AUSTIN, Texas — After a difficult three rounds of Trans-Am Series, points leader Ernie Francis Jr. returned to the top step of the TA class podium in the COTA Trans-Am 100 and Circuit of The Americas Sunday.
Brothers Ryan and Warren Dexter also claimed Trans-Am victories in the the TA3 and TA4 classes, respectively.
Francis’ difficult stretch dates back to a practice session at Road America where the No. 98 found oil and made a heavy impact into a barrier. Francis would salvage points in a loaned car later that weekend, the first of three consecutive finishes well outside the top-10 with the No. 98 struggling to get up to its customary speed following repairs.
However, the month between Trans-Am competitions gave the Breathless Pro Racing team time to regroup and get the No. 98 back up to speed, efforts that paid dividends in the 102.81-mile contest, 30 laps around the 3.427-mile, 20-turn circuit with the No. 98 starting in first position and leading every lap. Francis would cross the finish line just over two seconds ahead of runner-up Chris Dyson.
“We definitely needed this result,” said Francis. “It’s been a tough couple races for us, and we were all kind of in a low spell. To get a good result and a win, really a dominant win, out there, it will boost the moral of the whole team. We’re ready to go Daytona, finish it off and bring home this championship.”
“The effort from the team has been unbelievable,” said Francis. “Mark Meissen pretty much rebuilt the whole car after the issue at Road America. That was followed by issues at Watkins Glen and VIR—the car just wasn’t working the way we needed it to. Finally, we were able to get the car back down to Fort Lauderdale and our team, so we could do some testing and get it where it needs to be. A big thank you to our sponsors Frameless Shower Doors and Baldwin Richards Foods for their support.”
Francis’ second consecutive TA class victory at COTA was his fifth of the season and also saw the No. 98 turn a new track record 2:09.486, breaking his own mark set last year. Now Francis and the Breathless Racing team will head south to their home state of Florida for the Trans-Am Season finale next weekend at a track they know very well, Daytona Int’l Raceway.
“We’re pretty confident,” said Francis. “Daytona is a big power track; and even though that’s where we we are usually lacking, last year we were able to start on pole and bring home the win last year. I think if we can get our setup down and get this car trimmed out real nice for the banking we’ll be pretty good out there. We have one thing on our minds though, just win; that’s what we’re going to go out and do.”
For Dyson the podium finish marked his fifth of the season and first since Road America. Tomy Drissi, who had started in fourth position, completed the TA class podium.
Finishing fourth in class was Amy Ruman, who was making her 100th Trans-Am Series start. The TA class top-five was completed by David Pintaric.
In TA3 it was Trans-Am debutant Ryan Dexter who captured the class victory by way of a 23rd lap pass of Jason Daskalos after a race-long pursuit.
“We recently picked up two new Ginettas,” said Ryan Dexter. “So we decided I’d take a shot and see how I do. In the race, I just had to hold on. I knew the Vipers would eventually have their tires fall off towards the end. So I just tried to be consistent and hit my marks, and towards the end I was able to make my way by.”
In TA4, class champion Warren Dexter, the elder brother of Ryan, secured his sixth win of the season. Dexter would finish the final stages of the race unopposed in class, following Shane Lewis’ retirement due to differential issues on the 26th lap; however, he would run amongst the TA3 class leaders, finishing just behind Daskalos. Warren Dexter would also set a TA4 class track record with a 2:19.078.
“What more can you ask for than coming out of one weekend with two victories,” said Warren Dexter. “It was fun and awesome that I was close enough towards the end to watch Ryan make his pass for the lead. We’re super happy with how the car has been running this year and the way the Trans Am Series has worked with us; their hospitality is really second to none. We’re super excited about this year and looking forward to more in the future.”