For the drivers and teams looking toward championships in one of the four classes at the end of the season, the Trans Am presented by Pirelli event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend raised the stakes as the race kicked off a busy late summer run of four events in six weeks.
With more than 120 points on offer in TA, TA2 powered by AEM, GT and Super GT, the four-race stretch can make or break a title run. Each venue represents a challenge to get the set-up correct as the drivers have an extra consideration when it comes to risk versus reward with so many events in succession.
“First, drivers have to finish the race,” said Trans Am Series President John Clagett. “Running incident-free means that the teams can focus on normal maintenance programs as much as possible. Indy, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Watkins Glen — these are among America’s most iconic tracks, and Trans Am shines at these venues.”
The first leg of the midwest trek was last weekend at IMS. On the heels of a dominant win at Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day, Chris Dyson (photo above) was looking for a bit of redemption on the 2.43-mile road course as he tried to extend his narrow points lead in the Trans Am class Saturday over Ernie Francis Jr.
“Indianapolis was a tough race for us last year,” said Dyson, who finished third in points in 2018 and was named Rookie of the Year. “Coming to Indy we were second in points, close behind (eventual champion) Ernie (Francis, Jr.). We’d qualified in the first two rows and finished in the top five in all the previous races. We looked certain to have at least a podium on the cards, and then, about halfway through the event, a competitor slowed suddenly right in front of me and collected us. It was a tough pill to swallow. But that is racing sometimes, and we put that event behind us.”
Dyson got the Brickyard redemption he was hoping for, taking the checkered in his No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang more than 23 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Francis. Jr. in Saturday’s 100-mile feature.
“IMS means so much to family — my dad has been coming her for over 50 years with my grandfather — and to win here means so much to me,” said Dyson. “We were the beneficiary of good fortune and capitalized on it.”
Immediately after tearing down on Sunday, the field of TA, TA2, SGT and GT class teams headed west to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the Aug. 8-10 FirstEnergy Mid-Ohio 100.
With more than 50 entries slated as part of the NASCAR Xfinity Series event, the Trans Am Series will continue its road-racing legacy on one of the nation’s most treasured tracks.
Ohio native Amy Ruman (No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette) has a lot of history at Mid-Ohio, turning hundreds of laps on the technical 2.4-mile, 15-turn course through her career. Some bad luck has followed her home over the last couple years, though, and she looks to turn her luck around in front of a huge gathering of friends and family that will be on site to cheer her on.
“Having a hometown race all my fans, friends and family come out, but unfortunately the last few years we haven’t had great results there,” Ruman said. “I am hoping for a successful podium finish, if not a win, at our hometown track in front of everyone. It takes a lot to finish all the races with such a short turnaround. The guys have done a lot of pre-race prep to keep everything mechanically working and out of trouble during the races. Not having any damage to repair is key.”
After two weeks on the road, the Trans Am drivers will get one week to relax before making their way to another classic circuit when the series heads to Wisconsin for the Ryan Companies Road America Classic, Aug. 22-24.
The Trans Am will be making its 47th appearance at Road America, featuring a robust multi-class field for the event weekend, which will also play host to the NASCAR Xfinity runners.
Wisconsin native Tim Kezman got his summer stretch going with a positive note as he won at Indianapolis. While he has countless laps around Road America in his No. 44 Lemons of Love Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, he’s looking for a better performance out of his SGT car at the more technical Mid-Ohio circuit.
“I like having this many races grouped together because it helps me keep in rhythm,” Kezman explained. “All the courses are completely different. Going from a technical track like Mid-Ohio to a track with long straights like Road America requires a lot of set up changes. We have a better car for Mid-Ohio; the long straightaways hurt us at any track because we don’t have the horsepower or torque to carry us.”
Following the showdown at Road America, competitors and teams will then make their way to iconic Watkins Glen International for a weekend-long celebration of American motorsport alongside SVRA, Sept 5-7.
Watkins Glen’s 3.40-mile Grand Prix course is the last race on the intense four-event haul, and it’ll be make-or-break time for the title contenders.
Last season, in a race that saw four different leaders, Tomy Drissi held off his hard-charging Burtin Racing teammate Lawrence Loshak over the course of the final six laps to take the checkered in the TA class.
As a California native, Drissi says the long haul from coast to coast takes a toll, not only on him but also his family.
“I have to thank my family for all the support that they give so I can race,” Drissi said. “Racing is a tough sport and it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of understanding from family. Last year at The Glen, is (a race) I’ll never forget. Boris Said was one of the first to come up and congratulate me. I was completely amazed. We had an epic race in 2009 and after leading, we finished second. So it was nice to come back to take the win. I wouldn’t be able to travel and follow my passion without the support from the Lucas Oil and Slick Mist.”
Following the round at Watkins Glen, just three races will remain on the 2019 schedule for the TA, TA2, GT and SGT faithful — Virginia International Raceway, Circuit of The Americas and the finale at Daytona International Speedway.
For more information on the Trans Am schedule or results, visit GoTransAm.com.