In a race that saw four different leaders, it was Tomy Drissi and the No. 8 The Predator Chevrolet Camaro who emerged with the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli victory at Watkins Glen International. Mark Boden and Warren Dexter captured TA3 and TA4 class victories as well, while Lawrence Loshak bolstered his hopes for a TA class championship with a second-place finish.
Drissi began the 102-mile, 30-lap contest around Watkins Glen’s Grand Prix course in sixth position and begin his climb through the field, moving to fourth on the second lap then adopting a more patient strategy; one that paid off as misfortune struck at the front of the field as the race progressed.
Polesitter Boris Said, in the No. 21 Monster Energy/ Weaver Concepts Dodge Challenger, retired due to wheel bearing issues that saw the 21 down a wheel on the 13th lap while running third. Ernie Francis Jr. lost an oil pump on his No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang on the 11th lap while in the lead. Paul Fix, in the No. 4 StopFlex/ Car Coach Ford Mustang, suffered driveline issues after leading for 11 laps; all the while Drissi continued to climb. The No. 8 took first position on the 22nd lap and hold it through the checkered flag.
For Drissi, the victory was tinted by a touch of redemption, returning to a track after finishing a close second here in 2009, his championship-winning season.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here,” said Drissi. “Last time at Watkins Glen I clinched the championship with a second place finish, but it was a bit of a Catch-22. I was so happy but, at the same time I lost that race by so little. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get a shot at this again. Now Trans Am is back at The Glen, and I didn’t want to put to much pressure on myself. The start of the race was just crazy; and I probably could have pressed my advantage, but I decided to lay back and play it slow — see what happens. I hate it for the guys that ended up having trouble, especially Boris; he was so fast.”
Still, Drissi would have to earn his win, holding off his hard-charging teammate Lawrence Loshak, in the No. 2 Pennzoil/ETE Reman Chevrolet Camaro, over the course of the final six laps.
“My teammate, Lawrence Loshak…. That might go down as one of the coolest races between two drivers,” said Drissi. “I was faster in some places, but he was faster in others. He could have shook me loose or gotten into my quarter panel, but he didn’t. There was respect there, and I owe him one. I want to see him get some wins coming up; he doesn’t need my help—he’s pretty quick. My hats off to Trans Am, Watkins Glen and my family, Lacy and the kids, thank you all.”
For Loshak the second-place finish, after a first lap pit stop to clear grass from the grill of the No. 2, paired with the misfortune of the No. 98 boosts him to second place in the championship points only 28 behind Francis.
“It’s back on,” said Loshak. “We’re gone to make this championship count till the last race. This was a huge points weekend for us, racing with our teammate at the end, a long battle with Amy Ruman; there’s no car I’d rather be driving, there’s no other team I’d rather be racing for, there’s no other sponsors I’d rather be representing. We’re closing in on Ernie (Francis); we’re coming for you Ernie.”
Simon Gregg, in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, finished third after overtaking the slowing No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette of Amy Ruman on lap 24 for his second podium finish of the year. Ruman would finish fourth while Lawrence Lepurage, in the No. 99 Share Logistics Chevrolet Corvette completed the top five with his career best finish.
In the TA3 class, Mark Boden, in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, emerged with a long-awaited Watkins Glen victory in hand, finishing fifth overall in the 31-car field for his third win of the year. Last year’s contest at Watkins Glen saw Boden contacted from behind while contending for the lead, ending his day. This year, Boden would start the race on pole and would build an early lead, but was reeled back in by the first full-course caution. Following the restart, traffic would ensure Boden would have to earn his victory.
“My plan was to ensure what happened last year didn’t happen this year,” said Boden. “I wanted to get out front early and check out early, which I did. The restart on Turn 7 was a disaster for us with the back of the TA field, one driver was actually braking in Turn 2, which is flat, holding us up — and both Marko (Radisic) and Dirk (Leuenberger) shot by me. Marko did a good job racing with me, and we had a good battle for a few laps before I got by him. We caught up with Dirk in time for another full-course caution. On the restart, I let the back of the TA class field do to him what they did to me and took advantage for the lead. It was a good race; I love being here. I was sorry to see Cindi (Lux) have to sit out with mechanicals, and I miss racing with Tim (Kezman). I hope to see everyone back out soon and more battles to come.”
Leuenberger finished a career best second on the TA3 podium, his second consecutive podium finish, while Tom Herb, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Motorsport Porsche GT3 Cup, added to the Fall-Line trophy cabinet with a third-place finish.
The TA3 top five was completed by Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports/ Racetech Ford Mustang, and Alline Cipriani, in the No. 60 Ginetta USA Ginetta G55.
In TA4, Warren Dexter, in the No. 61 Joe’s Hand Cleaner Ginetta G55, continued his undefeated streak in the TA4 class for his fifth consecutive victory after overtaking Bill Baten, in the No. 38 Priority Communications/ Van Winkle Chevrolet Camaro, on the 22nd lap.
“I really love this track,” said Dexter. “I was here a couple years ago. High speed, high-Gs, there was a lot of battling going on out there today, lots to deal with. A little dicey at times, but the Joe’s Hand Cleaner G55 was pretty much flawless out there, and it’s good to bring home a win.”
Batten finished second, a career best for the driver of the No. 38, while his Total Performance Racing teammate Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ SKF/ BSP Chevrolet Camaro, completed the TA4 podium.
Fast laps, and new class track records were set by Bois Said, in TA with a time of 1m47.342s; Mark Boden, in TA3 with a 1m54.355s; and Warren Dexter, in TA4 with a 1m57.965s.
For working his way up from 16th to second, Loshak was awarded the COOLSHIRT Systems Cool Move of the Race.
Trans Am’s TA2 class is also in attendance and will hold qualifying sessions at 4:45 PM ET this afternoon for its Watkins Glen Muscle Car Challenge, on Sunday at 11:10 a,m, ET.
Both Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli races at Watkins Glen International will feature in a weekend recap show on CBS Sports Network, Sunday, September 23 at 2:00 p.m. ET.