WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – The Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli TA class had fans on their feet on Sunday at Watkins Glen Int’l, though Ernie Francis Jr. dominated the 100-mile feature.
Going flag to flag for his third consecutive Trans Am victory, Francis Jr. padded his championship lead over Chris Dyson, collecting all points available for the weekend.
Dyson continued to deliver podium performance, finishing second as Tomy Drissi finished third in his first race back for Burtin Racing since Lime Rock Park.
“This weekend went as good as it could have went,” Francis Jr. said. “Last year and the year before we had a DNF, so to go out here and get a clean sweep of the weekend, leading all the sessions, getting pole in qualifying and finishing the race in first was great.
“I’m looking forward to the next race at VIR.”
Starting on pole, Francis Jr. steadily distance himself from the field, leading by more than 11 seconds before the only full course yellow of the race regrouped the field.
On the restart, it looked like Dyson might have had something for Francis, but the New York native’s speed faded as he also had to shake Drissi, who was stuck to his bumper.
“I was fighting the car more than I was fighting with Tomy, I was just too loose around here today,” said Dyson. “I had a glimmer of hope on the restart, but Ernie had a great restart and we just couldn’t match his pace. I had Tomy in my mirrors and we had a good battle. We will regroup and be back in a couple week’s time at VIR.”
Drissi returned from medical leave, sporting a newly wrapped Slick Mist livery for his third-place run.
Mechanical issues plagued several players in the TA field.
Amy Ruman parked her cherry red No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette after two laps, while Boris Said faced teething problems in a newly prepared Pancho Weaver Dodge.
Starting second after overcoming issues with the nose box, Said turned three laps in front before losing power completely from a bad alternator.
Meanwhile, Adam Andretti only had to take the green in the No. 17 Engineered Components Company/Anchor Bolt Chevrolet Corvette to clinch the Trans Am Northern Cup title.
Following a great start, Andretti broke a shift linkage on lap two, which forced him to the pits for the duration of the race. However, he accomplished what he came to The Glen to do, take the Trans Am Northern Cup championship.
“We’ve had a trial and tribulated weekend, and we knew that coming in,” said Andretti. “We had some metal in the oil and didn’t know how long the motor would last during the race, but knew it wouldn’t be anything catastrophic so we started. We had a good run until the shift linkage snapped.
“Our whole objective was to seal up the Trans Am Northern Cup championship,” he added. “If we didn’t have that to focus on, we would have ran all the sessions, and would have found a simple gremlin like that.”
Karry Hitt received the Masters Award in the TA class after finishing eighth.
In other action, 11 SGT-class cars took the green, with Aaron Pierce going flag to flag for his first victory of the season in the SGT category.
SGT championship leader Mark Boden finished second, while Tom Herb edged out Adrian Wlostowski on the final lap on his way to a third-place finish.
Pierce is a veteran of racing winged sprint cars, and had to adjust quickly to the Watkins Glen road course.
“The team has come a long way since we’ve started,” Pierce said. “They’ve busted their butts on this race car. We’ve ran well everywhere we’ve been to. I’ve not been to most of the tracks, and it took me some time to adjust to this track since it’s my first time here.
“Things got a bit hairy on the straight but we pulled it together and had a lot of fun doing it.”
Milton Grant received the Masters Award after finishing sixth in the SGT class.
Steven Davison in the No. 22 Davinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin Vantage wheeled his way to another victory in the GT class.
“This was a personal best race for me in terms of time,” said Davison. “Last year I smashed myself into the Esses. It was clean racing from all the SGT guys and a privilege to run with Trans Am.”