Event Program: 2023 VIR SpeedTour
Race Preview: Trans Am Presented by Pirelli
Virginia is for Racers
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to the track this weekend for the penultimate race of the 2023 season at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR). Trans Am visited VIR in its inaugural season in 1966 and has included the track on its schedule every year since 2009.
Two Chances to Meet Trans Am Heroes
Fans in attendance at VIR will have two opportunities to meet the drivers of the Trans Am Series. An all-class autograph session with both TA/XGT/SGT/GT and Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series drivers will be held on Saturday morning from 9:30-10:15 a.m. in the Pavilion next to the Skid Pad.
Later that day, the Petty’s Garage display will be hosting a Women in Motorsports autograph session, which will include Grand Marshal Lyn St. James, Trans Am driver Michele Abbate, as well as Ava Dobson and Hannah Greenemeier from Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda.
Eight drivers on this week’s entry list have previously driven into GYM WEED Winners Circle at VIR. Among the victors, Lee Saunders is the only driver entered with more than one win at the track.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (2021)
Danny Lowry, No. 43 BridgeHaul/Bennett Family of Companies Mercedes AMG GT3 (2022)
Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper (2020 Race 1, 2021)
Adrian Wlostowski, No. 3 Hawk Performance/AMT Motorsport Ford Mustang (2020 Race 2, SGT)
Adam Andretti, No. 41 Ultimate Headers Chevrolet Camaro (2014)
Tyler Kicera, No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang (2020 Race 1)
Brent Crews, No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang (2022)
Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (2021)
Feels Like the First Time
Three drivers will be making their series debuts this weekend at VIR. Shannon Herford(No. 51 NAPM Inc. Porsche 911 GT3R) is making his first Trans Am start in the XGT class, while David Hodge (No. 71 F.A.S.T. Auto Racing Ford Mustang) and Al Rowland (No. 07 Morgan Lumber/Rowland Performance Chevrolet Camaro) will join Trans Am in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series.
Three drivers in this weekend’s event hail from the Commonwealth of Virginia. All three are from less than three hours away in the greater Richmond area.
David Hodge, No. 71 F.A.S.T. Auto Racing Ford Mustang (Henrico)
Luke Rumburg, No. 95 Rumcastle Racing Ford Mustang (Beaverdam)
Chris Liesfeld, No. 96 Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro (Richmond)
All four of the TA/XGT/SGT/GT class championships will be clinched at VIR this weekend. TA’s Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang, XGT’s Danny Lowry in the No. 43 BridgeHaul/Bennett Family of Companies Mercedes AMG, SGT’s Lee Saunders in the No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper and GT’s Michael Attaway in the 91 Bennett/BridgeHaul/Pitboxes.
While the champion is already decided, TA must still sort out second through fifth in the standings, as there is a tight race between Tomy Drissi (No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang), David Pintaric (No. 57 Kryderacing Ford Mustang), Amy Ruman (No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette) and Justin Marks (No. 99 Trackhouse Chevrolet Camaro).
Connor Zilisch Doing Double Duty, Debuting in TA
This weekend, Connor Zilisch will make his TA class debut in the No. 7 Franklin Road Apparel/Silver Hare Chevrolet Camaro driving for Showtime Motorsports. Zilisch already has one spectacular debut at VIR under his belt. The 17-year-old made his first-career Trans Am start in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series at the track two years ago, earning the pole and becoming what was then the youngest Trans Am polesitter in history. Zilisch, who will be making his 25th-career TA2 start on Sunday in his No. 7 Silver Hare Racing/Carter Bank Chevrolet Camaro, currently sits fourth in the TA2 standings.
Dyson Rising in the Record Books
Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang is moving up in the record books. When he took the checkered flag at World Wide Technology Raceway two weeks ago, he secured his 23rd TA victory, which moved him up to fifth in the standings for wins in his class. A victory this weekend would move him up to fourth on the all-time win list, tying him with Ernie Francis Jr. at 24. Dyson knows how to get to GYM WEED Winners Circle at VIR. He won at the track in 2021 in TA, and he also has a victory in the 2002 VIR 500 endurance sportscar race, where he won the race as a rookie with Andy Wallace.
Even more impressively, when Dyson clinches the championship this weekend, he will put himself in an elite class of drivers. Until now, only five drivers have won three or more championships in the TA class. Three of them (Tommy Kendall, Ernie Francis Jr., Paul Gentilozzi) have won four championships each, while Peter Gregg and Scott Pruett have each won three. Only two drivers in Trans Am history have won three or more consecutive titles: Ernie Francis Jr. with four in a row (2017-2020), and Tommy Kendall with three in a row (1995-1997). With his championship clinch this weekend, Dyson will have a total of three titles, all consecutive (2021, 2022, 2023).
Ragginger Returns in New Burtin Chassis
For the first time since the season-opener at Sebring International Raceway in 2022, Martin Ragginger is back behind the wheel in Trans Am. The Australian-born racer will pilot the No. 17 Top Liner/CP Tech Chevrolet Camaro, also known as Burtin Racing Chassis No. 1, the brand-new chassis that the team debuted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year. Ragginger is a proven winner in Trans Am, earning two victories (Road Atlanta 2020 in TA, Daytona International Speedway 2015 in SGT) and four top-five finishes in just six starts in the series. BMVSC TA2 SERIES
Clinch Possible for Crews
Brent Crews in the No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang has the potential to clinch the 2023 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series championship this weekend at VIR, but he will have to have a strong showing in an incredibly competitive field of 35 cars. Crews enters the weekend with a 132-point lead over Thomas Merrill in the No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang. A finish of fourth or better, regardless of qualifying position, is what Crews will need to officially claim the title. Earning valuable points by qualifying in the top five or by leading laps would allow him to clinch with a worse finish. Last year, Crews started fifth before winning the race at VIR, which is his only previous start at the track.
Should Crews manage to clinch the title, he will do so at the age of 15 years, six months and nine days old, making him the youngest Trans Am champion in series history. Ernie Francis Jr. currently holds that record, winning the TA3-A (currently GT) championship in 2014 at 16 years old.
Lee Saunders Doing Double Duty
In addition to being able to clinch the SGT championship in Saturday’s TA/XGT/SGT/GT race, Lee Saunders will be making his Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 series debut on Sunday in the No. 98 Bring Back The Trades/D&M Electrical Ford Mustang. While he’s never raced behind the wheel of a TA2 car, Saunders has two SGT victories at VIR in 2020’s Race 1 and 2021. He is the winningest driver in SGT history with 20 victories, and has two previous championships in the class, earned in 2015 and 2020.
Tyler Kicera Returns
For the first time since last year’s season finale at COTA, Tyler Kicera is back behind the wheel of a TA2 car this weekend, piloting the No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang. His driving duties will be in addition to coaching his young Nitro Motorsports teammates. Kicera has been coaching various drivers in the TA2 class throughout the 2023 season.
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.