Silver Hare Racing Tuned Up for Music City Grand Prix
August 3, 2022
From one high-profile weekend to another, Silver Hare Racing’s Maurice Hull and Connor Zilisch head to the downtown streets of Nashville, Tennessee, for the second annual Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, Round 9 of 2022 for the TA2-class competitors of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli.
The NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series took top billing the last time we saw the Silver Hare duo and their Trans Am counterparts Fourth of July weekend on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This weekend’s festivities on the 2.17-mile, 11-turn Nashville street course are headlined by Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series race, giving Hull, Zilisch and 39 other entries for Saturday’s 46-lap, 75-minute TA2 race a second consecutive opportunity to showcase their ultra-competitive series in front of one of the largest crowds of the season.
At Road America, team co-owner Hull, driver of the No. 57 Waukegan Farms/Silver Hare Racing Camaro, scored his second Masters-class victory in three outings this year while Zilisch, driver of the No. 5 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management Camaro, drove to the third top-six finish of his rookie season in TA2. A year ago this weekend, during the inaugural Music City Grand Prix weekend, Hull battled mechanical issues on his way to a second-place finish in the Masters class, 19th overall in the 37-car TA2 field, and best among the four Silver Hare entries, which included NASCAR Cup Series regular Daniel Suárez.
This year, the Silver Hare Racing camp is laser focused on its two-car entry in Hull’s return to Nashville and Zilisch’s first attempt at the unique layout, which originates just outside Nissan Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, and crosses the Cumberland River on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge on its way to downtown Nashville and back.
Zilisch, the recently turned 16-year-old from Mooresville, North Carolina, is no stranger to street circuits, having enjoyed success on them in both go-karts and the prestigious Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, where he is running the full 2022 season and swept both the Saturday and Sunday races from the pole at Road America. In his most recent street race in March, the same weekend he opened his 2022 Trans Am campaign with Silver Hare Racing at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, Zilisch rallied from the back of the 31-car MX-5 Cup field to earn a second-place finish on the Streets of St. Petersburg (Fla.) circuit – there, too, in an undercard race to the headlining IndyCar Series.
As has been the case throughout his rookie Trans Am season, Zilisch has filled the time away from the TA2 cockpit since Road America by gaining experience in other forms of racing, including Late Models and in Legends cars in the Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. His first taste of Late Model racing netted a second-place finish July 16 at Tri-County Speedway in Granite Falls, North Carolina, and a resounding victory July 23 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
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.
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, William Byron, Harrison Burton and Suárez have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities in top-flight equipment, as did NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Lawless Alan at this year’s back-to-back TA2 rounds at California’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey and Sonoma Raceway.
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:
“We’re going to concentrate on the two of us and go after some trophies this weekend. It’s always super cool to run on a street circuit. It’s different than anywhere else. You’ve got walls. You’ve got uneven pavement. The ‘quote’ track wasn’t built to be raced on, so it’s just a huge amount of fun, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a tight place, and going over that bridge and back last year was cool. You can feel the bridge just like you can in a street car, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The track is tight, it’s kind of unforgiving with walls and all that. And because of the walls, it’s really hot – there’s a lot of heat that’s redirected back into the track.
“It’s hard on everything because of the heat. It’s hard on the brakes, it’s hard on the engine, it’s hard on the tires, it’s hard on the driver. But it’s fun – it is what it is, I mean, everybody’s doing the same thing. Quite frankly, I’m looking forward to it because I enjoyed it so much last year.
“My transmission got hung up in third gear last year and I burned two spark plug wires. I had a tough day, but I finished. On paper, it was a 19th-place finish, but it was tough. We had to come into the pits twice to change spark plug wires. Concentrating on just two cars is what we’re opting to do this weekend rather than stretching it too thin with more cars, and I think that’s a smart move.
“I think Connor’s a natural driver. He’s got superb hand-eye coordination, he’s got desire, and the skill level. Driving a racecar from my vantage point, it doesn’t mean as much to be good at driving just one kind of car. If you’re a good racecar driver, you can drive anything, and I think Connor’s shown everyone that he’s a good racecar driver because he’s driven everything he’s gotten into well. It’s good to diversify, and I think all the great drivers are able to get into about anything and drive it fast. And patience is a virtue that I think he’s also exhibiting more and more of, too. Controlled aggression is another way to put it, and that’s part of the process.”
Connor Zilisch, driver, No. 5 Silver Hare Racing/KHI Management Chevrolet Camaro:
“I turned 16 on July 22 but, unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait until October to get my driver’s license because of serious paperwork delays when I was trying to get my learner’s permit last year. In North Carolina, you have to have your permit for a year before you can get your license. It’s frustrating, to say the least. I guess I’m not qualified to drive on the street (laughs). So it’ll be a few more months of my mom and dad and brothers Ubering me around.
“It’s been another fun few weeks since Road America. I’ve raced a Late Model a few times and a Legends car at Charlotte Motor Speedway a few times, as well. I won in the Late Model at Hickory a couple of weekends ago after running second at Tri-County the weekend before that, so that’s been going really well for me. I’ve been getting along with all those other teams I’ve been racing with and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Chevrolet has been supporting me through all that and just guiding me through it and making sure I’m with the right people for all those events. Hopefully, those successes will translate to some TA2 wins here in the near future.
“The Late Models are actually pretty similar to what I’m driving in Trans Am. Definitely some techniques that can translate, and strategies, and just learning more about the cars is a big help. The more I can drive anything, the better racecar driver I’m going to be.
“I was actually at the Nashville race last year as a spectator and it was one of those races I really wanted to do. So to be able to come back a year later and racing there is pretty cool. Just the atmosphere and everything about that weekend was pretty awesome. I’m super excited to get out there. The track looks super cool. Hopefully, there will be a few passing zones. Last year, it looked like it was pretty tricky to pass, so we’ll see what we have this year and, hopefully, we’ll be able to bring some fast cars and I’ll keep my head on straight and be able to drive our car fast. I have a lot of confidence because we’ve been working really hard in getting our Silver Hare cars really fast, so I think we’re going to be really good come this weekend.
“There’s no simulator available for this track that I can do, so I’ve been on YouTube a bunch watching a lot of other drivers from last year and that’s the best I’m able to do to prepare. I’ve driven street courses before in karting and in the MX-5, so I have a little bit of previous experience. It’s just a different track with a different layout, a bunch of 90-degree corners like St. Pete, which is common to about all street courses, not much variance in corner shape. It’s not going to be anything completely new to me. I love racing on street courses, so we’ll see what we’ve got come practice time on Friday.”
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.