Francis Jr., Boden, and Funk take poles for Mid-Ohio 100

Ernie Francis Jr.
Ernie Francis Jr.

Extremely close battles at the top of the Trans Am, Super GT and GT class qualifying sessions for the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli preview what should be an exciting FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The split-field qualifying session meant that the Trans Am class ran separately from the SGT and GT classes on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course, situated between Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio.

The TA class shot out of the gate with current championship leader Chris Dyson exchanging the top spot with last year’s Mid-Ohio winner – and second place in the title chase – Ernie Francis Jr. But the session was stopped before the midway point when third-place runner Doug Peterson landed his No. 3 Elavon/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro into the sand in Turn 4. The green came back out with mere minutes remaining in the session as Dyson and Francis Jr. re-engaged the fight.

“It was pretty stressful out there," said Francis Jr. “Chris Dyson was really close behind and putting down some pretty good laps. It was a close battle and we only got him by 5/100s of a second. It was fun and awesome, and I think the race tomorrow is going to be great. We’ve always been good here at Mid-Ohio: the track is very technical, and you don’t need a whole lot of horsepower to really get around this place, and that helped us out there. We’re going for the win tomorrow and maximizes our points so we can get on the road to this championship."

When the checkered flag flew, Francis Jr. had placed his No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang into the pole position for the second time this season with a lap at 1:22.287-seconds, a mere .054 seconds ahead of Dyson and his No. 20 Thetford/Norcold Ford Mustang.

“The car has been fantastic all weekend," said Dyson, winner of the last two races (Lime Rock and Indianapolis). “I thought we would have a strong qualifying, but we lost this morning’s practice with a driveline problem. We were little bit behind the eight-ball, but the guys worked hard to give me a good setup to contend for pole. We were able to match Ernie but for half a tenth. It shows how competitive the series is and I know we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow."

The SGT and GT qualifying session conducted its 20-minute session completely under green but with a similar duel for the pole, as Mark Boden in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and Ken Thwaits in the No. 35 WilwoodBrakes/FranklinRdApparel Audi R8 LMS swapped the position throughout the session. In the end, it was Boden taking his third pole of the season with a quick lap time of 1:26.560-seconds.

“The Fall Line Porsche has been fast all weekend," said Boden. “We made a few adjustments for qualifying and I was able to lay down a good lap on the third lap. It was happily uneventful! It should be a fun race; we’ve got four or five fast cars that will be up front."

Ohio native Larry Funk in the No. 64 Business Advisory Services Ford Mustang is the single entry in the GT class, and set his fastest time on Lap 5 with a time of 1:33.588-seconds.

Matos tops TA2 Qualifying

Rafa Matos
Rafa Matos

Extremely close battles at the top of the Trans Am, TA2, Super GT and GT qualifying sessions for the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli preview what should be two exciting races on Saturday: the FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge and the FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

With Trans Am season reaching the midway point of the season with an active schedule of iconic tracks, the championship races are beginning to emerge as drivers weigh risk and reward at every corner. A hallmark of the TA2 powered by AEM has always been close, hard, exciting action. Friday’s qualifying session was no exception, with the top spots changing on every lap late in the session.

When the dust settled, Rafa Matos had placed his No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro on the pole position of the 30-car field for the second time this season, with a lap of 1:24.938-seconds. But Matos will have no relief at the start of the 45-lap, 100-mile race on Saturday, as championship-leader Marc Miller and his No. 40 Prefix/Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger will start alongside, a mere .074 seconds back.

NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Ty Gibbs (No. 26 Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) held the top spot for one lap midway through the session, as did Detroit race winner Misha Goikhberg (No. 10 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro) and two-time winner Thomas Merrill (No. 81 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang, winner this season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Lime Rock).

The 20-minute session was abbreviated due to an incident for No. 29 Mitch Marvosh, who found the wall in Turn 5 just as the field completed two qualifying laps. By the time the green flag flew again, only 10 minutes remained – albeit 10 minutes of wild, nonstop action at the top of the speed charts.
Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 92 SLR/Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro) will start third, with Goikhberg fourth, Merrill fifth and NASCAR Xfinity regulars Justin Haley and Gibbs sixth and seventh.
Matos captured the race win at Mid-Ohio last year but lies 57 points behind Miller third in the championship chase. The defending TA2 champion took pole after working hard to get in a clean lap.

“There are 30 plus cars here so to get a clean lap is a big struggle," said Matos. “We focused on getting a clean lap, but the red flag messed up our plans. But we were able to get into a groove and find that clean lap and get the pole position. Hopefully it will be like last year and we can win the race! The 3-Dimensional Services crew has worked so hard on the car to ensure that it’s reliable and working well. But we’re playing catch-up a bit here, we’ve got some points to recover to Marc, he’s our benchmark. We’ll keep plugging away."

Miller was at once happy with his starting position, but also frustrated with the incident-shortened session.

“That was a typical TA2 qualifying session!" said Miller. “We were hoping for a longer run but didn’t get it, with the early red flag. When it came down to one of those “throw down" type things, we just weren’t prepared to get a time in that early. We needed every one of those laps, though I thought we had it on that last lap. I went into the Carousel and over slowed myself, being too careful, but in the end, I’m happy with a front row starting spot. This team has worked so hard, the Prefix Dodge is better than we expected around this tight, twisty circuit so I think we raised some eyebrows today. We just need to have a good, clean race and where we end up is where we end up. We have the big picture in mind."

The TA class shot out of the gate with current championship leader Chris Dyson exchanging the top spot with last year’s Mid-Ohio winner – and second place in the title chase – Ernie Francis Jr. But the session was stopped before the midway point when third-place runner Doug Peterson landed his No. 3 Elavon/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro into the sand in Turn 4. The green came back out with mere minutes remaining in the session as Dyson and Francis Jr. re-engaged the fight.

“It was pretty stressful out there," said Francis Jr. “Chris Dyson was really close behind and putting down some pretty good laps. It was a close battle and we only got him by 5/100s of a second. It was fun and awesome, and I think the race tomorrow is going to be great. We’ve always been good here at Mid-Ohio: the track is very technical, and you don’t need a whole lot of horsepower to really get around this place, and that helped us out there. We’re going for the win tomorrow and maximizes our points so we can get on the road to this championship."

When the checkered flag flew, Francis Jr. had placed his No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang into the pole position for the second time this season with a lap at 1:22.287-seconds, a mere .054 seconds ahead of Dyson and his No. 20 Thetford/Norcold Ford Mustang.

“The car has been fantastic all weekend," said Dyson, winner of the last two races (Lime Rock and Indianapolis). “I thought we would have a strong qualifying, but we lost this morning’s practice with a driveline problem. We were little bit behind the eight-ball, but the guys worked hard to give me a good setup to contend for pole. We were able to match Ernie but for half a tenth. It shows how competitive the series is and I know we’ve got a good race car for tomorrow."

The SGT and GT qualifying session conducted its 20-minute session completely under green but with a similar duel for the pole, as Mark Boden in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup and Ken Thwaits in the No. 35 WilwoodBrakes/FranklinRdApparel Audi R8 LMS swapped the position throughout the session. In the end, it was Boden taking his third pole of the season with a quick lap time of 1:26.560-seconds.

“The Fall Line Porsche has been fast all weekend," said Boden. “We made a few adjustments for qualifying and I was able to lay down a good lap on the third lap. It was happily uneventful! It should be a fun race; we’ve got four or five fast cars that will be up front."

Ohio native Larry Funk in the No. 64 Business Advisory Services Ford Mustang is the single entry in the GT class and set his fastest time on Lap 5 with a time of 1:33.588-seconds.

The FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100 TA, SGT, GT feature takes the green flag Saturday at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, while the FirstEnergy Muscle Car Challenge takes to the track at 12:40 p.m. For live timing and scoring, event photos and post-race recap videos visit GoTransAm.com. For live race updates follow @GoTransAm on Twitter.

TA2 Qualifying

Pos PIC CLS No Name Time Diff Gap Speed Make
1 1 TA2 88 Rafa Matos / Boca Raton Fla. 1:24.938 95.703 Chevrolet Camaro
2 2 TA2 40 Marc Miller / Holland Mich. 1:25.012 0.074 0.074 95.619 Dodge Challenger
3 3 TA2 92 Scott Lagasse Jr / St Augustine Fla. 1:25.192 0.254 0.180 95.417 Chevrolet Camaro
4 4 TA2 10 Misha Goikhberg / Woodbridge Ont. Canada 1:25.310 0.372 0.118 95.285 Chevrolet Camaro
5 5 TA2 81 Thomas Merrill / Salinas Calif. 1:25.634 0.696 0.324 94.925 Ford Mustang
6 6 TA2 99 Justin Haley / Mooresville N.C. 1:25.798 0.860 0.164 94.743 Ford Mustang
7 7 TA2 26 Ty Gibbs / Huntersville N.C. 1:26.050 1.112 0.252 94.466 Ford Mustang
8 8 TA2 77 Dillon Machavern / Charlotte Vt. 1:26.300 1.362 0.250 94.192 Ford Mustang
9 9 TA2 59 Max Nufer / Wilwood Mo 1:26.469 1.531 0.169 94.008 Chevrolet Camaro
10 10 TA2 52 Lawless Alan / Van Nuys Calif. 1:26.533 1.595 0.064 93.939 Ford Mustang
11 11 TA2 87 Doug Peterson / Bonita Springs Fla. 1:26.709 1.771 0.093 93.748 Ford Mustang
12 12 TA2 25 Aaron Pettipas / Bedford NS CA 1:26.821 1.883 0.112 93.627 Chevrolet Camaro
13 13 TA2 97 Tom Sheehan / Bow N.H. 1:27.034 2.096 0.213 93.398 Ford Mustang
14 14 TA2 31 Elias Anderson / Driftwood Texas 1:27.279 2.341 0.245 93.136 Ford Mustang
15 15 TA2 69 Aaron Quine / Wadsworth Ohio 1:27.419 2.481 0.140 92.987 Chevrolet Camaro
16 16 TA2 32 Barry Boes / Dripping Springs Texas 1:27.545 2.607 0.126 92.853 Ford Mustang
17 17 TA2 9 Keith Prociuk / Chicago Ill. 1:27.606 2.668 0.061 92.788 Chevrolet Camaro
18 18 TA2 17 Jacob Mosler / St Augustine Fla. 1:27.813 2.875 0.207 92.569 Chevrolet Camaro
19 19 TA2 28 Riley Herbst / Huntersville N.C. 1:28.259 3.268 0.392 92.102 Ford Mustang
20 20 TA2 05 Steven Lustig / Chester N.J. 1:28.305 3.367 0.046 92.054 Chevrolet Camaro
21 21 TA2 43 Roberto Sabato / Toronto Ont. Canada 1:28.317 3.379 0.012 92.041 Ford Mustang
22 22 TA2 11 Drew Neubauer / Austin Texas 1:28.728 3.790 0.411 91.615 Dodge Challenger
23 23 TA2 00 Jeff Wood / Athens Ohio 1:29.234 4.296 0.506 91.095 Diodge Challenger
24 24 TA2 83 Alex Wright / Mount Vernon Ohio 1:29.721 4.783 0.487 90.601 Dodge Challenger
25 25 TA2 12 Brian Swank / Cumming Ga. 1:29.792 4.854 0.071 90.529 Chevrolet Camaro
26 26 TA2 41 John Cloud / Naples Fla. 1:33.320 8.329 1.438 87.107 Chevrolet Camaro
27 27 TA2 60 Tim Gray / Eden Praire Minn. 1:35.653 10.715 2.333 84.982 Ford Mustang

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