Greg Pickett celebrates his Trans Am win in Portland on Sunday.
Veteran Greg Pickett delivered on his post-qualifying promise, reeling off a series of fast laps early and romping to victory in Sunday’s 53-lap, 102.1-mile Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli West Championship race at Portland International Raceway.
What Pickett, who won in Portland for the third consecutie time, didn’t predict was the race-long challenge from Michelle Nagai, whose No. 72 Berkeley Jet Drive Inc. Chevrolet Corvette out-jumped second qualifier Simon Gregg’s similar machine at the start and stuck to the rear wing of Pickett’s white Mustang through the first six laps before ever-so-slowly slipping back.
Through two yellow-flag action periods, Nagai kept Pickett honest, and she finished a strong second, just 15 seconds back after a virtuoso performance in only her fourth Trans Am start.
“I did qualifying laps every lap trying to stay with him,” said an excited Nagai. “I learned so much from him, found such a smooth rhythm. And zero problems with the car for once! I looked at the back of him for longer than I ever expected. Second is second, but it’s not the first loser today.”
Pickett, celebrating his 22nd career Trans Am victory, was quick to offer praise: “Michelle, would you be a little easier on an old guy? No, she will not!”
Gregg (No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette) had a low-key weekend, qualifying second but slowly slipping back into the clutches of a race-long TA2 powered by AEM class tussle, ultimately finishing third in TA following fast-starting Michael Fine’s retirement in the (No. 66 Architectural Glass Systems Chevrolet Camaro. Third place, though, was enough to clinch the 2019 Trans Am West Championship — the Floridian’s second career TA title (Gregg was the 2012 National champion).
In TA2, local driver Brad McAllister (No. 24 www.PortlandImplantDentistry.com Ford Mustang) led every lap from the pole, but that fact belies the fierce jockeying for position behind. Second at the finish was teenage soon-to-be pre-med college student Matthew Butson whose No. 19 Butson Racing Chevrolet Camaro dogged pre-race points leader Anthony Honeywell (No. 76 Honeywell Competition/TFB Performance Chevrolet Camaro) for the first 10 laps until Honeywell’s team boss suggested he started saving tires and let Butson by.
“Winning on my home track is long overdue,” said McAllister on the podium. “The last two years I’ve had mechanical issues. This year, I got stuck in traffic in the closing laps, and I had Matthew in my mirrors. Luckily the yellows worked out, the tires were great, brakes hung in there, but Matt was right there behind me the whole time—long overdue, but glad it’s here!”
Honeywell finished a distant third, fortunate to make it to the end with damaged suspension, while Tim Lynn (No. 46 Roof Options Racing Chevrolet Camaro) was fourth and Mitch Marvosh (No. 29 Wolf Entertainment Chevrolet Camaro) fifth after almost a race-long duel. With his win, pole and laps in the lead, McAllister moves to the top of the TA2 standings by two points over Honeywell, 134 to 132, with just one race remaining to sort out this year’s title.
Beau Borders (No. 7 APEX Race Parts/CorteX Racing Ford Mustang) was the lone survivor in the GT class, Roger Eagleton (No. 98 Five Star Property Management/Energy Real Estate Ford Mustang) retiring with a failed alternator on lap 42. Before that, the pair had swapped the class lead back and forth five times at start-finish.
The Trans Am Presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship series finale will be Oct. 4-6 at Circuit of The Americas at Austin, Texas.
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