Silver Hare Racing: Three’s a Charm at Road America
June 29, 2022
America’s Road Racing Series meets America’s National Park of Speed on Fourth of July Weekend. Sounds like the makings for a hugely festive affair when Silver Hare Racing regulars Maurice Hull and Connor Zilisch take to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, for Sunday’s Ryan Companies presents the Trans Am 100s.
With the eyes of the NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series looking on from their respective paddocks at the iconic racetrack, Hull and Zilisch will be part of a mammoth, 51-car field that will contest Round 8 of the 2022 Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli and will be joined by a third Silver Hare entry that will be piloted by first-time TA2-class competitor Marc Sharinn of Cold Springs Harbor, New York.
Hull will be behind the wheel of the No. 57 Waukegan Farms/Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro looking to better his finishes of 17th and 13th at Road America in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The 15-year-old Zilisch will be making his eighth career Trans Am start and first at Road America in his No. 5 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management Chevrolet Camaro, while Sharinn, a 52-year-old commercial real estate attorney who’s raced vintage stock cars, P3-class prototypes and GT sportscars for most of the past decade, will make his Trans Am debut in the No. 75 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro.
Hull returns to the cockpit for the third time this season and first since Round 3 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on March 27, when he finished 14th overall and tops in the masters class. This weekend marks his third career Road America start in TA2.
Zilisch, the young driving phenom from Mooresville, North Carolina, who wrapped up his sophomore year of high school earlier this month, saw his streak of back-to-back top-five TA2 finishes come to an end in his last event on Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, when overheating issues forced his early departure just 19 laps into the 68-lap race. He’s looking to rebound with the form he displayed on back-to-back weekends on the West Coast – April 24 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, California, and May 1 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – both of which resulted in fifth-place finishes.
This weekend, he’ll be pulling double duty for the second time this season by also competing in Rounds 9 and 10 of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup, which joins its NASCAR and Trans Am brethren on the event lineup at Road America. Zilisch earned his first MX-5 Cup pole of the season for last weekend’s first of two races at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International before an accident not of his doing ended his bid. He rebounded with a powerful run in the second race of the weekend, powering his way from 28th on the starting grid to a sixth-place finish. It’s the kind of speed Zilisch has exhibited in Trans Am since his series debut last October at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, where he became the youngest pole-winner in series history with a lap of 1:48.905. In this year’s Round 2 on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Zilisch laid down the fastest practice and qualifying laps, as well as the fastest lap of the race.
In a rare occurrence this season, Zilisch will not be seeing the Road America for the first time in his young career, which has been the case for him at most stops on the Trans Am tour. Just two weekends ago, he was part of a 70-car field racing in the Spec Miata class of the SCCA June Sprints, and he proved his mettle with finishes of fourth and second in the twin events. He’s also continued to test the racing waters in various other series since Memorial Day weekend at Lime Rock, as he has done all season long. On June 11, Zilisch competed in a Pro Late Model for the first time on the three-eighths-mile paved oval at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina, and he put on his typical head-turning exhibition, scoring the feature race victory. He’s also begun taking part on Mondays and Tuesdays in the Summer Shootout Series for Legends cars at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
For series newcomer Sharinn, this weekend will be a family affair as his son Tyler will also be making his Trans Am debut in the No. 0 Camaro for owner Mike McManman’s MMR/FPEC Racing Group. Sharinn brings previous Road America experience into this weekend’s event. He scored a podium finish in an SVRA race four years ago in a vintage NASCAR Cup Series car he purchased from Team Penske. He’s also tested an LMP3 Ligier prototype at the track.
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 Christopher Bell, Daniel Suárez, William Byron and Harrison Burton and, at the recent TA2 rounds at Laguna Seca and Sonoma, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Lawless Alan, have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities. In addition to top-flight equipment, Silver Hare Racing offers professional driver coaching.
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, which we’re doing in collaboration with Kevin Harvick Incorporated.
“It started when they brought him to us for testing at VIR a year ago, and now we’re delighted to have him under contract. That’s how we’re trying to position this. We want people to know we have an arrive-and-drive program, where people who want to run this track or another, we provide the opportunity for them to do that and be successful.”
Maurice Hull, owner/driver, No. 57 Waukegan Farms/Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro:
You’ll be racing for the first time since your top Masters finish at Road Atlanta in late March. What’s your outlook as you strap into your racecar this weekend at Road America for the third year in a row?
“Road America is a super-fast track. It’s really long. I think one thing they call it is the Talladega of road courses. I’m actually really looking forward to going and running it. I didn’t attack it as well as I should have last time. I got way too technical with it. I hadn’t driven in a race since Road Atlanta. We’ve tested a couple of times, including two days at VIR a couple of weeks ago, and it went really well. We’ve made some improvements in the car, as well as the ‘nut behind the wheel.’ I think we’ve come together as a team in a big way, recently, working together more closely, so that’s all good. I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited.”
What kinds of things have you been focusing on in your testing, of late?
“We’ve been working on the handling of the cars and we’ve been really done a lot of experimenting with chassis adjustments and that type of thing – shocks, springs, bars – and we’ve been moving in this direction and we’ve taken some big leaps with it and it’s worked out. So far, I’m really pleased with what we’re doing and I’m feeling pretty confident going in there. As for me, I’m just a lot more relaxed about it right now. I’ve found some things at the last two tests, ran really well, about as fast as I’ve ever been. Technically, it’s not about being on the racing line – we can do that all day long, we’ve been at it long enough – a lot of it is just attitude.”
Connor is back this week, pulling double duty at Road America after having to forego last week’s race at Mid-Ohio. What are the challenges he faces this weekend?
“We’ve got to look at it as a good thing in terms of seat time for him. But it probably adds a lot of additional challenges in terms of concentration. The cars are different enough that I’m not sure if any of what he’s doing in the MX-5 Cup car is particularly helpful to him in the TA2 car. Their racing styles are so different, especially on a big track like this. But he’s proven time and again that he can get into most any kind of racecar and go fast right away.”
Connor Zilisch, driver, No. 5 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management Chevrolet Camaro:
You’re pulling double duty for the second time this year, racing both Trans Am and in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, but this time at the same racetrack. Your thoughts on that?
“A Miata and a Trans Am car are two different ends of the spectrum, so it’s going to take little bit of brainpower this weekend and I’m going to have to be there mentally and physically because it’s going to be a long four days. But I’m up for the task and I’m excited for it. I think that I’ll be able to do well, bouncing back and forth between the two of them. It’s just going to take a lot of effort and it’s going to take a lot of just concentration for me, just being able to switch back and forth between the two. All of my references are going to change throughout the sessions, so just doing to best I can to switch back and forth between the two is going to be important for me.”
How do you prepare for a challenge like that?
“I had done some stuff on iRacing, just switching between two opposite cars, like a downforce car, a NextGen car. I got on the Chevy simulator to practice Road America, which is very realistic, so that was very helpful and gave me a better idea and I’ll be able to apply that. Physically, I’ve been doing the most I can just to hydrate and all that good stuff, been working out with Chevy two times a week and running on my own to build endurance and trying to stay fit and keep myself fresh. That’ll help me this weekend.”
You got your first taste of Road America two weekends ago and you finished second and fourth in the Spec Miata class of the SCCA June Sprints. What did you think of the track, and how does that experience bode for you this weekend?
“It’s one of my favorite tracks, for sure. In the second race, I actually finished second by five thousandths of a second, which is a little unfortunate but hard to be upset about when it’s a 70-car field. I feel it’ll be even more fun in a high-horsepower car, so I’m really looking forward to getting there and hitting the track for practice. It’s got long, long straightaways and some high-commitment corners, like the Kink (turn 11). It’s definitely different than a lot of the tracks we’ve been to. Over 4 miles long, so our longest on the schedule, and definitely the most intricate, as well. It’s a difficult track. There are a lot of corners you have to be good at and you’ve got to have good drive getting onto the straightaways, that’s important. Just super high-speed, high commitment with some low-speed corners mixed in there, and some big braking zones. It suits my driving style well and I’m looking forward to this one, especially.”
Last weekend’s MX-5 Cup races at Watkins Glen, where you qualified on the pole for the first time this season, then rallied from 28th for a sixth-place finish in the second race, caused you to forego the Trans Am event at Mid-Ohio. Is it disappointing to be looking at such a points deficit in the TA2 standings?
“Obviously, you want to race for championships, but we knew the plan coming into this year and we’re looking forward to next year to hopefully chase for the championship. This year, we’re looking to get the team dialed in, get me comfortable with the car, and then next year make a run for the championship, assuming all goes well. It’s definitely unfortunate missing a race, but it didn’t look like I missed out on much – there were a lot of wrecked cars at Mid-Ohio. So it’s good going into Road America with a clean car and a little more time to prepare than a lot of those teams that are going straight from Mid-Ohio to Road America. Obviously, you don’t want to miss a race, but on the other hand, I feel like we’ll be a little bit more prepared going into this weekend.”
Marc Sharinn, driver, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro:
What are your expectations as you make your Trans Am TA2 debut at Road America this weekend?
“That’s a good question. I’m hoping for a good experience for my son – who’s also making his TA2 debut this weekend with MMR/FPEC Racing – and I to bring our cars back, as delivered. We want to find a group within the group to race with. If I can find myself at midpack, then I think it’s a win for me this first time out. That might be aggressive for me, but I’m going to give it my best and hope I can be in the thick of it in the bell curve. We’re respectful of the team’s equipment and we want to try to be competent. Obviously, anything can happen out there, but we’re motivated and, as the weekend wears on, we want to deliver the car back in one piece.”
You have previous experience at Road America, including racing a vintage NASCAR stock car. Your thoughts about racing a TA2 car on that track surrounded by a field of 55 entries?
“It’s a glorious place to race cars. It’s a high-horsepower track, it’s big field, so it should be wild. I think there should be ample opportunities to find people to race with in such a large field in such close competition. I know the guys at the front are true professionals and I have no misconceptions about that. We look to stay out of their way and hope to find some amateurs to mix it up with and make it fun for the fans and make it fun for us as a team. I am all about learning and all about getting better. I’m not so focused on the numbers as I am with improving and being competent in the car. So if I can get anywhere near Maurice and have a fun race, then this will be a win for me.”
How did land with Silver Hare Racing this weekend, and how did you get involved with racing?
“We were introduced by Mike Skeen, who does some coaching for my son Tyler and I. When I was in law school, I mustered up enough money to take the Skip Barber three-day school at Bridgehampton Raceway right before it closed. From there, I really enjoyed it but had no real way to fund any additional activities until maybe 10 years ago. I got the bug and took another Skip Barber course at Lime Rock, then five or six years ago got hooked up with a group running SVRA and HSR vintage, racing ’60s Corvettes, ’60s Mustangs. From there, a reasonable amount of vintage racing, and a little bit of LMP3 in a Ligier, a bit of IMSA IMPC Challenge, a bit of WRL as of late. TA2 is an experiment for me. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur, I’m not expecting to be a frontrunner this weekend. Just exploring where the budgets fit, what the cars are like, where can I run well a find it economically viable. I’m looking forward to working with Maurice and Laura and the whole Silver Hare team.”
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.