Abbate Drives to Top 20 Finish at VIR; Heading to Spring Mountain Next Weekend
October 12, 2023
The 11th round of the 2024 Trans Am National Championships took place at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, VA last weekend. This historic track has been one of the favorites on the schedule for both racers and spectators. As the final rounds of the year come to bring the season to an end, stakes are high for the championship contenders.
With the limited track time, Abbate was hoping for some much needed laps in order to prepare for the race weekend. She had been to the track for the first time in 2022 where she earned a top 15 finish. "I like this track, but it is very challenging for me personally because of the commitment and confidence it takes to shave time here. I truly hope I can have progress with both this weekend", Michele shared.
Unfortunately, that did not take place in either of the two test sessions of the weekend. In fact, Abbate only completed a handful of laps for the entire day due to small mechanical issues. "Although we had some issues, the team is confident that we've got the car sorted now, and I'm looking forward to taking all I can out of the practice session before qualifying", she said.
Michele was able to get some good clean laps in the first official practice. She managed to better her times in qualifying, and earned the P30 spot. "I missed the mark with the brake bias, so I'll have to adjust it more as we head into the race. Unfortunately we start towards the rear of the field but I feel confident that we will make up several positions in the race as I get the car feeling better underneath me," Abbate explained.
Saturday evening Michele joined racing legend Lyn St. James as well as a few other key women who attended the weekend. Together they held an autograph session with several other drivers hosted by Petty's Garage during the race day. In addition, Michele sat as a panelist at the Women in Motorsports Fundraising Dinner at the Gallery at VIR. The evening consisted of several event sponsors, supporters, and those looking to contribute to the efforts of keeping women in motorsports, including SVRA's Tony Parella - who supported Michele with her 2024 TA2 effort via the PMH Driver Diversity Scholarship.
On Sunday the first lap of the race brought chaos just a few corners in - past TA2 Champion Rafas Matos was making a charge from the back due to not being able to qualify - and both Matos and Abbate found themselves racing through the grass doing what they could to avoid several cars that had made contact on the track.
With the off road excursion Abbate's grill was covered in grass, but was able to clear it by drafting closely behind the 71 car. There was a lot of action throughout the race and a high amount of attrition. Abbate drove a solid, clean race and picked up 2 additional spots on the final lap, earning a P18 finish overall.
"This was a wild race to get through, I am really working towards higher finishes but I have a few things I need to work on mentally to gain my confidence back behind the wheel. Being on some home turf might be exactly what I need to make some good progress," Michele hinted.
Following the race, Nitro Motorsports team owner Nick Tucker and Abbate spoke and agreed to make an effort at the West Coast Trans Am race October 19-22 at Spring Mountain - Michele's "closest to home" track. "I am really excited that Nick was able to work with me to add this event to my schedule. Not only will it provide a good substitute for the Nashville race I missed due to my injury, but it will be really beneficial for me to take a stab at a Trans Am event right in my own backyard - something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I am truly looking forward to this opportunity and I am excited to tackle it behind the #30 Ghost Energy x Lucas Oil Mustang prepared by Nitro Motorsports!", Michele explained.
Catch the reply of the Virginia International Raceway event on MAVTV tonight Thursday, October 12 9:00 p.m. ET. The final round of the Trans Am National Tour Championships will be held at COTA in Austin, TX November 4-6 which will be followed by the awards Gala that evening.
Photo credit: Philip Goodman