TeamSLR Taking It to the Streets of Detroit
May 31, 2023
Regulars Dillon Machavern, Thad Moffitt Welcome Back Justin Marks For Saturday-Sunday Doubleheader in Grand Prix’s Return to Downtown Circuit
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (May 31, 2023) – It’s been 32 years since racecars roared through the downtown streets of Detroit, which served as home to the Formula One United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. The IndyCar Series then assumed top billing of the Detroit Grand Prix from 1989 to 1991 before the event moved to the nearby Streets of Belle Isle circuit from 1992 to 2001, and again from 2007 through 2022.
This weekend, it’s a case of what goes around, comes around as the headlining Indy cars, joined by the Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series, return to the downtown streets of the Motor City for the 2023 Detroit Grand Prix. And right in the thick of the action will be a trio of TeamSLR M1 Racecars that will contest a Saturday-Sunday TA2 Series doubleheader.
TeamSLR fulltimers Dillon Machavern and TA2 rookie Thad Moffitt will be joined for the first time this season by a familiar face, Justin Marks, the veteran racecar driver and owner of the NASCAR Cup Series’ Trackhouse Racing.
They’ll take to the 1.7-mile, nine-turn grand prix circuit that surrounds the iconic General Motors Renaissance Center for the 60-minute TA2 race set for 10:35 a.m. EDT Saturday, and the 75-minute race set for 11 a.m. Sunday.
Machavern, driver of the No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst SLR-M1 Racecars entry, will be making his first Detroit appearance since finishing third and second, respectively, in the Saturday-Sunday doubleheader when the TA2 Series last competed on the Belle Isle circuit in June 2019. The 27-year-old is coming off a ninth-place finish in last Saturday’s Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, his third top-10 in three outings this season. He arrives at Detroit seventh in the driver standings and is looking to return to the temporary circuit form he exhibited during his double-podium weekend in 2019.
Moffitt, driver of the No. 43 Safety-Kleen/Victory Impact Chevrolet Camaro for TeamSLR, saw his string of three consecutive 12th-place finishes to start the season come to an abrupt end with his first DNF (Did Not Finish) courtesy of early race contact not of his doing at Lime Rock last weekend. He starts the weekend 13th in the driver championship and fourth in the rookie standings as he embarks on his first-ever race on a temporary circuit.
Marks, driver of the No. 8 Trackhouse Chevrolet Camaro for TeamSLR, returns to M1 Racecars equipment for the first time since a pair of outings with the team last July at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and in September at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Marks arrives at Detroit with the momentum of his dominating TA-class victory Monday at Lime Rock in the No. 99 Chevrolet for Ken Thwaits’ Showtime Motorsports team. He last raced in Detroit in the June 2018 IMSA WeatherTech Series event on the Belle Isle circuit, when he qualified third and co-drove to a runner-up finish in the GTD class.
As with all races this season, this weekend’s doubleheader will be streamed live on the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. And Trans Am’s new TV partner this year, MAVTV, will rebroadcast it in a one-hour package Thursday, June 8, at 8 p.m. EDT.
Dillon Machavern, Driver, No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/SLR-M1 Racecars Entry:
This weekend is one of the more anticipated events in recent memory. Your thoughts on taking to the downtown streets of Detroit, where there hasn’t been a race in 32 years?
“It’s basically a new track, 32 years is so long, so it’s relatively unknown to everybody who’s going to be out there. I’m excited. I’ve had success at the Belle Isle street course, so I’m hoping to bring that momentum and energy to the streets downtown. That being said, without seeing the track, I don’t know what to expect other than the fact it’s going to be tight. But I do enjoy street courses, I think they’re really fun. They play to my strengths a little bit because you have to be super consistent. Obviously, there’s not a lot of margin for error, so that’s something that should play to my strengths, at least. Hopefully we have everything we need to compete.”
Without the kind of video and simulator resources available for this track that you have for all the other tracks you race on, what can you do to prepare for this weekend?
“I’ve been asking myself that same question. It’s tough, there’s not really a lot out there. You can study the track map, but short of going out and walking the track before the weekend starts, there’s probably not going to be a lot of preparation that’s possible. It’s going to be interesting to see how the surface holds together and all of those things that are variables on street courses that aren’t on tracks that are more purpose-built. It’s going to be super interesting and I’m excited."
Safe to say this will be one of the most important track walks you’ve embarked on?
“I haven’t done a track walk in 10 years. It’s very rare that we go to a track that I haven’t been to before. And there are a few of them on the calendar this year – Detroit, Nashville for me, and Gateway. It’s interesting it’s a new challenge, and it’s exciting because usually we go to the same tracks over and over and I’ve seen them all dozens of times.”
With 30 TA2 cars in the field on the tight, 1.7-mile, nine-turn circuit, will there be a heightened sense of urgency to make moves and get to the front, considering the likelihood of incidents during these types of races?
“As a competitor, there’s always a little sense of urgency, but at the same time I hope there’s not. Like we saw at the end of the race at Lime Rock last weekend, as the laps were winding down on some of those restarts, there was a little too much urgency for people – cautions breeding cautions. So hopefully everybody tries to keep their nose clean. It’s a doubleheader, of course, so we have to run the cars again the second day and, at least for me, that’s in the back of my mind, making sure that the car makes it to the next race and that it’s not just a one-and-done. You have to take care of your equipment. And the reality of it is, if you can keep your nose clean in a race like that, you’re probably going to end up, just based on attrition alone, in a pretty good spot.”
With two races this weekend, that’s two chances to improve your position in the championship, and two chances to work on the progress you’ve made so far this season as a driver and as a team. Do you agree?
“For sure, I’m excited about the opportunity. Obviously there are so many variables, but I think if we can hit our stride and that gives us an opportunity to work more on dialing in the setup, that’s what we need, more track time and rapport. We want to make sure we’re communicating effectively and getting the car comfortable for me and in a good spot for the team. So the more time and the more opportunities we have to do that, the more successful we’re going to be moving forward.”
Thad Moffitt, Driver, No. 43 Safety-Kleen/Victory Impact Chevrolet Camaro:
This weekend marks your first races on a temporary street circuit. What are your thoughts on that, and what have you been doing to prepare?
“YouTube videos are all I’ve had to go off of. You can find street courses, but not this Detroit circuit, which does not exist, yet. So I watched the Nashville street race from last year a couple of times. It seemed like a caution-filled race, so qualifying is going to be big because you don’t know how long you’re going to be able to race and how long you’re going to be riding around under caution. I like the weekend schedule a lot. The team guys might disagree with me because I know they like to have time between sessions, but I just prefer running as much as possible, like we will be this weekend.”
What advice have you gotten from others who do have street-course experience?
“I’ve talked to people who have run street courses, and Scott (Lagasse) Sr., has a successful history as a driver on street courses, so there’s a wealth of knowledge we have in our organization. There’s a different approach to the way you gain speed on street courses than you do on permanent road courses. One common theme is that the track gets really dirty, really marbley off line, so if you’re going to be passing somebody in a braking zone, you just have to be ready to slip up a bit. And with no camber in any of the corners, you have to be ready for that. They say the streets are built to be higher in the middle than the sides to allow for water runoff, so that’s something I wouldn’t have thought of, being ready to cross over that from one side of the track to the other. Other than that, I’m excited because it’s new for everybody. Every race so far this year, it was new for me and maybe one or two other drivers, but with Detroit, it’s new for everybody. It’ll be really interesting and a test for me and TeamSLR because nobody really has anything to base this track on. There are guys who have street-course experience, but not on this particular track.”
With 30 cars on that 1.7-mile, nine-turn circuit, what do you expect the racing will be like?
“I would like to say we would race a little more respectfully, especially since we’re racing both Saturday and Sunday, but the field has proven me wrong, having been spun in three of the four races so far this season. There has to be some give in every type of racing, especially on street courses. With concrete walls on both sides, you can really tear up some racecars. I feel like we just have to have a clean weekend from start to finish weekend. That’s something that hasn’t happened, yet – not the team’s fault or anybody in particular, we’ve just not put together a whole weekend. We’re qualifying better as we go, and that’s been beneficial to us. And it doesn’t help when you get hit three of the first four races.”
Your thoughts about sharing the weekend with the IndyCar Series?
“I’m interested to see how the weekend goes and it’ll be something new to me. Most of our races this year, I feel like we’ve been the headliner, and now we’re a support event. But I’m excited about it, I like watching the Indy cars run. I think they’re really cool. So I can be a driver and a fan this weekend.”
Justin Marks, Driver, No. 8 Trackhouse Chevrolet Camaro for TeamSLR:
You’re back with TeamSLR for the first time since last year’s races at Road America and Watkins Glen. Your thoughts about hitting the downtown streets of Detroit this weekend and your first TA2 race of the year?
“I get really excited when there are new events, and I just got the itch to participate in it just because it’s a new track and it’s new for racing in North America, relatively speaking. I last ran the TA2 car for TeamSLR at Watkins Glen last year and only made it one lap, so I’ve been kind of hungry and eager to get back into it. It’s a great series, super competitive, and I still have the itch to race, so I thought I would participate again. I really like street racing. I was able to do the first year of the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, and I’ve done some other street races in the past, so it seemed like a fun event to go race in, especially with the doubleheader.”
What is your approach as you navigate the tight confines of a 1.7-mile street circuit, surrounded by concrete barriers on all sides with a total of 30 entries on the track?
“It’s the challenge of street racing that I really like because you have to drive the car and go fast, but you also have to drive really cerebrally because there is typically attrition and a lot of contact with walls and stuff, so you have to drive a smart race. You have to have that balance between aggression and intelligence. And it’s a really unique challenge and one that I really like to have. It’s not unlike racing in the rain, you go as fast as you can without making mistakes and you let the race come to you, and I feel like it’s where I can excel.”
TeamSLR (Scott Lagasse Racing) competes fulltime in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli in a multifaceted effort that includes dedicated entries in the TA2 division, customer programs, driver coaching and car construction. Its history dates back to 1985 and covers a wide spectrum of motorsports, including NASCAR, IMSA, SCCA, ARCA and ASA. TeamSLR is a family-owned organization run by Scott Lagasse Sr., and Scott Lagasse Jr. The father-and-son duo have combined to win more than 120 races and seven championships across a variety of series and styles of racecars, from paved ovals to road courses to dirt tracks. For more information, please visit us online at www.TeamSLR.com