POUGHKEEPSIE, NY (June 29, 2020) — Superior strategy can be the key to success in auto racing, and on Saturday afternoon it appeared after a smart pre-race call Chris Dyson was on his way to victory in the 100-mile Trans Am race on a drying Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. But then fate intervened in the form of a jammed wheel-nut during a pit stop to change from rain tires to dries.
“Even though there was no more rain in the forecast, the track was too wet to start the race on dry tires,” Dyson said following the race. “We knew the track would dry out over the course of the race and our plan was to be the first car to come in and change to dry tires.”
Dyson calculated that the time he might lose tiptoeing on dry tires for a couple of laps would be more than offset by the time his rivals would lose driving slowly in order to preserve their rain tires, which would be quickly deteriorating on a dry track.
The plan unfolded smoothly in the first parts of the race. Dyson made a good move in his #20 Plaid Mustang from his fourth place starting position to run third behind Simon Gregg, although Gregg was unable to match the pace of pole winner Tony Ave, who was able to stretch out a substantial lead before Dyson was able to pass Gregg for second place. The middle section of the race featured a hard-fought nose-to-tail battle between Dyson and Ernie Francis, Jr.
Pit Stop Drama
“Ernie took advantage of my getting boxed in by traffic and made a good move on me for second," Dyson recalled. “I then talked with the guys on the radio about the gap to Tony (Ave) and to 4th place, and how much time was left. The track was really drying out and I could feel my tires over-pressuring and starting to go off a bit. Ernie was able to pull some time out on me in traffic, but the gap to Ave was about the same. At that point, I told the guys to get ready and dove into the pits for slicks."
The pitstop was normal until it came to the left-front tire. The center-lock nut wouldn’t budge, adding half a minute to what should have been a routine stop. Rejoining a lap behind and more than two minutes in total down to the leading pair, Dyson had no choice but to drive absolutely flat out. The slick tires came in quickly and Dyson began lapping at a torrid pace, successively setting and then resetting the race’s fastest lap, carving away at the advantage of the race leaders, who were attempting to limp home on their deteriorating rain tires. At times Dyson's #20 Plaid Mustang was as much as seven or eight seconds a lap quicker than the leaders as the race neared its conclusion.
Dyson said later that he was impressed by the durability of the Pirelli rain tires. “Tony and Ernie had to nurse their rain tires as the track dried out, but those Pirelli tires proved to be just durable enough to get them both to the finish line. I was hoping there would be a full course yellow at some point after our pitstop fiasco so that I could close the gap to them and then pull away when the track went green again. It speaks to the quality of the drivers in the Trans Am field that there were no full course yellow incidents despite some really tricky conditions.”
When informed that he had finished third, less than 21 seconds race-winner Francis, after losing an extra 30 seconds during his pitstop, Dyson shrugged. “It’s a moral victory I suppose, but I am pleased that despite our problem in the pits we were still able to collect third-place points and set fastest lap. We didn't put a wheel wrong all weekend, the car performed flawlessly and I felt great in the seat all weekend, especially considering it's been nearly four months since my last race. Now we are focused on our next race in two weeks at Brainerd in Minnesota.”
Dyson’s teammate Humaid Al Masaood was racing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time in nearly a decade. Following a fourth-place finish at the series season-opening race at Sebring, Masaood posted a solid qualifying effort in the rain on Friday, and spent the Saturday race getting valuable seat time in his #21 Amamos La Vida Tequila Ford Mustang, eventually finishing 11th in the TA class. “This was good experience in tough track conditions this week. And now I’m really looking for a return to our Sebring form next month at Brainerd,” Masaood said.
Round 3 on the revised schedule for the 2020 the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli is July 10-12 at Minnesota’s Brainerd International Raceway.
The 100-mile feature Ryan Companies US/Jed Copham Tribute race is scheduled to take the green flag on Sunday, July 12 at 1:35 p.m. (Central Time)
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