Event Program: 2023 Austin SpeedTour
Race Preview: Trans Am Presented by Pirelli
Everything’s Bigger at COTA
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli heads to Austin, Texas for the final event of 2023 at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), the Mission Foods Austin SpeedTour. The big finale still has many championships up for grabs and a big entry list, with 74 drivers competing between the National Championship and Western Championship. The 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course has been on the Trans Am schedule since 2015 and has served as the season finale since 2021.
10 drivers on this week’s entry list have previously driven into GYM WEED Winners Circle at COTA. Of those victors, only two have taken the checkered flag at the track twice: Rafa Matos, who won in 2020 and 2021, and Adam Andretti who has both a TA win in 2015 and a TA2 victory in 2019.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (2022)
Matthew Brabham, No. 20 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (2021)
Marc Austin, No. 11 1492 Cager Works/The Coat Lab/Snap-on Mercedes GT3 (2022)
Todd Napieralski, No. 39 Chevrolet Performance/SKF/Turn Key Chevrolet Camaro (2016)
Chris Coffey, No. 97 Norwood Auto Italia/Traffic Grafix Maserati MC GT4 (2022)
Dillon Machavern, No. 17 Heritage AG/UniFirst/SLR-M1 Ford Mustang (2016)
Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang (2022)
Adam Andretti, No. 41 Ultimate Headers Chevrolet Camaro (2015 TA, 2019 TA2)
Gar Robinson, No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro (2018)
Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (2020, 2021)
Debuts and Returns
Three drivers will be making their series debuts this weekend at COTA. Brandon Westenberg in the No. 93 Esses Racing Audi R8 GT4 will be racing for the first time in the GT class in the Western Championship, while Tyler Gonzalez in the No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang and Ethan Barker in the No. 07 Concierge Motor Sports Chevrolet Camaro will make their debuts in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series.
This weekend, two drivers will be pulling double duty, competing in both the TA/XGT/SGT/GT race and Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race just over an hour apart. JC Meynet will make his first-ever start in the Western Championship’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series in the No. 28 Killer Shrimp/Bar-B-Ranch Racing Chevrolet Camaro before vying for the Western Championship’s GT title in the No. 28 Killer Shrimp Racing Chevrolet Corvette. Michael LaPaglia will be racing for the TA2 title in the Western Championship in his No. 31 Papini’s Garage/F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang and then hit the track in the TA/XGT/SGT/GT race to compete in SGT for the Western Championship.
National Championships Decided
All four of the TA/XGT/SGT/GT class championships were clinched in the series’ last outing at VIRginia International Raceway last month. TA’s Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang clinched his third-consecutive title, putting him in an echelon of just six drivers with three or more championships, and three drivers with three or more consecutive titles.
XGT’s Danny Lowry in the No. 43 Bennett/BridgeHaul/PitBoxes.
Lee Saunders in the No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper claimed his third-career SGT championship while easily maintaining his record as the winningest SGT driver of all time with 21 victories.
Finally, Michael Attaway in the 91 Bennett/BridgeHaul/Pitboxes.
Western Championship Title Up For Grabs
As of the penultimate race of the season at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch two weeks ago, two Western Championship titles have been clinched. Steve Goldman in the No. 13 LIG Racing Chevrolet Corvette has sealed the deal in the TA class with three victories in four starts, while Will Rodgers in the No. 32 Chris Evans Race Cars & Design Ford Mustang has earned the XGT title after winning every race he entered this season, with three of them being overall wins in the all-class events.
However, one heavily-contested title is still up for grabs for the Western Championship in the TA/XGT/SGT/GT race. JC Meynet (No. 28 Killer Shrimp Racing Chevrolet Corvette) and David Hampton (No. 14 AR Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 CS) are both mathematically eligible to win the GT championship. Meynet currently holds the lead with a 37-point advantage over Hampton after earning four wins and six podiums in seven starts. Hampton has three wins this season and has finished on the podium in every race he has competed in this year.
A Champion Returns
One name on this weekend’s entry list will be extremely familiar, despite being absent from the paddock for two years. 2015 and 2017 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series National champion Gar Robinson will pilot the No. 74 74 Ranch Resort Chevrolet Camaro in his first-career start in the TA class driving for Riley Technologies. Robinson has previously started 44 races in TA2, and last competed at COTA in 2021. Robinson, who is a native of Austin, Texas, has one victory at the track, winning the TA2 race in 2018.
CD Racing Returns to COTA As Winners
CD Racing comes into COTA for the third-consecutive year with a championship wrapped up, with Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang having clinched his third TA title at VIR last month. The team also enters the weekend with victories in the last two season finales at the track.
In 2021, Matthew Brabham in the No. 20 GYM WEED Ford Mustang took the checkered flag while subbing for Dyson in the final race of the year, and Dyson visited GYM WEED Winners Circle just last year to close off his championship effort. Brabham returns to the Trans Am Series after a brief absence to end the season, giving the team two opportunities to secure their third-consecutive win at the track. A win by Dyson this weekend would also move him up to fourth on the all-time TA class win list, tying him with Ernie Francis Jr. at 24.
Wally Dallenbach Back in TA
After nearly two seasons of competing in the Trans Am Heritage class, 1985 and 1986 TA champion Wally Dallenbach returns to the TA class. This weekend, he will get behind the wheel of the No. 4 Ultimate Headers/Weaver Racing Dodge Challenger.
Record GT Field
This weekend’s race will host the biggest GT field that the series has seen all season, with 12 cars taking the green flag in the class on Sunday. This weekend’s entry list consists of four GT drivers in the National Championship, six competitors in the Western Championship and two Pro/Am competitors.
BMVSC TA2 SERIES
Crews Vs. Merrill
Last year, Thomas Merrill (No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford) captured the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series championship against all odds, earning every possible point by winning both the Motul Pole Award and the race, tying Rafa Matos (No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang) in the points and claiming his first-career title in a tiebreaker. Merrill has the opportunity to come from behind to win the championship once again this year, although the odds aren’t quite as stacked against him.
Brent Crews (No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang) had the opportunity to clinch the class and become the youngest champion in Trans Am history by finishing fourth or better at VIRginia International Raceway last month, but disaster struck when a cut tire resulted in a crash which caused crippling damage to his car, relegating him to a 32nd-place finish. The result shrunk Crews’ lead from 132 points going into VIR down to just 45 points. With 110 points available in a weekend, the championship race is now wide open heading into COTA. While perfection is not required by either driver, both Crews and Merrill will undoubtedly be aiming for it. We won’t know until the checkered flag waves whether Crews will earn his first-career Trans Am championship at just 15 years, seven months and six days old, or if Merrill will win his second-consecutive title.
Three-Way Western Championship Battle
While the National Championship is down to two drivers vying for the title, the Western Championship has four drivers mathematically eligible to win the championship in TA2. Brody Goble (No. 69 Brown Bros. Ford/Cortex Racing Ford Mustang) took over the points lead for the first time this season when he won the race at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch two weeks ago, leading Michael LaPaglia (No. 31 Papini’s Garage/F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang) by just 22 points. Greg Tolson, who was leading the points going into Spring Mountain, suffered a mechanical issue early in the race and earned a DNF, dropping him down to third in the standings. Not entered this weekend, Tolson will not compete for the championship, but Tim Lynn (No. 71 RoofOptions Ford Mustang), who sits fourth in the points, a distant 95 points behind Goble, remains in contention. Regardless of who emerges with the title, it will be the first Trans Am title for Goble, LaPaglia or Lynn.
EB Research Partnership Donation
Road Race Ministries, the organization that serves as Trans Am’s chaplains, will be making a $5,000 donation to the EB Research Partnership on behalf of Darin Mock (No. 51 EB Research Partnership Ford Mustang) and Boris Said Jr. (No. 83 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro) this weekend at COTA. 21-year-old Mock and his father both suffer from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a hereditary disease in which individuals lack critical proteins that bind the skin’s two layers together. Without these proteins, the skin tears apart, blisters, and shears off. Mock has been partnered with the EB Research Partnership (EBRP) this year and has been working to raise awareness and funds to find a cure. Road Race Ministries’ donation to EBRP comes as a result of a contribution made to the chaplains by Said Jr.’s father, Boris Said, to fund their 2024 ministry. With the extra funding, the organization was able to share some of the donation to give back to Mock’s cause.
Ben Maier Making Movies
After a potentially season-ending crash at Watkins Glen International, 14-year-old Ben Maier returns to the track for the season finale with a new team. Maier will make his debut in the No. 80 Gel Blaster/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang and will be paired with his new crew chief, Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.
Maier comes into COTA fresh off a victory in his Spec Miata at VIR, and will follow up the Trans Am season finale by competing in a Can-Am Side-By-Side at the Nitrocross Racing event in Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park the following weekend.
Advantage for Merrill?
2022 champion Thomas Merrill comes into this week’s race following a warmup for the final race of 2023. Merrill competed in the Porsche Carrera Cup season finale at COTA with Nolasport just two weeks ago.
News & Notes
Connor Mosack is back in the driver’s seat this weekend, making his third start of the season for TeamSLR. Mosack’s No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro will be sporting a very special Sherry Strong Foundation paint scheme in honor of Sherry Pollex, who recently lost her life after a nine-year battle with ovarian cancer. Mosack won the Motul Pole Award in his most recent visit to VIR in 2022.
Berry Boes in the No. 32 BCR/Accio Data Chevrolet Camaro has had some recent success at VIR. The driver finished second in the GT-2 class at the track in his first ever appearance in the SCCA Runoffs last weekend. He finished runner-up to former NFL player Jared Odrick, who called Boes “the coolest guy in the world” on the podium.
Austin Green in the No. 89 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang currently leads the TA2 Rookie of the Year standings by 65 points over Thad Moffitt in the No. 43 Safety-Kleen/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro.
Rafa Matos in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang continues to pursue his 21st win, which would make him the winningest TA2 driver of all time.