With Files and Photos from TransAm Presented by Pirelli Series
The opening race of the Trans Am Presented by Pirelli 2019 season couldn’t have gone better for Wisconsin racers.
Milwaukee native Lawrence Loshak finished as runner up in the TA Class last season behind perennial champion Ernie Francis Jr. but Loshak captured both the pole and the checkered flag at the series opener at Sebring International Raceway this past weekend (Feb. 28-March 2, 2019) with his #3 Pennzoil/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro.
Jeff Courtney, another Milwaukee area racer also grabbed a Class win, taking the GT title in his #88 Matrix/RecStuff.com/Kenda Masserati GT4.
The race featured one other Wisconsinite – Natalie Decker from Eagle River, running for Tony Ave, a native of Hurley on the Ave Racing Team in the #04 N29 Technologies / Cybersight Chevrolet Corvette.
Decker completed an ambitious and awesome doubleheader, racing in Vegas on Friday night in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event in Las Vegas and making it to Florida in time for a mandatory drivers meeting early Saturday. She finished ninth in the TA Class on Sunday.
Defending champion Ernie Francis Jr. pressured Loshak for the opening six laps before pitting with a transmission issue, costing him 12 laps.
A late caution set the stage for a charge from Chris Dyson in his No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang, but Loshak prevailed in the five-lap shootout and won his third career TA class race event by 3.047 seconds. Completing the podium was R.J. Lopez, driving the No. 06 TinaBazucaCraftAle Corvette.
“Finally, I won at Sebring – this place has always been bad luck for me,” said Loshak, driver of Burtin Racing’s No. 3 Pennzoil/GoShare Chevrolet Camaro. “We’ve been fast all weekend, but we’ve been fast here before, only to have some gremlins take us out. To start the season with a win is what the team deserves.”
Loshak remembered his past misfortunes at the historic – but bumpy – 3.74-mile circuit when the full-course caution cost him his advantage.
It’s always nerve wracking when you build up a lead and go into conserve mode, and have to start all over again,” said the Milwaukee driver. “Especially with Chris Dyson in P-2! Who has more laps and experience at Sebring than Chris? I knew he was coming, so it was all about not making mistakes. I made a handful out there, but they were not big ones. It was tough for everybody out there today, but we were able to bring the Axalta gold car home for the gold.”
Courtney captures GT
Jeff Courtney took a victory over Steven Davison in the No. 22 Davinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage. “Actually, there was more drama out there than I expected,” Courtney said. “I thought Steven jumped the restart after the first caution (on lap 10). Then, on the next caution, he kind of overcooked it in Turn 17. Kind of a give-back, but I would rather have raced for it. We were catching him, but I had to go to the dirt to avoid two TA cars. I got a lot of debris on the tires, but then I was able to click off a few good laps.”
Decker learns fast
Decker has raced the Ave Racing Team Corvette before, but never at
Sebring and the learning curve was made as steep as Mount Everest as she missed a full day of test sessions on Friday.
That left her with one 20-minute session to work out the bugs before qualifying later on Saturday.
As a result, Decker’s time came down in big chunks each time she took to the track. She qualified 14thfor the race and ran well at the start before running into some brake issues.
“When we were halfway through our race, we lost our breaks.” said Decker, “So that made it difficult, but I have a really good driver coach (Mike Skeen) that talked me through it.”
Decker’s trouble caused her to fall back to nearly a minute off the pace, but a caution on Lap 22 helped Decker get back into the pack and she and Skeen worked out the difficult job of getting through the corners on a technically tough road course with brakes she couldn’t always rely on.
The Trans Am presented by Pirelli next travels to Road Atlanta, for the Atlanta SpeedFest Tour event on March 29-31.