WATKINS GLEN, NY. Andy Lally emerged victorious today at Watkins Glen International as he made his Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli debut, while, despite starting on pole, coming back from 17th overall after an early pit in the No. 50 GoShare/Burtin Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Lally was joined in celebration by TA3 class victor Tim Kezman and first-time TA4 winner Steven Davison.
Lally began the race on pole, starting with current TA class points leader Ernie Francis, Jr., alongside in the No. 98 Buoniconti Fund Ford Mustang. Lally would lead the initial laps, consistently gapping the field, until entering the pits at the end of the third lap.
“We had a very clean green flag and opened up a nice gap on the first lap, but right away the right rear sensor started coming on," said Lally. “I could feel the tire going down; it was a slow leak. I was in denial. I was fighting it the whole time. I didn’t want to pit and find out it was pickup or something like that. I kept driving, going up over the crest of turn three, grabbing fifth gear at 170 mph and the backend started to shake around a little bit. It was starting to get loose — we ran three or four laps like that until I gave in and had to pit. But that gave the crew time to prep for the pit stop. They nailed a really fast stop, replaced the right rear, and we went right back out right as the full course yellow came out. That let us gather the field back up; we were 17th overall and then we were able to battle through them."
After the pit stop, the course immediately went under a double yellow to recover the No. 35 of Dirk Leuenberger stopped on course, which was running in the TA3 class. On the restart, Lally would drive at a blistering pace, from 17th overall to third in four laps. He then overtook Amy Ruman, in the No. 23 McNichols Company Chevrolet Corvette, after two additional laps of pursuit, before beginning pursuit of the No. 4 StopFlex/ClassicTube/CarCoach Chevrolet Corvette of Paul Fix — leading the race after the No. 98 of Francis pitted with a broken rear end.
The field then went under red flag conditions after the No. 46 of Mark Boden, running in TA3, went over the guardrail in turn 9A after contact. The driver was alert and oriented after the incident and later released from medical.
On the restart, Lally overtook Fix on the exit of turn one, taking the lead. A lead he held until the race’s conclusion four laps later, finishing nine laps short of the slated 30 due to time constraints.
“We got Paul on the restart; at that point you just race your race," said Lally. “Our rearview camera went out, and these mirrors… I still don’t have a good feel for them. I had to ask the guys if anyone was right on me; I didn’t know where they were. The crew told me we had gapped them pretty good, so I gave it 98% to take it home to conserve the car and make sure I took it home. “
Lally was joined on the podium by Amy Ruman, finishing second, and Paul Fix, a finishing order determined by a last-lap pass by Ruman. Lally, who first attended a Trans Am race as a guest of Bob Ruman, Amy’s father, remarked on the sharing of the podium with the two-time TA class champion.
|Glen Podium: Ruman, Lally and Fix|
“Very cool — what a full circle deal there. To get to know Bob all those years ago and to race against his daughter who’s a multiple time champion here and come home one and two at my home state and at my favorite track, you couldn’t have written the weekend any better. I want to come back and do as many of these as I can. “
The TA class top five was completed by Jim McAleese, in the No. 03 McAleese and Associates Chevrolet Camaro, and Blaise Csida, in the 15 BC Race Cars Chevrolet Corvette, season bests for both drivers.
Lally would also set the fast lap of the race a 1:47.827, one of four drivers to eclipse the prior race record mark of 1:49.355.
In TA3, Tim Kezman, in the No. 14 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, secured his second win of the season after leading all but the initial lap, shortly thereafter overtaking pole sitter Cindi Lux, in the No. 45 Lux Performance Dodge Viper ACR-X.
Kezman’s victory in the wake of the aforementioned incident involving the No. 46 of Mark Boden, Kezman’s teammate, brought home a win after a tough day for the Fall-Line crew.
“Mark and the team were definitely going through my mind," said Kezman. “The car had been strong all weekend, and we felt like we had the field covered during the race. When Mark had his incident, it didn’t look good as we came around the corner; from that point on I wanted to make sure I brought this win home for the team."
Cindi Lux would secure second place, a second consecutive podium for the veteran driver, while Kezman’s second Fall-Line teammate Tom Herb, in the No. 16 Fall-Line Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, came in third.
Past TA3 champion Jason Berkeley, in the No. 67 BMG Management Chevrolet Corvette, finished fourth; while Dirk Leuenberger, in the No. 35 Lux Performance Dodge Viper ACR-X, completed the TA3 top five.
In TA4, Brian Kleeman, in the No. 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang, was awarded his sixth first-place finish of the 2017 season — furthering his already substantial points gap atop the TA4 class championship standings. Kleeman’s victory came by way of a post race penalty for avoidable contact was assessed to Steven Davison, driver of the No. 2 DaVinci Plastic Surgery Aston Martin, moving Davison back a single position from first to second.
Todd Napieralski, in the No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/ TREMEC Chevrolet Camaro, finished third — stretching his own podium streak to three consecutive races.
For driving up from 17th overall in the multi-class competition to first place, Andy Lally was awarded the COOLSHIRT Systems Cool Move of the Race while the VA Racing team of Vinnie Allegretta was awarded the PitBoxes.com Crew of the Race for repairing the No. 41 TA Sights & Sounds Chevrolet Corvette. John Ambrose was awarded the TraqGear Crew Chief of the Weekend for coordinating the effort.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli will return to the track Sunday, September 24, for Round 10 of the 2017 Trans Am Championship at Virginia International Raceway.
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli weekend at Watkins Glen was held in conjunction with the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and its US Vintage Grand Prix weekend.