Connor Zilisch Makes History and Sweeps VIR Weekend, Wins TA2 Race From Pole

October 8, 2023

Connor Zilisch Makes History and Sweeps VIR Weekend, Wins TA2 Race From Pole

ALTON, Va. (October 8, 2023) ? 17-year-old Connor Zilisch accomplished something at VIRginia International Raceway that no driver in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli has done before, winning two races in different classes in a single weekend. Zilisch started today’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race from the pole and dominated, leading every lap and holding off 2022 champion Thomas Merrill to earn his fifth TA2 win of the season. Zilisch did the same yesterday, winning the TA race from the pole in his very first start in the class.

Zilisch led the field to green in his No. 7 Silver Hare Racing/Carter Bank Chevrolet Camaro, getting a clean start and pulling ahead of second-place starter Jade Buford (No. 48 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers Ford Mustang) and third-place starter Brent Crews (No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang). After just seconds of competition, championship contender Rafa Matos in the No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang experienced trouble, making contact with two competitors when they spun ahead of him in Turn 1. With severe damage to his vehicle, the Brazilian was forced to retire early, finishing 33rd. The drama continued on lap three when points leader Crews cut down a tire, sending him off the racing surface and hard into the tire barrier, bringing out the first full-course caution of the day. With crippling damage to his car, Crews was forced into the garage for nearly the entire race, but returned to the track one last time at the very end to gain a position over Matos, ultimately finishing 32nd.

Racing resumed on lap eight, and once again Zilisch took off with the lead, this time with Buford and Thomas Merrill (No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) in tow. Almost immediately, Buford was tagged by another driver and spun off the track surface. He was able to continue, but lost several positions as a result. This allowed Nathan Herne (No. 29 CUBE 3/Berryman Ford Mustang) to take over the third position. Zilisch was able to work his way up to a 2.9-second lead over Merrill by lap 11, but the double yellow was displayed once again for a crash, closing up the field.

When competition resumed on lap 14, the race remained green for nine laps, and Zilisch again showed his speed by garnering a 6.8-second advantage over Merrill. Merrill was being hunted by Herne, but the Australian was unable to get past Merrill before the full-course yellow. Racing resumed for the final time on lap 25, and a clean start by Zilisch allowed him to protect his lead. Merrill stalked him in the final five laps, getting closer to his Camaro’s bumper than he had all day, but it wasn’t enough. Zilisch crossed the finish line and claimed the victory, followed by Merrill and Herne. Thomas Annunziata (No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang) and Dillon Machavern (No. 17 Heritage AG/UniFirst/SLR-M1 Ford Mustang) rounded out the top five. Connor Mosack (No. 8 SherryStrong/M1 Race Cars/Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro) returned to the series for the third time this season and started from the back of the field after missing yesterday’s qualifying while competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Taking the green from the 33rd position, he fought his way through the field to finish sixth, earning him the Cool Shirt Cool Move of the Race.

“Thank you to my whole entire team, Silver Hare Racing; they’ve worked so hard to give me fast cars every week that we come to the track, and it’s shown,” said Zilisch from atop the podium for the second time this weekend. “It means a lot to be able to race for this team. Maurice and Laura Hull gave me this opportunity to come out here and race. Thank you to my family for giving me this chance, and my mom and dad for always supporting me the most they can. Thank you to Carter Bank and Trust for coming on the car this weekend. They’re a local company helping us get to the track. It just means a lot to be standing here for the fifth time this year. It’s pretty special to have this good of a season and end the year the way we have. Now we go to COTA with a chance to win. We’re out of the championship hunt, but there is still a race to be won, so we will go there with that goal. I can’t ask for a much better weekend, winning both features and poles. Thank you to everyone, I’ll see you at COTA.”

Notes of Interest
This is Connor Zilisch’s second-consecutive TA2 victory and fifth TA2 win of the 2023 season. Zilisch has more wins than any other competitor this year. This was the second race in a row where he scored his win from the pole position.

Yesterday, Zilisch visited Victory Lane after starting from the pole in his first-career TA class race.

Zilisch is the first driver in Trans Am history to sweep a race weekend, earning both the pole and race in two different classes on the same weekend.

Points leader Brent Crews came into today’s race with a 132-point advantage over Thomas Merrill, but failed to clinch his title due to a crash on lap three.

Crews now holds a 45-point lead over Merrill going into the season finale at Circuit of The Americas. With 110 points available in a single race, Merrill is still very much in the hunt for the title. Last year, Merrill won the championship by scoring every possible point at COTA, with the standings ending in a tie with Rafa Matos, which was broken based on most wins during the season. Crews has four wins to Merrill’s one, so Crews would get the tiebreaker if it came down to it this season.

Matos was eliminated from championship contention after experiencing crash damage on lap one of the 30-lap race, relegating him to a 33rd-place finish.

TA2 Top 10:
1. Connor Zilisch, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing/Carter Bank Chevrolet Camaro
2. Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang
3. Nathan Herne, No. 29 CUBE 3/Berryman Ford Mustang
4. Thomas Annunziata, No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
5. Dillon Machavern, No. 17 Heritage AG/UniFirst/SLR-M1 Ford Mustang
6. Connor Mosack, No. 8 SherryStrong/M1 Race Cars/Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro
7. Caleb Bacon, No. 18 CB Motorsports/Cortex Racing/Bacon Development Ford Mustang
8. Misha Goikhberg, No. 10 BC Race Cars Ford Mustang
9. Darin Mock, No. 51 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
10. Adrian Wlostowski, No. 3 Hawk Performance/AMT Motorsport Ford Mustang

TA2 Masters:
William Moore, No. 33 Hawk/Swift Filters Chevrolet Camaro

TA2 Pro/Am Winner:
William Moore, No. 33 Hawk/Swift Filters Chevrolet Camaro

COOLSHIRT Cool Move of the Race:
Connor Mosack, No. 8 SherryStrong/M1 Race Cars/Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Omologato Watches Fastest Lap of the Race:
Connor Zilisch, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing/Carter Bank Chevrolet Camaro

Serck Precision Clean Up:
Tom Sheehan, No. 97 LTK Insulation Ford Mustang

Bassett Hard Charger:
Connor Mosack, No. 8 SherryStrong/M1 Race Cars/Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Full race results can be found here.

The re-broadcast of today’s race will air on MAVTV on Thursday, October 12 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series returns to the track for the season finale at Circuit of The Americas on November 2-5.

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