FONTANA, CA, MAR. 23 — Thetford / Norcold Dyson Racing`s James Weaver and Chris Dyson took Max Crawford`s SSC2k-Judd home second in today`s California 400. The Anglo-American pair fought hard all day with the eventual race-winning Doran / Lista Dallara, but ultimately gearbox problems–and some rookie over-exuberance– prevented a straight fight to the finish.
Weaver inherited pole after the Doran machine lost an engine in qualifying yesterday, and from there the Englishman led the race`s first hour before handing off to Chris Dyson. The rookie fell back to third and spent the majority of his stint hauling in Fredy Lienhard, Jr., who had relieved teammate Didier Theys. After a full-course yellow, Dyson challenged Lienhard for the lead as the cars ripped through the course`s fast infield chicane, only to lock his rear brakes and spin. Dyson put his head down and cut the deficit lap after lap and finally assumed the lead when the Doran car pitted. Dyson handed over the controls to James Weaver with a ninety second lead, and Weaver spent his stint jousting with Didier Theys. The Belgian seemed to have an advantage coming onto the banking section of the combination oval-road course, and he extended a lead of nearly 30 seconds over the Crawford.
With cloudy skies looming, Chris Dyson took over from Weaver and set his sights on Theys. When the Doran pilot pitted for fresh tires, Dyson found himself with a forty second lead. He maintained this lead before looping the car yet again while attempting to overtake a slower car. “I was just on the power a little early, and the car snapped around– rookie mistake that I do not want to happen again,” he said. In an instant, Dyson`s lead had been halved. It was at that point when the car`s already troubled gearbox began to act up, and Theys began to eat away at the Crawford`s lead. Ten laps later, after a spirited battle, the Belgian driver overtook Dyson in Turn 1 of the Fontana oval. “I was having trouble going down through the gears,” Dyson said. “I tried to hold Didier off and then stay with him, but the car was jumping out of gear and I was having trouble getting power to the rear wheels, so I just cruised around for the last few laps to get to the end.”
“I think that even with the result we have had a positive day,” James Weaver said after the race. “We were behind the Dallara all weekend, mostly because of lost track time, but in the race we could run with them. They were quicker, but we had a run at the win, which was good. We have made progress with the car–it is very responsive to changes and I was pleased with how much better it is on tire wear.”
Chris Dyson noted that “we had a shot, and unfortunately I could not bring it home in the end. But that said, the guys did a fantastic job on the pitstops all day. We were faster on every stop than our competition, and Pat called a good race. I am proud of them all. I am looking forward to the next one.”
After two races in a row, the Dyson team returns to its Poughkeepsie, New York headquarters for a well-deserved break.