Rafa Matos, the 2009 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, captured his second consecutive win in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Sunday in the TA2 Muscle Car Challenge powered by AEM at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Joining Matos on the podium was his teammate, and TA2 class debutant, Jan Heylen, who finished second to give the Coleman Motorsports team and 3-Dimensional Services Group a one-two finish atop the 21-car TA2 field. The duo were joined in the TA2 class top three by Ft. Lauderdale’s Jordan Bupp, who secured a career best TA2 finish of third.
Matos, a Boca Raton resident, began the race in second position in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro but passed pole sitter Shane Lewis, in the No. 92 Turnkey Industries/ Surphis Chevrolet Camaro, going into turn one. On the fourth lap Matos was overtaken for the lead by Kyle Marcelli, who had started third in the No. 96 AARD/ FerPal/ MRBP Chevrolet Camaro. However, on the 18th lap restart Matos would return the favor, overtaking Marcelli for the lead— one he would hold through an additional restart, eventually gapping the rest of the field by multiple seconds.
Matos’ win followed a victory last round at Road Atlanta, his first career TA2 victory in his seventh start. Now with the proverbial monkey off his back, a second win came much easier to Matos than the first.
“I think Road Atlanta gave our team great momentum,” said Matos, who also was the 2008 Indy Lights Series champion before moving on to Indy Car the following year. “We have a fantastic atmosphere all around, and I have to say, it was all about the energy. I came into this weekend so confident, so comfortable, so relaxed. I was quickest in every practice session and then qualified second, and that didn’t bother me at all. I knew I had a very strong car, and to come out here in front of my friends and family and win one—it’s very rewarding to me and certainly a big boost to the championship.”
Having teammate Jan Heylen alongside on podium gave Matos additional reason to praise his Coleman Motorsports team.
“It’s huge,” said Matos. “Hats off to the team, hats off to Doug Peterson for trusting Coleman Motorsports to field this team, for trusting my driving, for trusting Jan’s driving. He’s given us an incredible opportunity; we all really appreciate it. We have a goal, just one, it’s to win the championship. If we finish first, second, third, that’s just a plus for us.”
All of the top three finishers were Florida residents with Matos hailing from Boca Raton, Heylen Tampa and Bupp Fort Lauderdale.
The race underwent two full-course cautions. The first of which, to retrieve the No. 57 of Maurice Hull stopped off course in turn seven, lasting from lap 11 to lap 18, the second, to retrieve the No. 05 of Steven Lustig stopped off course in turn one, running from lap 36 to 38. In total the competition spanned 45 laps, 102.15 miles around the 2.27-mile, 10-turn modified road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Earlier Sunday, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli held an identical length multi-class competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Ernie Francis, Jr., and Shane Lewis taking class honors. A full synopsis of that race can be found at gotransam.com