Starting Last, Dyson Charges to Trans Am Victory at Sebring

Chris Dyson passed Ernie Francis Jr. in Turn 1 on the final lap to complete a last-to-first victory in Sunday’s Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli 2021 season opener at Sebring International Raceway.

Electing to change Pirelli tires before the start, Dyson gave up his second-row grid position and started at the back of the 22-car grid. Undeterred, he charged through the field in the No. 20 Plaid Ford Mustang for his seventh-career TA victory in the caution-free event.

“Coming down and fighting with Ernie (Francis Jr.) is why we come here to race, he and I both come here and use each other as a benchmark.,” Dyson said. “The good Lord was looking down on us today, I am so blessed to be here. I’ve been down here for a week trying to prepare. I miss my family and I’m just happy to bring a win home.

Race Start

“We didn’t have much of a choice after yesterday’s qualifying other than to change the tires and start from the back,” explained Dyson. “I was hoping for a yellow, but it never came, so I just had to drive my head off.”

Francis Jr. led nearly all the way in the No. 98 Future Star/Breathless Racing Ford Mustang to begin his quest for an eighth-consecutive Trans Am title. Francis Jr. held off relentless pressure from both Tomy Drissi and later Dyson before finishing second, 0.659-seconds back.

“It was a really hard-fought battle with Chris Dyson out there,” said Francis Jr. “It’s always disappointing coming in second after leading most of the race. I have to thank my Breathless Racing team. They gave me a great car all weekend and we barely had to do anything to the car between sessions, it was there and it was on point all weekend. A little mistake by me in the race allowed Chris to get by, and I just burned up the equipment during the race. I will have to work on that for the next one.”

Adam Andretti finished third in the No. 43 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger, in the thick of the battle throughout the race before falling back with ignition box problems.

Adam Andretti

“We had a good starting spot, got right up behind Ernie (Francis Jr.) at the beginning, but made a few mistakes early on,” said Andretti. “Through it all we ended up with an ignition box failure the entire race. The dashboard was going crazy the whole time with the lights, so we were really just nursing it home at that point.

“I had a great time coming out here and being with my Trans Am family,” Andretti said on the podium. “Racing with these competitors, there’s nothing like it. They are true professionals, true champions, it’s really a blessing. We are always out there racing for my dad and my brother. I love those guys and really miss them.”

Francis pulled away at the start, but Drissi began trimming the lead in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro. Drissi managed to briefly pull ahead at the start/finish line with 10 laps remaining, but Francis retook the lead in Turn 1. Two laps later, Drissi spun in Turn 5 – costing him two positions and 30 seconds.

“Sorry guys,” Drissi said on his radio. “Big picture. Big picture.”

Dyson had taken third from Andretti moments before the Drissi spin and was 4.275-seconds behind Francis Jr. He nosed ahead with three laps remaining but spun, putting Francis Jr. back out front. Dyson didn’t lose much ground and continued the charge, regaining the lead on the final lap.

Justin Marks took fifth in the No. 99 Ave Motorsports, followed by Amy Ruman in the No. 23 McNichols Co./Cornertech/CNC Solutions Corvette.

In SGT, Justin Oakes took his second victory in three races driving the No. 11 Droneworks Corvette.

Justin Oakes

“I had a blast out there,” said Oakes. “The whole team came together to give me a beast of a car. We made a lot of changes to it going into this race. We didn’t get any testing done because of the conditions in Texas (COTA), but we showed up and everything worked great. I want to thank my competitors. I came to this series basically to race with guys like Lee (Saunders) and Mike (Phillips) and everyone else, and had so much fun doing it.”

Defending series champion Lee Saunders led the opening four laps in the No. 84 Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper. Oakes needed five laps to take the lead, going on to win by 20 seconds.

“It was awesome running with Justin (Oakes) today,” Saunders said. “We had some really close battles and he raced me super clean, so I really have to thank him for that. It’s going to be a really fun season.”

Phillips took third in his Trans Am debut, driving the No. 97 F.A.S.T. Auto Racing Corvette. Aaron Pierce was in position for a podium finish before losing oil pressure with nine laps remaining.

Fourth-place finisher Lou Gigliotti was the Masters winner in SGT. He blew the head gasket in his No. 28 LG Motorsports Corvette during qualifying. His participation was doubtful when his team could not find a spare part. Fortunately, a late-night search ended at a local junkyard where a Corvette was found and the needed part was procured.

Philip Di Pippo topped the podium for the GT class in the No. 94 Sasco Sports Ford Mustang.

#94 Mustang

Race Results

Pos No. Class PIC Name Sponsor/Car Laps Behind Gap
1 20 TA 1 Chris Dyson / Poughkeepsie N.Y. Plaid Ford Mustang 27 0.000s 0.000s
2 98 TA 2 Ernie Francis Jr / Southwest Ranches Fla Breathless Pro Racing Ford Mustang 27 0.659 0.659
3 43 TA 3 Adam Andretti / Brownsburg Ind ECC/AnchorBolt&Screw Dodge Challenger 27 12.405 11.746
4 8 TA 4 Tomy Drissi / Los Angeles Calif Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro 27 27.409 15.004
5 99 TA 5 Justin Marks / Brentwood Tenn Ave Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette 27 1:29.809 1:02.400
6 23 TA 6 Amy Ruman / Stow Ohio McNicholsCo/CornerTechCNCSolut Chevrolet Corvett 27 1:59.290 29.481
7 11 SGT 1 Justin Oakes / Houston Tex Droneworks Chevrolet Corvette 26 1 Lap 1 Lap
8 30 TA 7 Richard Grant / Germantown Tenn Grant Racing Chevrolet Corvette 26 1 Lap 15.130
9 84 SGT 2 Lee Saunders / Lakeland Fla Landsearch LLC Dodge Viper 26 1 Lap 4.545
10 2 TA 8 Ken Thwaits / Brentwood Tenn FranklinRoad/WeaverRacing/SRI Dodge Challenger 25 2 Laps 1 Lap
11 9 TA 9 Jeff Hinkle / Destin Fla TRGDataCenters/ Dodge Challenger 25 2 Laps 26.923
12 97 SGT 3 Michael Phillips / South Salem NY F.A.S.T. Auto Racing Chevrolet Corvette 25 2 Laps 11.743
13 28 SGT 4 Lou Gigliotti / Princeton Tex G2 Motorsports Park Chevrolet Corvette 25 2 Laps 23.498
14 22 SGT 5 Steven Davison / Arlington Va DavinciPlasticSurgery/Pinnacle Aston Martin Vantage 25 2 Laps 2.190
15 14 SGT 6 Billy Griffin / W Palm Beach Fla GriffinAutoCare/SheehansTowing Ford Mustang GT4 25 2 Laps 23.786
16 94 GT 1 Philip Di Pippo / Mattituck NY Sasco Sports Ford Mustang 22 5 Laps 3 Laps
17 3 TA 10 Oscar Teran / Panama Oscar Teran Ford Mustang 20 7 Laps 2 Laps
18 26 SGT 7 Aaron Pierce / Fishers Ind LogicalSystemsInc/SamPierceChev Chevrolet Corvett 18 9 Laps 2 Laps
19 86 SGT 8 John Baucom / Charlotte N.C. Baucom Motorsports Ford Mustang 18 9 Laps 16:25.421
20 96 SGT 9 James Candelaria / Boca Raton Fla F.A.S.T. Auto/HawkPerf/Forgeline Ford Mustang 16 11 Laps 2 Laps
21 59 TA 11 Simon Gregg / Ponte Vedra Bch Fla ThePeterGreggFoundation Chevrolet Camaro 16 11 Laps 14:30.301
22 57 TA 12 David Pintaric / Canfield Ohio Kryder Racing Ford Mustang 4 23 Laps 12 Laps
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