After a long six-week haul around the Midwest, the Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli summer stretch comes to a close this weekend at Watkins Glen International for a four-day celebration of American motorsport alongside SVRA for the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.
Watkins Glen’s 3.4-mile Grand Prix course is the final outing on an intense late summer run of events that has included visits to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Road America.
The Glen weekend will feature two 100-mile rounds of Trans Am action, featuring the TA2 powered by AEM class on Saturday and the multi-class Trans Am, Super GT and GT race on Sunday. With only four rounds remaining in the 2019 season, it’s make-or-break time for numerous Trans Am Series competitors and teams vying for their chance at the 2019 title.
Following a tumultuous race at Road America, Chris Dyson is chasing a rebound at Watkins Glen from behind the wheel of the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang.
Entering the Ryan Companies Road America Classic, Dyson led the TA championship by a narrow margin over Ernie Francis Jr, but an early brake failure sent Dyson’s white and red Mustang into a wall and out of the race early. Although Dyson earned points for starting on pole and finishing 10th, it wasn’t enough to keep the defending TA champ Francis Jr. in the No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang from capitalizing on Dyson’s misfortune to take the championship lead by nine points.
While Dyson and Francis Jr. have defended the front lines in the TA class since the Indianapolis round, the No. 8 Lucas Oil Slick Mist / Axalta Chevrolet Camaro of Tomy Drissi was missing from the action.
Sidelined due to injury, Drissi was last seen in the Burtin Racing lineup in May at Lime Rock Park. Drissi rejoins the field at a track where he had great success in 2018. Last season at Watkins Glen, in a race that saw four different leaders, Drissi held off his hard-charging Burtin Racing teammate Lawrence Loshak over the course of the final six laps to take the win in the TA class.
“I am so excited to be back — it was a long break and I sat a few events out,” said Drissi. “Watkins Glen is a track that brings out the best fans and there is going to be a ton of people there this weekend. I can’t wait to see everyone and bring out the Lucas Oil Slick Mist Camaro. I am cleared by the doctor and feeling great. I am coming in with the team really warmed up and I am going to do my best to get up to speed. The Burtin Racing guys have everything ready to go and I will have all the advantages that a driver can have from a team like Burtin and I’m looking to defend our win here from last year.”
After taking second place as a substitute driver for Burtin Racing at Road America, Boris Said returns back to the seat of his No. 2 Technique/SRI/WeaverRacing Dodge Challenger. Last season at The Glen, Said captured his 10th career pole and set the qualifying track record with a flying lap of 1:46.726-seconds around the 11-turn Grand Prix course. After mechanical issues kept him from finishing the race last year, he will be looking for a return to the Trans Am podium for the second race in a row.
Following an exciting battle at Road America, Amy Ruman in the No. 23 McNichols Co. Corvette missed the podium, but will be chasing a top-step finish at Watkins Glen where she’s won before.
“I’m excited to head to The Glen this weekend, everyone knows it’s my favorite track and we have had successes there — a win in 2016 and a second in 2017 — so I’m counting on a top finish,” Ruman said. “The competition in the series is very stiff this year, but we are still in the hunt for the Championship and anything can happen in these final rounds. We remain third in the points, but I really need a win to help us move up, we will keep pushing!”
Racing out of nearby Williamsville, New York, Paul Fix also returns to the TA roster this weekend as he is set to pilot the No. 4 Ave Motorsports Ford Mustang in pursuit of another top-five finish.
In the TA2 class, points leader Marc Miller in the No. 40 Prefix / Stevens-Miller Racing Dodge Challenger arrives at Watkins Glen with a sizable 57-point lead over 2018 champion and last year’s Watkins Glen race winner Rafa Matos.
Close behind Matos in third is Stevens-Miller Racings’s (SMR) Dillon Machavern. After swapping out his Mustang for a Challenger at Road America because of drivetrain issues, Machavern returns to the seat of his signature No. 77 Liqui-Moly / Prefix Ford Mustang.
“It is a long season and we’re doing all of the right things,” SMR owner Joe Stevens said. “My team is strong, my drivers are ready and I’d love to take the championship with Marc (Miller) and have Dillon (Machavern) right behind. We have a lot of work to do, but not one of us are going to lift off the throttle until the final checker at Daytona.”
Driving the No. 46 Beverage Flavors International Porsche 991 GT3 Cup, Mark Boden enters the weekend with two wins and three additional podium finishes in the SGT class. With top results early in the season, Boden’s consistent finishes have been challenged since Indianapolis with the return of Tim Kezman and series newcomer Ken Thwaits. Since his reappearance at IMS, Kezman has won two of the last three rounds, once piloting the No. 44 Lemons of Love Porsche 991 GT3 Cup at IMS and again in the No. 64 Fall-Line Motorsports Lemons of Love Audi R8 at Road America.
“The Audi was great at Road America and is a fun car to drive,” said Kezman. “I’ll probably be back in the Audi at Watkins Glen, because I think it will be a great car for The Glen.”
Another driver returning to the Watkins Glen roster is GT points leader Steven Davison in the Davinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage. With a pair of wins and a second-place finish, Davison heads the class as its single entry.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli field will participate in promoter test days on Wednesday and Thursday before clocking official times in practice Thursday afternoon. Friday kicks off with TA/SGT/GT practice in the morning, followed by a 20-minute TA2 powered by AEM qualifying session in the evening. Saturday opens with the 100-mile TA2 feature at 10:40 a.m. ET with a split-class qualifying TA/SGT/GT starting at 5:50 p.m. ET. The weekend ends with the TA/SGT/GT 100-mile feature starting at 11:20 a.m. ET.