When the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to Road America this weekend with the NASCAR Cup Series, it will mark the 50th visit for the series at the circuit.
Trans Am first raced at Road America in 1970, when Mark Donohue scored the first of back-to-back triumphs in a Roger Penske-owned AMC Javelin. Penske utilized an unusual strategy to win the first race, starting the event on a less than full fuel tank.
Donohue pitted on Lap 10 and again 20 laps later, taking advantage of a clear pit road and a track free of traffic. When the regulars pitted, Donohue held a lead he would never relinquish, beating the Plymouth Barracuda of Swede Savage, the Dodge Challenger of Sam Posey, the Chevrolet Camaro of Jim Hall and the Ford Mustang of Parnelli Jones. A great mix of cars, featuring many of America’s greatest drivers!
Since that inaugural event, Trans Am has raced at the circuit 49 times over 48 seasons. The only years off were 2006-08, when the series ran an abbreviated schedule. Trans Am also held a pair of feature races at the circuit in 1977. ()
Tommy Kendall is the leading overall Trans Am winner at Road America, scoring four victories. He won for the first time in 1990 in the ICI/Olivetti Chevrolet Beretta, ending Jack Roush’s five-year winning streak with drivers Willy T. Ribbs, two-time winner Pete Halsmer, Scott Pruett and Dorsey Schroeder. Kendall put Roush back on top in 1996-97 in a Ford Mustang. He returned to victory circle in 2004, driving for two-time Elkhart Lake winner Paul Gentilozzi.
The leading all-time Elkhart Lake winner is defending seven-time Trans Am champ Ernie Francis Jr., with five victories. The young Floridian won in American Muscle in 2014-15 and in TA4 in 2016. Since turning his attention to the lead TA category, Francis won overall in 2017 and 2019.
Local competitor Cliff Ebben is a three-time winner, scoring with Ford Mustangs in 2009, 2011 and 2016. While making limited appearances in the series, the Appleton, Wisconsin driver scored a third-place podium finish last year behind Chris Dyson and Francis. Tony Ave, a current car owner, won overall in 2010 and 2012 in addition to taking TA2 in 2015. ()
Another occasional Trans Am competitor who has enjoyed Road America success is Boris Said, the 2021 winner at Road Atlanta. Said won here in a Tom Gloy Ford Mustang in 1995; in a Panoz Esperante in 2002; and in Pancho Weaver’s Dodge Challenger in 2018.
Simon Gregg drives the No. 59 Peter Gregg Foundation Chevrolet Camaro in honor of his father, who won at Road America in 1974, 1977 and 1979.
Francis Jr., Said, Dyson and Gregg are all entered for the Trans Am showdown at Road America this weekend. TA2 will host testing and two practices (11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. CT) on Thursday. The TA/XGT/SGT/GT classes will test on Friday morning (8:30 a.m. CT) before their first official practice session before lunch (11:30 a.m. CT). TA2 will qualify on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CT before TA/XGT/SGT/GT closes out the day with their final official practice at 1:30 p.m. CT. Saturday will kick off with back-to-back qualifying sessions from TA/XGT/SGT/GT at 8:20 a.m. CT. TA2 takes the green for its 100-mile race on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. CT. The TA/XGT/SGT/GT race will conclude the weekend with a 25 laps or 75 minutes race starting at 8:00 a.m. CT.
The Trans Am races this weekend will not be streamed, but photos, video and updates for the event can be found on Trans Am social media @gotransam on all platforms.