WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – As the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli rolls into Watkins Glen International featuring on the US Vintage Grand Prix Weekend alongside SVRA, it does so with a swath of new faces in the TA class as Chris Dyson, Andy Lally, Justin Marks and Paul Fix are all slated to compete.
Sunday’s 102-mile TA, TA3 and TA4 multi-class race will mark the Trans-Am debuts for both Chris Dyson, in the No. 57 Kryderacing Cadillac CTS-V, and Andy Lally, in the No. 50 Goshare/Axalta Chevrolet Camaro, as the sports car veterans and New York natives, take to the familiar 3.4-mile course behind the wheel of 850-plus horsepower TA class machinery for the first time.
Justin Marks will also be in attendance, making his second Trans Am appearance, this time behind the wheel of the No. 25 Katerra Chevrolet Camaro. Marks joined the TA class earlier this season at Road Atlanta, where he set pole and led the field early on before suffering a mechanical failure. Now, armed with a new car underneath him Marks returns to Trans Am six rounds later.
Watkins Glen will also see 2015 and 2016 TA class runner-up Paul Fix, in the No. 4 StopFlex/ClassicTube/Car Coach Chevrolet Corvette, make his Trans-Am debut this year back with Tony Ave Racing. Career to date, Fix has accumulated eleven wins, 19 podium finishes and 13 poles.
Facing off with the bevy of TA class newcomers will be current points leader Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang, eager to extend his win tally this year to seven.
Francis enters the round a heavy favorite in the championship with a 47 point lead over runner-up Vinnie Allegretta, in the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette, who is also in the midst of a career year with six wins to his name.
Two-time defending TA class champion Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette will also be in attendance, eager to snap a streak of form hampered by mechanical issues, on-course contact and poor luck that has limited the No. 23 to just one podium finish this year. Now Ruman returns to one of her favorite tracks, Watkins Glen, where she is the defending TA class winner.
In TA2, the championship race between defending champ Tony Buffomante, in the No. 34 Bestline Superior Lubricants Ford Mustang, and current points leader Gar Robinson, in the No. 74 Pura Vida Tequila/74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro has tightened up, with Buffomante now within 21 points of Robinson with five rounds of TA2 action remaining.
Last year at the Glen, Buffomante captured pole but suffered a mechanical failure shortly after the green flag flew, while Robinson battled up from tenth starting position to a third place finish.
Last year’s TA2 winner Dillon Machavern, who led the vast majority of that race, returns this weekend in the No. 24 Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang after a one-race hiatus, still holding the fifth position in the championship points despite his absence at Road America.
Machavern and Buffomante stand as just two of a monstrous six-car effort by Mike Cope Racing Enterprises that also includes the talents of Keith Prociuk, Louis-Philippe Montour, Matt Parent and Justin Haley. Montour finished second in TA2 at Watkins Glen in 2016.