Chris Dyson led all the way on Saturday morning at Road America, surviving a pair of restarts to capture his first Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli victory of the season. The multi-class race saw action deep through the field, as Ken Thwaits (XGT), Lee Saunders (SGT), and Tim Horrell (GT) each claimed class victories at the Wisconsin circuit.
Driving the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang, Dyson held off Ernie Francis Jr. to win by 8.19s for his fifth career victory, and first since beating reigning champion Francis Jr. in the 2019 season finale at Daytona as the duo fought for the title.
“The car was absolutely fantastic the whole race, from start to finish.” Dyson said. “The Plaid Mustang was brilliant and Pirelli tires were strong the whole way. I got a bit nervous on the last restart, because you can never take anything for granted in this series. We came here to win, and this was big for the team.
“I just want to say thanks to everyone at the Trans Am Series and Road America in a difficult circumstances for putting on a great show for us and holding this wonderful event,” Dyson added. “This is one of my all-time favorite tracks. It’s one of the greatest tracks in the whole world and being here every summer is just an absolute gift — especially this year.”
Dyson was on his second engine of the weekend, having lost power shortly after taking the checkered flag in his pole-winning qualifying session on Friday. The team spent much of the night installing the new engine.
Francis Jr. took second on the last lap, 13.129s behind in the No. 98 One South Florida Wealth Advisors Ford Mustang when Tomy Drissi spun in Turn 9 while making a final bid to catch Dyson. Francis ran second in the early going before encountering mechanical problems which plagued his team throughout the weekend.
“We had a really tough weekend here at Road America,” said Francis Jr. “It didn’t really have the reliability that we wanted and just had a bunch of issues that we’ve been fighting. Just have to say thanks to my Breathless Racing team, they’ve sticking it through no matter what. We barely made any of the practice sessions and went out late for qualifying. We thought we finally got the One South Florida Wealth Advisors car sorted for the race. The car was strong at the beginning, but we had an electrical gremlin that shut down a cylinder in the engine about mid-way through the race, and we fell off the pace a little bit. Can’t be too upset though about a second-place finish.”
Drissi ran the fastest lap of the race — 2m06.655s — and was bidding for his second consecutive victory. However, he fell all the way back to sixth on the final lap in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro following his spin.
“The car started coming into us late in the race, so when I saw that full-course yellow I thought, ‘Hey man we can take this race!’” Drissi said. “Dyson got a good restart, but I started reeling him in going into Turn 5 and Turn 6, thinking I could pressure him into a mistake. Then at the same time, I should have thought of big picture. With Ernie behind me we would have been tied for the championship right now. I am just bummed out right now. It’s just a frustrating thing for the whole team.”
Local favorite Cliff Ebben finished third, 17.848s back in the No. 36 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang,
“I am happy with my podium finish today at my home track, it’s nice to be driving with Trans Am again,” said Ebben. “Like they always say, it’s better to be lucky than good, and today I was lucky. After the first few laps I was out there all by myself, so it wasn’t too eventful, but it was fun at the beginning and at the end, just like it should be.”
Ebben was followed by Simon Gregg in the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and Denny Lamers in the No. 66 Stumpf Ford/McMahon Group Ford Mustang. Lamers was the TA Masters class winner.
It was a brief and heartbreaking day for Amy Ruman. Her No. 23 McNichols Company Corvette stalled on the start. She took the green on pit road but broke the transmission and was towed to the paddock without completing a lap.
There was a brief caution coming out on Lap 2 for the stopped No. 15 Franklin Road Apparel Audi T8 LMS Ultra. Francis Jr. took second from Drissi on the opening lap, and then challenged Dyson for several laps following the restart. Drissi was running a strong third, but encountered traffic at tough locations on several instances to slow his progress.
The complexion of the race changed just before halfway when two class contenders went out on the 12th lap. Lou Gigliotti’s No. 28 G2 Performance Corvette lost a tire while running second in SGS. Moments later, Erich Joiner’s XGT pole-winning No. 10 Championship Coffees and Tool Porsche 911 GT3.R dropped out while leading the class.
That turn of events opened the door for Ken Thwaits, who led the rest of the way for his second career — and second consecutive — XGT victory in the No. 5 Franklin Road Apparel Audi R8 LMS Ultra.
“These are long races, and anything can happen,” Thwaits said. “All I was trying to do was run as hard as fast as I could and hang around until the end to bring it home. It wasn’t a very tiring race. I am fresh as a daisy and can do it again if someone asked me to!”
Saunders swept to his 11th career victory and third SGS triumph of the campaign in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper.
“We really pushed hard all weekend, and we are really proud to be here,” Saunders said. “It was exciting to take the win here at Road America.”
Gigliotti’s problems left Saunders with a four-second lead in SGS. Adrian Wlostowski ran second in the No. 96 F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang for 10 laps before pulling off with a mechanical problem with five laps remaining, bringing out the second full-course caution. That elevated Carey Grant to second in the No. 6 Grant Racing 2 Porsche 911.1 GT3 Cup, followed by Milton Grant in the No. 55 Sentry Self Storage Porsche 911.1 GT3 Cup. Larry Bailey finished fourth in the No. 02 Logical Systems/Sam Pierce Chevy Corvette, and was the Masters SGT champ.
Rookie Tim Horrell scored his second GT class victory of the season in the No. 45 Breathless Racing Porsche GT4 Clubsport, placing 10th overall in the 21-car field. The Breathless Racing team spent the night fixing Horrell’s car, with the front end smashed in from an incident in qualifying. That team effort earned Horrell the Cool Shirt Cool Move of the Race.
“I want the thank the team for not giving up,” said Horrell. “They worked long hours on the car to get it rebuilt. This is my first time here and the race went really well.”
The weekend concludes today with the TA2 powered by AEM main event at 2:15 p.m. CT, with Cameron Lawrence leading the field from the pole position for the 100-mile race.
While the full live streaming experience won’t be available at Road America, users of the Trans Am by Pirelli Racing App (click here to download) will have exclusive access to a new beta test feature. By logging onto the app, fans can access onboards to live stream from the driver’s point of view. Cameron Lawrence and Doug Peterson will be streaming the TA2 race.