Rafa Matos en route to winning at NOLA. (Trans Am Photo)

Matos Wins At NOLA, Becomes Winningest TA2 Driver

AVONDALE, La. — Two-time champion Rafa Matos took the checkered flag for the 21st time in the CUBE 3 Architecture TA2 Series at NOLA Motorsports Park, making him the winningest driver in the history of the class.

Matos earned his first pole of the year and dominated the final 27 laps in round three of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli season, securing his place in the record books and putting him on a trajectory to capture his third TA2 title.

After securing the pole award in yesterday’s qualifying session, Matos took the green flag in his No. 60 Concord American Flagpole/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang next to Connor Mosack in the No. 77 Silver Hare Racing/PRG Chevrolet Camaro. The field fanned out at the start, and third-place starter Jake Drew took the front row three wide in a daring move that paid off with the race lead after exiting turn one.

Before the conclusion of lap one, points leader and fourth-place starter Tyler Gonzalez in the No. 40 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang received damage which required a visit to pit road, and tenth-place starter Thomas Merrill in the No. 26 HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang shot up to the sixth position.

Drew maintained the point position by a marginal gap for the first 10 laps while the first 12 cars ran nose to tail, but Matos was able to clear Drew for the lead on lap 11. Once Matos had clean air in front of him, he was able to pull away from his competitors, putting more and more space between him and second place. Without a full-course caution to reset the field, Matos cruised to the victory, followed by Drew.

The action didn’t stop behind Matos and Drew, as Ben Maier in the No. 80 BOE Marine/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang fought up to third after starting fifth and maintained the position until the final laps despite Merrill, now fourth, constantly challenging him.

Unfortunately for Maier, a transmission problem on the final lap brought him to a stop before the checkered flag waved, relegating him back to 12th. Merrill inherited the final podium slot, and Thomas Annunziata finished fourth, followed by Caleb Bacon, who had fought his way up from 13th to round out the top five.

“The race went pretty well,” said Matos from the podium. “We felt we had a very fast race car since the beginning of the weekend, and hats off to the Nitro Motorsports team. I think [team owner] Nick Tucker does a fantastic job assembling a fantastic team. There’s a lot of talent on the team, not only the drivers, but the mechanics and the crew chiefs.

“The race went well. I had the pole position, but got passed in the beginning and waited until I burned some fuel in the car and gained some balance. I went to overtake Jake [Drew] and built up a gap and just managed that gap throughout the race. Just a really good day. I’m proud of the team, proud of Concord American Flagpole Company for allowing us to compete at the highest level. And my 21st win, baby! I was waiting for that one for a long time; it’s been a minute. Hopefully it will be the first of many this season and we’ll pave our way to our third championship.”

The Pro/Am race was wild from start to finish, with two-time winner Barry Boes and Tom Sheehan experiencing early issues which took them out of contention. Keith Prociuk drove to his first Pro/Am win of 2024 in his 101st Trans Am start, followed by Jim Gallaugher in second and former NFL player Jared Odrick finishing third for his first-career Trans Am podium.