The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Trans Am, Super GT and GT qualifying late Saturday was the final session of the day at Watkins Glen International, setting the grid for Sunday’s multi-class feature at the iconic 3.4-mile, 11-turn, upstate-New York circuit.
Ernie Francis Jr. (No. 98 Frameless Shower Doors Ford Mustang) waited in pit lane for most of the 15-minute session before spotting a gap in traffic and making his move. His second flying lap did the trick as he edged out veteran driver Boris Said to claim his fourth pole of the season with a 1m45.201s fast lap.
After clocking his fast time, the defending TA champion returned to pit lane after just three laps.
“We used a similar strategy to one we’ve been using throughout the season,” Francis Jr. explained. “We just waited for a clean track. It’s worked out in our favor so far. Getting that extra point for pole position is really awesome as the championship starts to wind down.
“We have a lot of speed here and I’m having a lot of fun driving around this track,” Francis Jr. added,
Driving the freshly prepared No. 2 Technique/SRI Performance Dodge Challenger with its electrifying lightning bolt livery, Said missed out on pole position by just .341s.
“Qualifying went pretty well considering this is a brand-new car that Poncho just built. This is its first time out,” Said explained. “We have a few little teething problems to fix before tomorrow, but right now it’s really fast. I’m not in it for the points; Ernie (Francis Jr.) and (Chris) Dyson are in a tight points battle, so they better watch out for me because I’m going for broke!”
In the final lap of the session, Chris Dyson laid down a solid flying lap of 1m46.671s and will start on the sharp end of Row 2 in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang. Dyson was forced to miss Thursday’s test session due to scheduling conflicts and only turned in a few laps in Friday’s practice.
“Qualifying was frustrating,” Dyson said. “We unfortunately missed it on the tire pressure; the car never quite sparked up. We missed out on running Thursday, so we only had yesterday to go off of. The guys and I took a guess on the tire pressure, and we were way too conservative. Obviously, with the track being this cold, we struggled. It took me a lot of laps to get in my time. I think that explains most of the gap.
“We have a lot of work to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow.”
The “Rockin’ Moroccan” Tomy Drissi returned to the No. 8 Lucas Oil Slick Mist/Axalta Chevrolet Camaro for Burtin Racing after being sidelined for the last three rounds due to injury. Drissi, who won at The Glen in 2018, reminded everyone on track that just because he’s been out, it didn’t mean he’d lost his speed. With a fast time of 1m47.050s, Drissi will start fourth, right beside Dyson, in Sunday’s 100-mile feature.
“It was a very tight qualifying round today,” Drissi said. “The No. 8 Lucas Oil Slick Mist Chevrolet Camaro will start on the second row, which means I only have to pass three cars to take first. The fans here at Watkins Glen are great, and we are looking for another win here tomorrow.”
Paul Fix (No. 4 Ave Motorsports Ford Mustang) rounded out the top five with a fast time of 1m47.710s.
Fighting a cold track, wind and incoming rain, the SGT/GT mixed class qualifying was a bit more dramatic than the TA session. Shortly after going green, the session was cut short when Tim Kezman — fastest in Friday’s practice — spun entering the Bus Stop, and hit the wall. While he emerged unscathed from the incident, his No. 44 Lemons of Love Porsche 991 GT3 Cup did not. Unable to fix the substantial damage sustained during the accident before tomorrow’s early race, Kezman will drive his teammate Mark Boden’s backup No. 47 Fall-Line BMW car.
“I got a bit greedy today,” Kezman said. “I am lucky to walk away from this and we will work to get the BMW ready for tomorrow.”
Aaron Pierce in the No. 26 Sam Pierce Chevrolet/LogicalSystems Inc. Chevrolet Corvette will start on SGT pole, laying down a time of 1m52.973s. Pierce was one of the first drivers out on track and got a solid two laps in before the track went cold.
“Every time we go out to qualify, I try to go out early to get a lap down because you never know what’s going to happen,” Pierce said. “I know Mark (Boden) will be fast tomorrow, so we will have to see how we shake out in the end.”
After missing her debut race at Road America due to mechanical issues in qualifying, Cindi Lux (No. 45 Lux Performance Group/Black Rock Coffee Dodge Viper) will share the SGT class front row with Pierce.
Steve Davison got just one flying lap in the No. 22 Davinci Plastic Surgery/Aston Martin Vantage before the session ended to claim pole in GT.
“It’s always a learning experience,” said Davison. “I really needed a backup lap put down quickly before the session got shuttered. The last time I was here, I hit the barrier on the way out of the Esses, so I am a little more sensitive on this track this weekend than I have been in the past.”
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli TA/SGT/GT classes will take the green for the multi-class 100-mile feature starting at 11:20 a.m. EDT on Sunday.
For live timing and scoring, event photos and post-race recap videos visit GoTransAm.com. For live race updates follow @GoTransAm on Twitter.