TeamSLR Turns Focus to Road Atlanta
March 22, 2023
Dillon Machavern Returns to Scene of Multiple Successes;
TA2 Rookie Thad Moffitt Eyes Top Finish;
#ScreenYourMachine Closes Out Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (March 22, 2023) – Round three of the 2023 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series takes the TeamSLR duo of Dillon Machavern and Thad Moffitt to scenic Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for Sunday’s Bennett/BridgeHaul 100. And as will be the case at most of the stops on the tour this season, it comes at a track that Machavern, the seasoned road-racing veteran, knows like the back of his hand and where he’s enjoyed great success while his teammate Moffitt, a newcomer to the TA2 ranks, will be racing on for the very first time.
Machavern, the 27-year-old from Charlotte, Vermont, steps back into his No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst SLR-M1 Racecars entry this weekend after a brief illness prevented him from traveling to the previous event two weekends ago at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana. He’s hungry to work his way back into the championship hunt at the scenic 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit, where’s he’s won races in multiple series and has finished on the podium more often than not.
Sunday’s 40-lap, 75-minute race set for a 12:15 p.m. EDT start marks Machavern’s fourth Road Atlanta outing in the TA2 series. He drove to third-place finishes in each of the previous three – 2016, 2017 and 2019. His crowning achievement at the track was his GTD-class victory with co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Rob Foley in the 2019 Petit Le Mans. He also co-drove with Auberlen to victory in last October’s IMSA Challenge Series season finale at Road Atlanta, and in 2014 he won a Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series race there.
Moffitt, the 22-year-old from Trinity, North Carolina, might be wheeling his No. 43 Victory Impact/Safety-Kleen Chevrolet Camaro for TeamSLR around the Road Atlanta circuit for the first time this weekend, but he did get an early taste of it last month. At the urging of TeamSLR owners Scott Lagasse and Scott Lagasse Jr., he took advantage of an open test day during the early February World Racing League event weekend and strapped into a Nine Four Motorsports racing machine to learn the track’s many intricacies.
That experience, combined with the solid progress he made while driving to 12th-place finishes at this year’s opening two rounds at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway and NOLA, respectively, will go a long way toward accelerating Moffitt’s ability to navigate Road Atlanta this weekend when the field of 39 TA2-class entries take to the track in earnest.
Sebring and NOLA marked Moffitt’s first two TA2 starts after six seasons competing in stock cars on primarily oval tracks in the ARCA Menards Series. At Sebring, Moffitt started 20th, then abruptly found himself near the back of the 45-car field when he was spun from behind on the opening lap. But the grandson of racing legend Richard Petty steadily made his way back toward the front and nearly cracked the top-10 in his TA2 debut. At NOLA, he qualified 17th and steadily made forward progress, running solidly inside the top-10 before, again, getting spun from behind in the latter stages of the race.
TeamSLR’s solid opening weekend at Sebring was punctuated by the return of driver Connor Mosack, who after driving fulltime for the team in 2021 and 2022 graduated to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series this season. Mosack qualified on the pole and led the opening 22 laps before relinquishing the lead on a late restart. He rallied for a third-place finish behind race-winner Rafa Matos and his Peterson Racing teammate Austin Green in the runner-up position, making it a sweep of the Sebring podium for M1 Racecars.
As with all races this season, Sunday’s event will be streamed live on the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. And Trans Am’s new TV partner this year, MAVTV, will air Sunday’s TA2 race in a one-hour package Thursday, March 30, at 8 p.m. EDT.
Sunday’s race will also be the second of two during March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, bringing special emphasis in the TeamSLR camp to its year-round activity promoting ScreenYourMachine.org. It’s an initiative created in 2016 by Lagasse Jr., a colon cancer survivor, in partnership with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) to educate individuals about the importance of getting age-appropriate screenings for all types of cancer.
“I was still in my early 30s when I was diagnosed, but I knew something was wrong so I didn’t waste any time and I went and saw my doctor,” said Lagasse, whose quick decision paralleled his quickness in the driver’s seat during his NASCAR and ARCA career. “They caught it early and that was my saving grace. The treatment worked, but young-onset colorectal cancer is rising. I wasn’t some outlier. About 12 percent of incidents occur in people under the age of 50.”
Dillon Machavern, Driver, No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/SLR-M1 Racecars Entry:
You’re back in your No. 17 TeamSLR M1 Racecar this weekend after having to skip the NOLA round due to illness. What are your thoughts as you head to Road Atlanta, a place where you’ve enjoyed great success in various series over the years?
“It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks. Like I’ve always said, I like the old-school, fast tracks that flow with the topography. I’m excited to get out there. We’re obviously behind the eight-ball a little bit, so we’re going to have to hustle and we’re going to have to show up and really work at it. You’d like to think you can get a mulligan at some point in the season, but based on how this one’s going so far, it looks like it’s going to be very difficult even if you finish every race. So we’re just going to be that much more on it and focused.”
With a significant points gap between you and the drivers at the top of the standings, will that change the way you race?
“At the end of the day, you’re not going to win the championship being ‘checkers or wreckers.’ It’s still early enough in a long season that it’s inevitable other people will have their issues, as well. It might not be missing a whole event, but a car can break, or you can have a crash, whatever it may be. I think we might be a little bit more aggressive here in the earlier part of the season to see what we can get, but that being said, you still have to think about the big picture this early in the season, and third-place points are significantly more valuable than putting the car off the track and finishing in the second half of the field. It’s still points racing, but maybe we take a little bit more risk than we would otherwise.”
How has the transition been back to fulltime racing in the TA2 car this season?
“I think the biggest thing for us is to just work off the foundation that we built at Sebring as far as communication and getting the car set up how I like it. That was probably the biggest learning curve. Also, the driving style changes a little bit, of course, coming out of cars that had ABS for so long, I’m still working on my pedal application, making sure I’m getting the most out of a non-ABS car. I had a tendency to really slap the brake hard, and we talked about how easing into it just a little bit for that first little throw of the pedal is going to help this car settle down a little bit. It’s the small things like that. Otherwise, we have to go out there and make sure we make the most out of the small amount of testing time that we do have to get this car right so we’re consistent throughout the race and have something good at the end.”
What in your mind makes Road Atlanta one of the more unique tracks in America?
“I think the elevation change is the most unique characteristic of the track. Coming down turn 12 and then going back up turn one, those are both pretty hairy corners. Turn one can actually be, depending on how you set it up, a decent passing opportunity. Turn 12, we’ve had some history in Trans Am. I think a lot of people still talk about when I had the broken suspension components coming down that hill sideways with the car going all over the place. Coming down 12, you’re completely blind, and there and turn one are two of the places where you’re racing somebody. You’ve got to be super, super committed coming down 12 and flying into turn one if you’re side-by-side. Things can go wrong pretty quickly in those places. Road Atlanta is certainly a track with a lot of character.”
This weekend is the second and final race during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a cause you are supporting all season long with the team’s #ScreenYourMachine initiative featured on your racecar?
“Awareness is always key, and it’s always cool to support your team owner like that in something that he’s super passionate about. I’m happy to be able to help spread some awareness to everybody out there, and hopefully learn a lot more about it myself because it’s something that, before I started with this team, I didn’t even know what it was. For men, in general, as a stereotype they don’t love going to the doctor, something we all tend to avoid. Making people aware of the importance of getting checked is what this is all about and I’m behind it 100 percent.”
Thad Moffitt, Driver, No. 43 Victory Impact/Safety-Kleen Chevrolet Camaro:
Your thoughts as you head to Road Atlanta this weekend for your third-ever TA2 race?
“It’s going to be another large field, so I think it’ll be another one of the ‘qualify well, survive through, and be there at the end’ type of deals, kind of like Sebring, but of course not get wrecked on the first lap this time. I think what we’ve done so far, speed-wise, has been really positive. I came into the series and didn’t really know much about road racing, and Scott Jr., and Sr., got me up to speed pretty quickly and I would say we’re competitive right now. We ran in the top-10 at NOLA before we got spun. Road Atlanta is going to be a challenge. I watched some in-car stuff and it seemed like a really difficult racetrack. I had the chance to drive a Nine Four Motorsports car there in an open test session during the WRL weekend in February and, coming over the hill down into turn 12, it was like something I’ve never experienced in a racecar where it just completely takes your stomach and you can’t see where you’re going at all. I’ll have to trust the car there and some of the other key places around the track. The car will have to be good enough to handle those high-speed corners.”
How would you assess the progress you’ve made in the first two race weekends in this series?
“I know that the results, finishing 12th twice, aren’t what I want them to be because I came over here to win races, but I feel like I’m up to speed quicker than I thought I would be. For someone who never had done any road racing other than two races in an ARCA car, and then going to all-new racetracks, I feel like I’ve caught on pretty quickly to what’s going on here. And it’s reassuring to talk to people like Connor (Mosack) and Dillon (Machavern) and all these guys I’m racing with. I mean, Connor two years ago was in the same place I am now, and to see where he’s ending up is pretty incredible. I think these first three races are big for me as far as learning. Scott Jr., and (crew chief) Greg (Steadman) seemed to think that I’ll learn everything I need to know at these first three racetracks because they’re so different, and then from there we should be in pretty good shape for the rest of the year.”
What are some of the things you learned about making your way around Road Atlanta when you tested there in February?
“I feel like that track has a little bit of everything. You go up the hill into (turn) one, it almost feels like you get to turn three before you get to two, you’re going up that hill that quickly and can’t see anything. The biggest thing at first was all the blind corners because you just don’t see them until you’re there. The thing that helped me from testing was learning the reference points, like a particular tree on a particular part of the track. In the downhill esses, you can carry a lot more throttle than I thought you were going to be able to through there. Turn five is pretty important because if you’re going to do any passing, you’re going to do it on the backstretch, or into turn six, which is almost like a NASCAR corner with all the banking. Turn seven is probably the most important corner on the track because it leads onto the long backstraight. It’s important to make your way through 10A and 10B as straight as possible and then, going under the bridge and down the hill to 12, you’ve really got to trust your car.”