Event Program: 2023 Watkins Glen SpeedTour
Race Preview: Trans Am
White Flags After Labor Day
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli kicks off its fall stretch, a series of the final four races of the 2023 season, at Watkins Glen International. One of the most historic tracks on the Trans Am schedule, the series has been visiting The Glen since 1968 and has competed there 43 times in the past 55 years. This year, the series enters the race weekend with tight championship races all around, meaning that every point will matter in these final four events.
Watkins Glen Winners
Nine drivers on this weekend’s entry list have been victorious at Watkins Glen International in the past. Rafa Matos in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang has the most wins at The Glen of everyone in this weekend’s field, tallying three victories in 2018, 2019 and 2021’s Race 2. The most recent victors at the track are Justin Marks (TA), Lee Saunders (SGT) and Michael Saia (GT), who all won in 2022. In TA, all three podium finishers from last year’s race (Marks, Dyson, Drissi) are entered in this event, and each has at least one victory at WGI.
Tomy Drissi, No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang (2018)
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (2021 Race 1 and Race 2)
Amy Ruman, No. 23 McNichols Co. Chevrolet Corvette (2016)
Justin Marks, No. 99 Trackhouse Chevrolet Camaro (2022)
Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper (2022)
Michael Saia, No. 13 KMC/Rapid Wraps/Rapid Performance Mgmt. GT3 Cup 997.1 (2022)
Dillon Machavern, No. 17 Heritage AG/UniFirst/SLR-M1 Ford Mustang (2016)
Doug Peterson, No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (2013 TA)
Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Mustang (2018, 2019, 2021 Race 2)
Meet The Drivers
Fans attending the Watkins Glen SpeedTour will have two chances to meet the stars of the Trans Am Series and get their hands on the 2023 Trans Am poster. On Friday, drivers of the TA/XGT/SGT/GT classes will be participating in an autograph session in the track’s Victory Lane from 1:00-1:30 p.m. ET. On Saturday, Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series drivers will be holding an autograph session at the Trans Am trailer in the paddock from 1:30-2:15 p.m.
New York State of Mind
Four drivers in this weekend’s field call New York State home. TA2 Pro/Am driver John Weisberg in the No. 11 Iron Smoke/Red Line Oil/BERG Chevrolet Camaro is closest to his hometown of Webster, N.Y., which is only an hour and a half from The Glen.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (Poughkeepsie)
Adrian Wlostowski, No. 3 HAWK Performance/AMT Motorsports Ford Mustang (Maspeth)
John Weisberg, No. 11 Iron Smoke/Red Line Oil/BERG Chevrolet Camaro (Webster)
Doug Winston, No. 98 Bring Back The Trades/D&M Electrical Mustang (North White Plains)
Lee Saunders’ Hot Streak
SGT competitor Lee Saunders in the No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper was unbeatable over the summer, winning every race since the series visited Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day weekend. Saunders has had a career year, finishing on the podium in every event in 2023 and tallying five victories in seven events so far, already beating his season high of four wins, which he achieved in 2020. Saunders holds the record for the most SGT class victories, accumulating 19 wins since he began racing in the class in 2014.
Dyson Goes Back to the Beginning
Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang returns to the site of his first-career Trans Am start this weekend at Watkins Glen. The two-time champion made his series debut at the track in 2017 as a guest driver for David Pintaric (No. 57 Kryderacing Ford Mustang).
When the green flag waves for the TA race on Saturday, Dyson will be without his CD Racing teammate (and closest championship contender), Matthew Brabham. It was recently announced that Brabham will be doing the back-to-back INDY NXT races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 9 and 10. Brabham has done four of the last five INDY NXT events, racing the open wheel cars at Iowa Speedway, Nashville’s Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, World Wide Technology Raceway and Portland International Raceway.
Despite Brabham’s absence, Dyson won’t be able to clinch the championship at The Glen like he did in 2022. The race between the top five remains tight, and the new 2023 point system means that a lot of points can be claimed or lost in a single weekend. Dyson is currently in pursuit of his third-consecutive TA title and leads the standings by 114 points after three wins and three runner-up finishes this season.
In The Winners Circle
This Friday, the Trans Am Series will welcome more than a hundred students, parents and educators with the Winners Circle Project, a non-profit organization which has been meticulously designed to inspire fresh, young, innovative minds through STEAM programs embedded in the exciting world of car racing. Throughout the course of one academic year, high school students build Factory Five Mk4 Roadsters from the ground up. Those vehicles will be on display in the Trans Am paddock and will later circle the 3.45-mile racetrack. The students in attendance will spend time with two-time champion Chris Dyson, as well as TA technical director Aaron Coalwell. They will also receive a paddock tour and visit with Pirelli and other Trans Am vendors. Learn more about the program at winners-circle.org.
Boris Hits 100
When Boris Said takes the green flag for Saturday’s race in his No. 79 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger, he will officially make his 100th start in the Trans Am Series, a huge milestone achieved by few in the paddock. The 60-year-old road racing veteran made his debut in the series in 1994 at the Bicentennial Park Street Circuit in Miami, Florida. He has since accrued 18 victories and was crowned the 2002 TA champion. Said’s most recent victory came at Road Atlanta in March 2021, and he has earned two podium finishes (Road Atlanta, Road America) in just four starts in 2023.
BMVSC TA2 SERIES
Points Race Tightens
The championship battle for the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series is tighter than ever following the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix last month. With points leader Brent Crews (No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang) and second-in-points Thomas Merrill (No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) suffering early crashes in Nashville, it allowed race winner Connor Zilisch (No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro) and third-place finisher Rafa Matos (No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang) to close the gap after both suffered issues at Road America. Just 120 points separate first from fourth in the standings, and with 110 possible points in a race, there is no clear frontrunner for the 2023 title. Veterans Merrill and Matos both earned podium finishes at Watkins Glen last year, finishing second and third, respectively. Young Guns Crews and Zilisch also had successful runs in 2022, with Crews finishing fifth and Zilisch finishing 10th.
Darin Mock Recognized
Darin Mock was recently nominated for the Third Quarter NMPA Pocono Spirit Award. This award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. It is also meant to acknowledge competitors who have overcome illness, injury, or tragedy to return to racing. Mock overcomes the challenge of racing with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) and has partnered with the EB Research Partnership to raise money to find a cure for the genetic disease.
TA2 Goes Back to School
School is back in session! This week, many kids across America return to class, and drivers in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series are no exception. Several Young Guns are hitting the books, including Silver Hare Racing’s Connor Zilisch (No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro) and Ben Maier (No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro). 17-year-old Zilisch is starting his senior year of high school, while 14-year-old Maier is kicking off high school as a ninth grader this year. Points leader Brent Crews also heads back to school this week, entering 10th grade before heading to The Glen in his No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang.
Boris Said Jr. Back with Peterson Racing
Boris Said Jr. returns to Peterson Racing this weekend following a brief absence from the championship-winning team. Since the organization suffered heavy crashes at the Detroit Grand Prix, the son of Boris Said has been running for Nitro Motorsports. Now that the team has had time to rebuild cars from the challenging weekend in the Motor City, Said Jr. will be behind the wheel of the No. 83 3-Dimensional Services Group Chevrolet Camaro.
Michele Abbate Back on Track
Following an accident at Road America in July which left her ankle injured and in need of surgery, Michele Abbate has been cleared to race and will make her debut with Nitro Motorsports in the No. 30 Ghost Energy/Lucas Oil/Nitro Ford Mustang. Abbate will drive with a custom articulated brace as she continues to heal. Abbate is slated to run with Nitro Motorsports for the remainder of the season.
Evan Slater in the No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Chevrolet Camaro has missed the last four races after a hard crash in Race 1 at the Detroit Grand Prix put him into concussion protocol. The 17-year-old is finally set to get back behind the wheel with Showtime Motorsports in this weekend’s event.