DYSON GOES LAST TO FIRST TO WIN SEBRING TRANS AM SEASON OPENER
February 23, 2021
After flat-spotting his tires in qualifying, Chris Dyson elected to start the Trans Am by Pirelli 2021 season-opening race at Sebring, Florida on a fresh set of tires and accept the penalty of starting at the rear of the 22-car field. Dyson led just one lap of the 101-mile sprint race, but it was the one that counted, taking the checkered flag for a .695-second win over defending series champion Ernie Francis Jr.
Before the start, Dyson had been hoping for a full-course caution at some point in the race to bunch up the field and close the gap to the race leaders. Instead, the racetrack stayed green from start to finish. Undaunted, Dyson stretched his #20 Plaid Ford Mustang to the limit, carving his way through the field. And then after a late-race back-and-forth duel with Francis, Dyson took the lead in the first turn of the last lap and drove away for the win.
“What a great way to start the season,” Dyson said as he accepted the winner’s honors on the podium following the race. “I was counting on a full-course yellow – which is a pretty good bet in this hard-racing series – but that didn’t happen and I just had to drive my head off. I knew I’d be close to the front by the end, but then I’d have a real fight on my hands.”
Dyson wasn’t wrong on either count. With three laps to go he’d closed up on race-leader Francis’s rear bumper and early on the penultimate circuit made the pass for the lead – only to arrive moments later slightly off the optimum racing line at Sebring’s Turn 7, the site of a qualifying mishap the day before. The resulting half-spin proved costly. Francis also lost momentum, driving off the track to avoid contact with Dyson, but regained the narrow lead he’d lost to Dyson a few hundred yards earlier.
Dyson took the white flag, signaling the final lap of the race, two-tenths of a second behind Francis and made the race-winning move going into Turn 1.
"I had noticed the previous lap that my car was a little stronger into Turn One," Dyson said. "I had a good run coming onto the front straight, but I knew he'd defend aggressively against me. So I feinted to the right as we approached the braking zone and then when he moved out, I dove to the inside of Ernie and held the line. I felt a little tap from behind from him mid-corner but I was expecting it. Thankfully I had the car squared up enough that we were able to accelerate away cleanly, and that was the decisive move."
Once past Francis, Dyson extended his lead as he headed for the checkered flag. Francis had nothing left to mount a challenge. “Chris was really fast at the end of the race,” Francis admitted.
“It always means a lot to win at Sebring,” Dyson said. “The very first Trans Am race was held here at this track in 1966,” Dyson said. “The place has incredible history and it is one of the toughest tracks in the world. That makes adding this victory to my three class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring that much more special. We have been so, so close here to winning a TA event the last few years, and it feels great finally to put one in the record books. ”
Dyson also said he was optimistic about his chances at the second race of the season, at Road Atlanta (March 27-28) where he is the defending race winner and track record holder. “Road Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks. I have a lot of laps there, and always run strong. Over the winter, looking at the upcoming season, I felt Road Atlanta would be a strong track for us. Based on how we ran this weekend, I’m even more confident.”
At Road Atlanta, as at Sebring, Dyson’s #20 Plaid Ford Mustang will be carrying the ALTWELL CBD in-car camera for all streaming video of qualifying and the race.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Plaid Enterprises, Inc. is one of the world's largest, most diverse manufacturers of creative do-it-yourself products. Plaid’s product innovation and dedication to the ever-changing needs of consumers have made the Plaid family of products among the most recognized and desired brands worldwide.
Founded in 1976, Plaid began as a publisher of how-to craft books. The company soon expanded into manufacturing, with paint becoming the primary focus. Today, Plaid is the industry's leading small batch paint manufacturer, proudly producing paint in its facilities located outside of Atlanta, GA.
Notable brands in Plaid's portfolio include FolkArt, Apple Barrel, Delta, Bucilla, Martha Stewart Crafts, and one of the industry's best known, Mod Podge, a favorite since 1967.