A true Cinderella story unfolded on Monday at Lime Rock Park as a bruised and battered Chris Dyson claimed the Trans Am presented by Pirelli victory in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang.
Reigning champion Ernie Francis Jr., meanwhile, recovered from an early-race setback to claim a hard-fought second place, finishing ahead of super-sub Josh Hurley to complete the podium as Trans Am returned to the traditional Memorial Day weekend event at Lime Rock Park.
Starting from the pole, Dyson never surrendered the lead to claim his first TA victory of the season just days after suffering a crash in sprint car competition.
But Dyson, unsure if he was going to be medically cleared to participate following a wreck in the Hoosier 100, slipped on the glass slipper to seize the points lead in the tight TA championship, making for a perfect ending to his fairytale weekend.
“To think that two days ago I was laying in a hospital bed, not knowing if I was going to make it here,” said Dyson. “I told my dad they were going to have to tie me to this bed if they’re going to keep me from racing in Lime Rock. Luckily I was cleared to race because this might be my biggest career win. It’s so special to see all my friends and family members waving as I drive by — it’s just a fantastic feeling.”
Starting from pole, Dyson didn’t shy away from unleashing all 850-plus horsepower around the tight Connecticut circuit that’s known as road racing’s bullring.
Muscling his way through lapped traffic, Dyson slowly started to build a gap from Hurley in the No. 03 McAleese and Associates Chevrolet Camaro, who had been pressuring the hometown favorite for the lead in the early laps.
“I was just waiting for Chris to make a mistake, and the mistake never came,” said Hurley, filling in on race day for the car’s owner and regular driver, Jim McAleese, who was ill. “Then I got caught in traffic. This course is basically an oval in the woods, with limited areas to pass. Lapped traffic played a huge role in the outcome, and traffic just didn’t fall into my favor.”
Starting from Row 2, Hurley got the jump on Ernie Francis Jr. (No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang) entering Turn 1 to take second. Francis Jr. tailed Hurley, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack. But it was late-race lapped traffic that allowed the defending TA champion to pay Hurley back, reclaiming P2 with four laps left in the race.
The podium finish edged Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca winner Francis back into championship contention, only trailing the newest championship leader Dyson by eight points.
“It felt like a Late Model race out there,” Francis Jr. said. “We were never a single lap without traffic, never a lap where we were trying to get around a car and figure out a way to go. It’s really tough to pass here. Every time Josh and I caught up to traffic, it was a battle for who could get around it quickest. We came up to a large group near the end of the race and I was able to get through all of them the fastest. The podium really came down to who could work traffic the fastest.”
Tomy Drissi (No. 8 Godzilla King of the Monsters/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro) was fourth in TA at the finish, with Paul Fix (No. 4 Ave Motorsports Ford Mustang) crossing the line fifth.
The 67-lap race featured three classes of competition, with Super GT and GT machines sharing the track with the more powerful TA class machines.
In a perfect balance of fending off competitors while watching for the faster TA traffic in his mirrors, Fall Line Motorsports driver Mark Boden went flag-to-flag in the SGT class race for his first win of the season in the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3.
Brian Kleeman in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports/ExpoIT/Forgeline Ford Mustang took second while Adrian Wlostowski in the No. 96 F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang claimed the bottom step of the podium, finishing third.
“It’s awesome to win here at Lime Rock,” said Boden. “The car setup was great and the crowd was wonderful. It was hot out here but the Pirelli tires held up for me to finish on top.”
In a near-perfect drive, Steven Davison wheeled his No. 22 Davinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage to score the GT class victory.
“Sometimes surviving is winning, and that was today,” said Davison. “I am happy to be here, and these fans here at Lime Rock are some of the best in the country.”
Kerry Hitt won the Masters award in the TA class following a 10th-place finish in the No. 19 Advanced Composite Products Inc. Cadillac CTSV.
As the winner of the TA class round, Dyson took home the $500 EMCO Gears Top Gear Award, while Hurley received the Cool Shirt Cool Pass of the race award for his big move on the way to the podium.
The TA, SGT and GT drivers now have a two month break before returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway August 1-4. For full results, standings and weekend photos, visit GoTransAm.com.
The Trans Am TA2 powered by AEM machines will stage a double-header event in Detroit this weekend as part of the combined IndyCar and IMSA WeatherTech event weekend.