorporated into race courses. The field of racers typically includes approximately 60-cars, manned by competitors that range from novice to racing’s most elite. Extreme weather and traffic conditions combined with the rigors of maximum acceleration and braking put these TA-2 cars to the test providing auto manufacturers with a wealth of valuable knowledge pertaining to future production vehicles.
Racing legend Tommy Kendall made his first appearance since 2004 in the lime green number 11 SRT Dodge Challenger. He s best known for winning championships in Trans Am and International Motorsports Association (IMSA), his victory at the 1995 Rolex 24-Hours of Daytona, and for being a well recognized expert analyst for Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports. He has the third most Trans Am victories in history, with 28. Kendall began the Mid Ohio race in the tenth position and climbed quickly to fourth before having his race ended early with a broken component in the rear-differential.
The number 1 SRT Dodge Challenger was driven by last year’s race winner and current TA-2 points leader Cameron Lawrence. Lawrence was forced to start from the sixtieth-spot because his car arrived after Friday’s qualifying session. After picking up several places early on, he was relegated to the rear of the pack again after getting hit with a penalty for speeding on pit road. Despite the problems, Cameron was able to manage an impressive tenth place finish. The ability of both these cars and drivers to pick up track position with limited practice time and no qualifying time (at least for the points leader) speaks volumes to their potential for the remainder of this season and beyond.
The SCCA Trans Am series moves to Minnesota and Brainerd International Raceway August 28-31. Cameron Lawrence also won the Brainerd race in 2013 (he actually won 8 of 10 races total, including 7 consecutive at the end) on his way to a TA-2 class championship. The Miller Racing Team has captured 18 Trans Am Series wins in 26 races over the last three seasons.