Trans Am preview: Lime Rock Park
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to action this weekend after a two-month hiatus with Lime Rock Park’s Trans Am Memorial Day Classic. Trans Am’s first event at the track was held on Memorial Day of 1967, and since then, 20 of Trans Am’s 37 races held at Lime Rock have been on Memorial Day weekend.
At 1.478 miles long, Lime Rock Park is the shortest track on Trans Am’s 2023 schedule, but the long weekend is full of festivities. In addition to Trans Am racing, fans will get to see the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association and International GT on the track on Friday, Saturday and Monday. On Sunday, the on-track action pauses and Lime Rock Park will host the Connecticut Craft Beer Grand Prix, as well as Hagerty Cars and Caffeine and the Royals’ Garage Car Show.
To honor veterans over the Memorial Day holiday, tickets to this weekend’s event are free for active military members, veterans and their families, and the track will provide access to the Veterans Outpost hospitality area.
Racing history on display
On Saturday, May 27 from 9:00am to 5:00pm, “The World of Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman” exhibit will be on display at Lime Rock Park. The exhibit will have a number of items from the personal collection of Paul Newman, including two Rolex Daytona watches, helmets, racing suits and other memorabilia. Newman got his start in motorsports by running track days at Lime Rock Park after starring as a race car driver in the movie “Winning.”
This year marks the 37th anniversary of Newman’s Trans Am win at the track in 1986. The win was the last Trans Am victory of Newman’s career, and he drove Bob Sharp’s red, white, and blue Newman-Sharp Racing Nissan 300ZX. In 2003, Newman made his final start in the Trans Am series, choosing Lime Rock for the event. At 78 years old, his car was No. 78. In 2008, just a month before his passing at age 83, Newman made his final laps at Lime Rock Park in front of his friends and family on a closed track in his GT1 Corvette.
Said to serve as Grand Marshal
On Saturday, TA driver and 2002 champion Boris Said will serve as Grand Marshal for the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race in which his son, Boris Said Jr., will be competing for the first time at the track. Said will be giving the start command, in addition to waving the green flag for the largest TA2 field that Lime Rock Park has ever hosted. Said won the Trans Am race at Lime Rock Park in May 2002, the same year he won the championship on the strength of eight wins in 12 races. Said also has one pole at the track, which he won in 1996.
Past winners at Lime Rock
Six drivers in this weekend’s field have stood atop the podium at Lime Rock Park. Chris Dyson is tied with Dorsey Schroeder for the most Trans Am wins at the track, with three victories each. Thomas Merrill, who is the defending TA2 winner, has the most victories at the track of those entered in the class with two. Mike Skeen has also shown a lot of speed at Lime Rock, winning the last two Motul Pole Awards at the track in addition to his 2021 victory.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (2022, 2021, 2019)
Randy Hale, No. 31 Hale Motorsports/Marsh Racing Chevrolet Corvette (2022)
Danny Lowry, No. 42 Bennett/BridgeHaul/PitBoxes.com Mercedes AMG GT3 (2022)
Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Mustang (2022, 2019)
Mike Skeen, No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (2021)
Michael Phillips, No. 45 Phillips Racing Chevrolet Camaro (SGT: 2021)
Lime Rock locals
Several drivers in this weekend’s field are from close to Lime Rock Park and the surrounding New England area.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.)
Randy Hale, No. 31 Hale Motorsports/Marsh Racing Chevrolet Corvette (Saybrook, Conn.)
Michael Saia, No. 13 KMC/Rabid Wraps/Rapid Performance Management Porsche GT3 Cup 997.1 (Amesbury, Mass.)
Steven Lustig, No. 05 The Autosport Group Chevrolet Camaro (Chester, N.J.)
Adrian Wlostowski, No. 3 Hawk Performance/AMT Motorsport Mustang (Maspeth, N.Y.)
Evan Slater, No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Chevrolet Camaro (Portsmouth, N.H.)
Dillon Machavern, No. 17 SLR-M1 Race Cars Ford Mustang (Charlotte, Vt.)
Mark Ketenci, No. 27 Linda’s Barn Ford Mustang (Strafford, N.H.)
Michael Phillips, No. 45 Phillips Racing Chevrolet (South Salem, N.Y.)
Thomas Annunziata, No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang (Colts Neck, N.J.)
Doug Winston, No. 98 Bring Back The Trades/D&M Electric Ford Mustang (North White Plains, N.Y.)
CD Racing going for 4, Dyson Racing celebrating 40
CD Racing has been off with a bang, winning the first three races of the 2023 season. In fact, between Chris Dyson and Matthew Brabham, CD Racing has won every TA race since Virginia International Raceway last October. The Poughkeepsie-based team hopes to continue the trend at their home track this weekend by securing their fourth victory of the season. It seems like a reasonable feat, as Dyson has won every race Trans Am has held at Lime Rock since 2019 (no race was held at the track in 2020). Dyson also started from the pole for his 2019 and 2022 victories.
This year, Dyson’s family team, Dyson Racing, celebrates 40 years of participating in professional motorsports. The team began competing in 1983 in the GTO class in IMSA’s GT Championship. The team made its debut in IMSA’s GTP class at Lime Rock Park in 1985, earning the overall win and scoring their first of many victories as an organization over the past four decades.
Marks returns with experience
After missing the race at Road Atlanta due to a scheduling conflict with his NASCAR team, Justin Marks returns to action this weekend at Lime Rock. This will be his first Trans Am start at the track, but not his first laps around the 1.478-mile circuit. Marks raced in the GT World Challenge at the track in 2003, finishing fifth and fourth in the weekend’s two events. He also ran in the GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series in 2006, finishing 10th, and made a 2018 GTD class start in IMSA.
Marks has had a strong start to the season, earning the Motul Pole Award at both Sebring International Raceway and NOLA Motorsports Park. He experienced a mechanical issue at Sebring but scored a hard-fought third-place finish at NOLA.
Redemption for Drissi
In last year’s event at Lime Rock, Tomy Drissi was on his way to a scorching lap in qualifying when he crashed hard in his No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang. With so little time before the green flag, Drissi was forced to withdraw from the race, which cost him dearly in his hunt for the championship. Drissi enters Lime Rock third in the standings behind Dyson and Brabham, meaning that beating the CD Racing cars could give him a huge bump in the championship fight and redemption from last year’s unfortunate event.
XGT/SGT/GT news & notes
Last year’s SGT winner at Lime Rock, Danny Lowry in the No. 42 Bennett/BridgeHaul/PitBoxes.com Mercedes AMG GT3, will take on last year’s XGT class winner at the track, Randy Hale in the No. 31 Hale Motorsports/Marsh Racing Corvette, for this weekend’s race, as Lowry has made the switch to XGT this season. The two went head-to-head earlier this year at Sebring International Raceway, with Lowry coming out on top. Lowry currently leads the XGT standings.
This year’s SGT battle will come down to Ricky Sanders in the No. 18 BridgeHaul/Bennett/PitBoxes.com Corvette, who has already won races at NOLA and Road Atlanta this year, and Lee Saunders in the No. 44 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper, who currently leads the points for the class.
Michael Saia in the No. 13 KMC/Rabid Wraps/Rapid Performance Management Porsche GT3 Cup 997.1, who is making his first start of 2023, will take on Michael Attaway in the No. 91 Bennett/BridgeHaul/Pitboxes.com Audi R8 in the GT class.
1. Chris Dyson (285)
2. Matthew Brabham (280)
3. Tomy Drissi (254)
4. David Pintaric (228)
5. Amy Ruman (222)
1. Danny Lowry (149)
2. Nathan Byrd (134)
3. Chris Evans (126)
4. Austin Hill (61)
5. Randy Hale (57)
1. Lee Saunders (203)
2. Ricky Sanders (166)
3. Milton Grant (127)
4. Carey Grant (81)
5. Kaylee Bryson (63)
1. Billy Griffin (117)
2. Michael Attaway (105)
Saturday’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race will have 36 entries, which is the largest field in Lime Rock history for the class, beating out last year’s record of 32. The field has nearly doubled in the last two years, with only 20 TA2 entries in the race in 2021. TA2’s first standalone race at Lime Rock was in 2015.
Adrian Wlostowski a hero
This weekend, Adrian Wlostowski in the No. 3 Hawk Performance/AMT Motorsport Ford Mustang returns to the site of his very first Trans Am start. The Maspeth, N.Y. native made his series debut in Trans Am’s SGT class at Lime Rock in 2019 and earned one win in the class before transitioning to TA2 in 2021.
One thing that few people know about Wlostowski is that he is a hero, helping out a friend and fellow driver in his time of need. Mark Petronis was in a terrible crash while racing in the NASA Super Touring ST2 class at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2021. Petronis spun backwards and hit a tree at 70mph, hitting with G-forces between 70-100. He was knocked unconscious and his car burst into flames. Wlostowski, who was watching the race from pit road, sprinted across the hot track toward the car with a fire extinguisher and was the first to make it to the vehicle. He and safety crews suppressed the fire and yanked Petronis from the burning car.
Even with the quick action, Petronis had third and fourth-degree burns over 35 percent of his body and spent four months in ICU recovering. However, if Wlostowski hadn’t arrived as quickly as he did, his burns would have been much worse and Petronis credits Wlostowski for saving his life.
Petronis, who lives relatively close to Lime Rock Park, will be in attendance for this weekend’s event to support Wlostowski. Petronis’ company, AMT Motorsport, is now a sponsor on Wlostowski’s TA2 car. Petronis and Wlostowski’s story will be told on the broadcast of this weekend’s event, and a longform video of Petronis’ experience can be found here
Darin Mock putting spotlight on Epidermolysis Bullosa
Darin Mock will be debuting a brand-new paint scheme this weekend when Nitro Motorsports unloads his No. 51 EB Research Partnership Ford Mustang. 20-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, whose EB is localized to just his hands and feet, often gets blisters as a result of steering, shifting and braking in his hot race car. Others with more severe forms of the disease also get blisters inside of the body, which can dramatically affect their lifespan.
Because of this, Mock has teamed up with the EB Research Partnership (EBRP), and will feature the organization on his car this weekend, as well as the Detroit Grand Prix, Watkins Glen, VIR and Circuit of The Americas. EBRP is the largest global organization dedicated to funding research to treat and cure Epidermolysis Bullosa. During Trans Am’s hiatus, Mock also recently partnered with Sweet Dreams Mattress and Furniture in his hometown of Mooresville, N.C. to host a very successful EBRP fundraising event.
Tom Sheehan’s feeling at home
This weekend, Ironman Tom Sheehan in the No. 97 LTK Insulation Ford Mustang will be making his 130th start in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series, far more than any other driver. As a native of Auburn, N.H., Lime Rock is Sheehan’s home track, and he is the only competitor in the field who has competed in all of the last seven events at the facility.
Multi-talented TA2 drivers
During the break between Road Atlanta and Lime Rock, many Trans Am drivers competed in other racing disciplines, with some making it to Victory Lane.
Road Atlanta winner Connor Zilisch won the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series race at Laguna Seca, in addition to winning a CARS Tour Pro Late Model race at Ace Speedway. Zilisch also won the pole in a CARS event at Hickory Motor Speedway and competed at the newly-renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway.
NOLA winner Brent Crews has competed in a variety of disciplines, winning in Midgets at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55. He also competed in CARS Tour Pro Late Model events at Ace Speedway, Hickory Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway, Non-Wing Micro Sprints at Millbridge Speedway, a late model event at Florence Speedway, a GR Cup North America event at COTA and more.
Thomas Annunziata parked his Pro Late Model in Victory Lane at Orange County Speedway, tested a Pro Late Model at Hickory and raced karts at Trackhouse Motorplex.
Thomas Merrill competed for Nolasport in the Grand Prix of Long Beach and in the Miami Grand Prix, and did some Ferrari Challenge coaching at COTA.
Misha Goikhberg competed in the GTD category at IMSA events at Long Beach and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Thinking of Scott Borchetta
One name that is missing from the entry list this weekend is Scott Borchetta, who was injured in a crash in Trans Am’s last outing, Road Atlanta. Every car in the field this weekend will be running a special decal to wish the driver a speedy recovery. For Saturday’s event, Jade Buford will get behind the wheel of Borchetta’s No. 48 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers Ford Mustang. Buford comes from Borchetta’s NASCAR Xfinity Series team, Big Machine Racing, and has made 43 starts for the team, as well as four additional starts with sponsorship from Borchetta’s Big Machine Vodka. Although he has attended Trans Am events in the past with Borchetta, this will be Buford’s first ever start with the series.
In addition to Buford, Trans Am will host other drivers making their first-career Trans Am starts this weekend. John Weisberg in the No. 11 Berg Racing/Red Line Oil/REDCOM Lab Chevrolet Camaro will be making his Trans Am debut. Sean Hingorani in the No. 27 SLR-M1 Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro will be making his first National Championship start. He made his Trans Am debut a few weeks ago at the Western Championship event at Sonoma Raceway, where he drove for TeamSLR, the same team he is driving for this weekend.
TA2 news & notes
Ben Maier comes into this weekend already knowing what victory tastes like at Lime Rock Park. The 14-year-old rookie and Young Gun won the 2022 SCCA Northeast Regionals in his first and only start at the track.
Argentine driver Mariano Werner returns to the Trans Am Series after making his first-career start at NOLA Motorsports Park earlier this year. Werner showed speed in his No. 12 Memo Corse/Mike Cope Racing Ford Mustang in his debut event but was forced to retire early, finishing 28th.
Dillon Machavern, who hails from Charlotte, Vermont, has been extremely close to a victory at his home track, but is still waiting to break through. Machavern has earned three second-place finishes at Lime Rock Park (2015, 2019, 2021), the most recent of which was with his current team, TeamSLR.
This weekend’s race will feature 17 rookie drivers, meaning that more than a third of the field has less than six National Championship starts before 2023. The race will also feature 12 Young Guns under the age of 25.
1. Rafa Matos (302)
2. Brent Crews (287)
3. Connor Zilisch (268)
4. Thomas Merrill (256)
5. Evan Slater (244)
Young Gun Award
1. Brent Crews (287)
2. Connor Zilisch (268)
3. Evan Slater (244)
4. Darin Mock (172)
5. Thad Moffitt (171)
Rookie of the Year
1. Thad Moffitt (171)
2. Austin Green (158)
3. Ben Maier (131)
4. Nathan Herne (124)
5. Thomas Annunziata (122)