Silver Hare Duo Looking for Big Results at Road Atlanta
March 23, 2023
Connor Zilisch Third in Championship After Opening Two Trans Am TA2 Rounds; 14-Year-Old Rookie Ben Maier Looks To Continue String of Solid, Steady Outings
HIGH POINT, N.C. (March 23, 2023) – So far, so good in the Silver Hare Racing camp after the opening two rounds of the 2023 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series season as its tandem of youthful but highly talented drivers – 16-year-old Connor Zilisch and 14-year-old Ben Maier – now turn their attention to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for Sunday’s Bennett/BridgeHaul 100.
Zilisch, Maier and the rest of the Silver Hare cast and crew arrive at the scenic 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit coming off an uplifting race-day effort two weekends ago at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, that netted a pair of top-10 finishes. Zilisch came within .046 of a second of scoring his second podium in his last three TA2 outings, having to settle for fourth after getting nipped at the finish line by two-time series champion and former Silver Hare driver Rafa Matos. Meanwhile Maier, in just his second-ever TA2 race, broke through for his first top-10, bringing home his No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro ninth after a second consecutive smooth and steady outing.
The tireless efforts of the Silver Hare crew late into the night after Friday qualifying and for several hours before Saturday’s mid-day race start at NOLA provided Zilisch with the speed and performance that enabled him to drive up into the top-five and run with the leaders all race long. Such was not the case during practice and qualifying, prompting the team to give his racecar an extensive overhaul that paid off with his near-podium finish.
Zilisch, who enters the weekend third in the driver standings after his fourth-place run at NOLA and seventh-place finish two weeks prior at the season-opening race at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, can’t wait to put that new-found speed to work this weekend on what ranks as one of his favorite racetracks and one where he’s tasted victory. Last September, he drove to the win at Road Atlanta in the penultimate round of the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup en route to capturing that series’ rookie of the year honors. Earlier last year, the Mooresville, North Carolina, native took part in a Spec Miata doubleheader at the track, winning one race, finishing runner-up in the other, and qualifying on the pole among a field of 60 competitors. When he returned two weeks later with the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli, Zilisch qualified third in his Silver Hare Camaro and took the checkered flag in sixth place. But a 40-second post-race penalty for contact deemed avoidable relegated him to a 19th-place finish.
Maier, who hails from Chester, Maryland, looks to build on the solid foundation he’s laid with his clean race-day outings at Sebring and NOLA. Having joined the Silver Hare team just days before arriving at Sebring for the season opener, his first hot laps in his No. 75 Camaro didn’t occur until the green flag waved to start the race. From his 40th starting position, the young driver patiently worked his way forward, avoiding trouble along the way, and by the time the checkered flag waved found himself with a 21st-place finish. At NOLA two weekends ago, Maier clocked the 17th-fastest qualifying lap and on race day again executed a patient and steady march toward the front en route to his ninth-place finish. He arrives at Road Atlanta 17th in the championship.
Sunday’s 40-lap, 75-minute TA2-class race is set for 12:15 p.m. EDT with live streaming video available via the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. The series’ new television partner MAVTV will air a 60-minute version of the race at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 30.
Silver Hare Racing leverages its Trans Am effort to promote its arrive-and-drive program, where aspiring racers and even tenured professionals hone their road-racing skills on some of the most revered tracks in North America. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Daniel Suárez, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Harrison Burton have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities in top-flight equipment.
The team offers six, professionally built and maintained TA2 chassis from Howe Racing for both competition and private testing. Silver Hare Racing has a dedicated, fulltime crew and operates out of a state-of-the-art facility in High Point, North Carolina. At the track, two 53-foot Featherlite transporters serve as the team’s base, each outfitted with a lounge and smart TVs for data and video review, as well as for hospitality.
“With NASCAR having so many more road-course races, it’s our goal for Silver Hare Racing to be the preferred team for drivers to get that road-course experience,” said Laura Hull, Silver Hare Racing co-owner and team manager. “We want to be that important step in the ladder for the young, up-and-coming drivers like Connor and Ben. We want people to know we have an arrive-and-drive program, where for people who want to run this track or another, we provide the opportunity to do that and be successful.”
Connor Zilisch, driver, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro:
“It’s been a really good year for us, so far, getting better every single time we go on the track. Hopefully that continues this weekend and we can find ourselves up on the podium. We’re third in the championship, not too far off the front two, so we just need consistent finishes to keep us up there and keep us in the fight.
“Road Atlanta’s one of my better tracks and one that I like better than most. I’ve had a lot of success there, I won there last year in the MX-5 Cup, and it seems like every time I’ve gone there I’ve always been quick. It’s good to get back to that track, I’m expecting that to be the case again this year. I was really fast there last year in the TA2 race, but some mistakes on my end took us out of contention. Just fixing that and keeping the car in one piece and running all the laps is going to be the key to a good result in this one. I’m sure we’re going to have the speed, just keeping the car in contention and not making mistakes will be what makes or breaks it.
“At NOLA, we were all pretty unhappy with the car after qualifying and where we were at, so we knew we had to try some stuff and basically flip the car upside down and try and get some speed out of it. We did that, and in the race we were a lot better. The team worked hours and hours after qualifying trying to change everything they could – the geometry of the car and some other stuff to get us more speed – and they worked their tails off. They got me and Ben back out there with a lot more speed than we had in qualifying. In the race, I was able to drive up through the field and get ourselves into the top-five and run in the top-five the whole race. We had plenty of speed to win the race if it weren’t for some other factors. Looking to carry that speed into Road Atlanta and hoping we can keep that up and keep up the momentum, get ourselves a better qualifying position, get the car on track both sessions in practice, have no issues, and that’ll be the key to running consistently at the front.
“Ben’s been super impressive and taking all the criticism and feedback. There’s a lot going on for him, he’s young, so taking it all in and going out there and still performing is super impressive. I’m just proud of him and how he’s handled it, super professional for a 14-year-old. I just hope he keeps it up and continues to learn and get better because, if he does, he’ll be up to speed here really quickly.”
Ben Maier, driver, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro:
“I haven’t been to Road Atlanta, so I’ve been working on learning the track on my simulator and watching videos. It seems like a pretty fun track with the elevation changes. So it’s all about learning the track and start putting down good laps once we get there.
“It’s one of the tracks we go to that has elevation change. Through the chicanes and down the long straightaway on the back side, there’s a lot there. Same with the turn after the straightaway, there’s a little hill under the bridge, and then you go flying down the hill to the last turn. It’s a pretty fun turn, and the entry is pretty wide. I was doing it on the simulator and it’s fairly fun. Going up the hill after turn one, and then the dropoff at the chicanes, are pretty gnarly. You have to know exactly where you have to place the car before you go over those blind hills.
“The Silver Hare team has been great so far. They have everything done on the car, they can work really fast, they give me really good tips, working with Connor has been amazing, my car’s really good, it feels great. Hopefully we can put it up front soon. One of the big surprises getting into a TA2 car was how much stiffer the brakes are than I expected. I’ve learned a lot about the handling of these cars and I’ll be building on all that as we go.
“Connor has been really helpful so far and I’m really looking to see what I can learn from him at Road Atlanta because it’s one of his best tracks, and he has more experience than me. At the first race, I learned a lot from him about the car’s handling and downforce. This weekend, I’ll hope to learn from him about elevation changes and how that affects the car handling and downforce. I can’t wait to get there.”
About Silver Hare Racing:
Silver Hare Racing is a fulltime competitor in the TA2 division of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli. The multicar team has won the TA2 masters class championship three times (2018, 2019 and 2020) with driver and team co-owner Maurice Hull. Under the leadership of Hull’s wife, co-owner and team manager Laura Hull, Silver Hare Racing provides a variety of services that includes private testing and arrive-and-drive programs. The team offers six, professionally built and maintained TA2 chassis from Howe Racing and operates from a state-of-the-art facility in High Point, North Carolina. For more information, please visit SilverHareRacing.com.