MADISON, Ill. — The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli’s inaugural race at World Wide Technology Raceway was a thrilling event combining the speed and muscle of the TA and GT classes with the excitement and youth of the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series.
Both Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang and Connor Zilisch in the No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro dominated their respective classes.
A tight SGT battle showcased close racing and crowned a first-time winner in Trans Am’s first visit to the St. Louis area in 38 years, with Richard Forsythe taking home the SGT win in his No. 58 Sambuca Restaurant/GSpeed Chevrolet Corvette.
Dyson Leads Flag-To-Flag In TA Race
Chris Dyson led from flag to flag in the TA race, but he was not without his challengers in the 63-lap shootout.
After the wave of the green, third-place starter Tomy Drissi in the No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang passed second-place AJ Henriksen in the No. 79 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger, with Drissi defending his runner-up spot for the first 10 laps of the race.
After that, Henriksen made his move on Drissi and homed in on Dyson. With Drissi behind him, Henriksen had no issue tailing Dyson, cutting Dyson’s lead to less than half a second. By lap 20, he and Dyson were nose-to-tail, with Henriksen making several pass attempts that he couldn’t quite complete.
The three ran in that order until a late-race caution bunched up the field, forcing a restart on lap 50.
Just one lap later, Henriksen once again was hunting down the two-time champion, but Drissi made contact with Henriksen’s rear bumper, sending him spinning. While Drissi took over the second position and crossed the finish line behind Dyson, he was assessed an avoidable contact penalty, which reverted him back to third.
Henriksen was credited with the second-place finish at his home track, while Dyson visited GYM WEED Winners Circle for the fourth time in 2023.
“Sweet St. Louis, man,” Dyson said. “I’ve got to tell you, I grew up a Cardinals fan and it’s amazing to come back here to see all the folks here with St. Louis Cardinals hats on. It brings back lots of great memories. Racing today was just thrilling. We were expecting this race to be really hard and physical, but I knew from following AJ [Henriksen] yesterday that he was really good and on his marks here.
“I didn’t realize this is his home track, but he was driving like a real champ there. I was good in clean air with the GYM WEED car, we could run great when we had a clear track ahead of us, but you get that for about 30 seconds around here. Every time I looked back, he was all over me. He drove great.
“We’ve had a season to remember here,” continued Dyson. “We’ve had amazing race results and we’ve scored a lot of points and a lot of wins, but it’s been a lot of work along the way. I want to take my hat off to everybody here on the CD Racing team for making sure we had not just one, but two great racecars all the time.
“It’s been a hustle between switching cars and jumping around, and these guys have stepped up to every challenge we’ve given them. I’m excited about what’s coming at VIR. I’m hoping that we can take it down to the wire there.
“I’ve got to dedicate this win to my son Nicholas. He and I put in a lot of work on the simulator over the last couple weeks. I’m not going to say which one of us was faster, but he knows, and he taught me a lot out here,” Dyson concluded.
1. Chris Dyson, No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang; 2. AJ Henriksen, No. 79 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger; 3. Tomy Drissi, No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang.
Zilisch Leads Every Lap In TA2
Zilisch dominated the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway, earning the Motul Pole Award in qualifying and leading every lap before securing his fourth win of the season.
Once the green flag waved, Zilisch immediately opened up a gap in front of second place and maintained it the entire race while the competitors behind him jockeyed for position. Taylor Gray in the No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang made an early run at Zilisch, advancing up to second from his third-place starting spot.
By lap nine, Austin Green in the No. 89 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang reclaimed his second-place starting position, attempting to hunt down Zilisch, but on lap 25, Brent Crews in the No. 70 Franklin Road Apparel/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang took over the runner-up spot.
Crews and Green remained second and third, respectively, until the checkered flag waved, leading to an all-Young Gun podium.
Behind the podium-finishers, Thad Moffitt in the No. 43 Safety-Kleen/SLR-M1 Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro had an impressive run, moving up from 11th to fifth by taking fresh tires during the late-race caution. Championship contender Rafa Matos was forced to retire due to mechanical issues on lap 10, resulting in a disappointing 27th-place finish.
Thomas Merrill, however, rebounded from issues at Watkins Glen by finishing fourth in his No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang, keeping his championship hopes alive and earning the COOLSHIRT Cool Move of the Race. Gray, who held the fourth position for much of the race, ultimately finished 19th due to a suspension issue.
“This feels really good,” said Zilisch. “We’ve been through some adversity lately and we had to overcome some issues on our side, so to get this win is really special to me. It’s really exciting to come to a place that this series hasn’t raced at in 38 years, get the win and just dominate the race.
“We led every lap. When I was out front there in the early stages, I was just begging every lap, ‘tell me the gap, tell me the gap.’ I wanted to know how much I had to save tires in the beginning stages and just wanted to manage at around a five-second gap, and I was able to do that. I had a really good Chevrolet Camaro.
“Silver Hare Racing has worked hard to give me a really good car the last few races and it shows. We’ve been fast everywhere we’ve gone. To come here and capitalize on it and get ourselves our fourth win of the year is really cool. I’m looking forward to moving on to the last two races of the year. Hopefully, we can make that six wins and keep up this momentum.”
1. Connor Zilisch, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro; 2. Brent Crews, No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang; 3. Austin Green, No. 89 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang; 4. Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro; 5. Thad Moffitt, No. 43 Safety-Kleen/SLR-M1 Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro; 6. Thomas Annunziata, No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang; 7. Jace Denmark, No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang; 8. Adrian Wlostowski, No. 3 Hawk Performance/AMT Motorsport Ford Mustang; 9. Darin Mock, No. 51 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang; 10. Josh Sarchet, No. 77 LIQUI MOLY/CUBE 3 Ford Mustang
Grant, Forsythe Battle For SGT Glory
The SGT battle was an exciting one between 2022 champion Milton Grant in the No. 55 Springhill Suites/Sentry Self Storage Porsche 991.1 GT3 Cup and Richard Forsythe in the No. 58 Sambuca Restaurant/GSpeed Chevrolet Corvette.
For the first two-thirds of the race, Grant paced the class, but Forsythe was never far behind, staying within a second of the leader. Unfortunately, following the late-race caution, Grant experienced multiple mechanical issues, forcing him to retire early. Forsythe brought home his first-career Trans Am victory in his first start of the season.
“I had a great team behind me with the Sambuca Restaurant/GSpeed Corvette,” said Forsythe. “I’d like to thank all of those guys for all the hard work that they did. This car was just unshakable; it was just so reliable, so consistent. It was constantly doing the same laps over and over. We had some scary moments with all the rubber all over the track, and I was trying to stay out of the way of the TA and TA2 cars, but I think we held our own pretty well.
“We were on Milton [Grant]’s butt throughout the whole day, and we were definitely having a respectable race. I’m sorry for his troubles, but not sorry that we went out and won our first race in SGT. It’s just amazing that we got here. I want to thank all the guys at GSpeed who worked so hard, day after day.”
1. Richard Forsythe, No. 58 Sambuca Restaurant/GSpeed Chevrolet Corvette; 2. Milton Grant, No. 55 Springhill Suites/Sentry Self Storage Porsche 991.1 GT3 Cup