There’s a wide range of racing experience throughout the Trans Am Presented by Pirelli paddock. But not many racers might be found getting out of their sprint car in Indianapolis and heading to Lime Rock Park to win a Trans Am race. That’s what Chris Dyson did on Memorial Day weekend, although in less-than-ideal circumstances.
Dyson was in Indianapolis to compete in some of the pre-Indy 500 short track races, the Hoosier 100 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds followed by the Carb Night Classic Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway. Unfortunately a big crash in the first of those events meant no racing in the other in order to concentrate on the Trans-Am race at his home track of Lime Rock. Despite Dyson being battered and bruised, that race ended up being the first time in 2019 he put the No. 20 Plaid Mustang into victory circle, in front of a lot of friends and family.
“To think two days ago I was laying in a hospital bed, not knowing if I was going to make it here,” said Dyson after the Lime Rock victory. “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.”
Going from sprint cars to Trans Am illustrates much about Dyson, painting a picture of a pure racer willing to tackle just about anything. Like his father, Rob, he started in SCCA Club Racing. And also like his father, who went on to race Trans-Am and a Porsche 962 in IMSA GTP, Chris went on to win a pair of American Le Mans Series titles, the LMP675 championship in 2003 and the LMP1 championship in 2011. He also raced and won in Pirelli World Challenge in a Bentley Continental GT3. Now he finds himself concentrating on the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli.
“I’ve been wanting to [race in Trans-Am] since I was a kid,” said Dyson. “Then I kind of fell into it by accident when I was given an opportunity to race one of the cars. David Pintaric gave me a chance in 2017 and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was really blown away by the cars. They are wonderful and visceral, massive horsepower, no driver aids, decent downforce but not overly dependent. There is a lot of work for the driver to do.
“It got the spark lit in a way that I was perhaps not expecting. I started thinking about what I was going to do in racing. I wanted to keep the team active and I wanted to stay active. It was just a good time to jump into the series. I felt there was a good base of talent with the competitors, and it was going to be a good challenge for the team and myself.”
Dyson entered Trans Am full time in 2018. He scored a second in the first race of the season, and won the second at Road Atlanta. Some mechanical issues later in the season kept him from a serious run at the championship, but he ended the season third in points and the top rookie – if someone with Dyson’s résumé can be called a “rookie.” Unfortunately, he’s had some similar issues to start 2019, but perhaps Lime Rock marked a turning point.
“I think it was a little bit of a leap into the unknown when we took the program on; that was one of the more exciting elements of it. The competition is stout and the teams and the crews that are running these cars have a lot of experience. I think Mark Meissen gave us a very good car and the team had to get up to speed with what made the car work,” he says.
Dyson is vice president at Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, a holding company that has interests in a variety of companies, including many that have graced the panels of his race cars. That keeps him pretty busy, but he’s also vice president and sporting director of Dyson Racing — a separate entity from Chris Dyson Racing which runs the Silver Crown and Trans-Am efforts — which is open to other opportunities in racing. Dyson doesn’t really need a second job, but it’s one he relishes.
“I’m someone who’s been extremely fortunate to witness some exceptional moments in racing history,” Dyson noted. “I’ve gotten to watch my father experience tremendous success and develop a massive love for this sport at a very young age. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to compete at a high level for a long time. I love pushing the boundaries, I love pushing myself and I think that’s what racing is all about. It’s my intention to keep going and look for new and exciting frontiers. Every single day I get up I have to think to myself how lucky I am. This has been a real privilege, and I am humbled by the sheer breadth of racing experiences I have been able to enjoy with my family.”