What Brent Crews’ 2023 TA2 Championship Means for Trans Am
November 28, 2023
Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series is Ripe for Growth and Young Talent
When Brent Crews crossed the finish line fourth at Circuit of The Americas earlier this month, he secured the 2023 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series title, and at the age of 15 years, seven months and six days old, became the youngest champion in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli’s history.
Crews’ championship signals a new era for Trans Am, putting an exclamation point on TA2’s growing youth movement, and highlighting the series as a platform for young up-and-coming drivers.
In addition to becoming the youngest champion in Trans Am history, Crews is younger than the youngest champions in the some of the most significant motorsports series in North America and around the world. Here is where he stacks up against other champions:
- Trans Am Series (Brent Crews): 15 years, seven months and six days
- ARCA Racing Series (Jesse Love): 15 years, nine months and 24 days
- USAC (Josh Wise): 16 years
- NASCAR Xfinity Series (Chase Elliott): 18 years, 11 months and 11 days
- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (Erik Jones): 19 years, five months and 21 days
- INDYCAR (Sam Hornish): 22 years, three months and four days
- Formula 1 (Sebastian Vettel): 23 years, four months and 11 days
- NASCAR Cup Series (Bill Rexford): 23 years, seven months and 15 days
At the age of 14, Crews was named the 2022 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series Rookie of the Year following an impressive first year of competition. Also in 2022, he became the youngest race winner in series history following a victory at Road America, and claimed two more wins before the end of the year (Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, VIRginia International Raceway). With four wins en route to his championship in 2023 (NOLA Motorsports Park, Detroit Grand Prix Race 1, Road America, Watkins Glen), Crews demonstrated just how strong of a competitor he is, beating out last year’s TA2 champion Thomas Merrill and two-time champion Rafa Matos for the title.
Crews also won the TA2 Young Gun Award in both of his years competing full-time in the series. The Young Gun Award was established in 2022 to provide a $20,000 cash prize to the season’s best-finishing TA2 driver under the age of 25.
“Trans Am has been a home for me these past two years,” said Crews of his title. “Being able to run full time and win a championship has been a goal of mine for a while now. The experience I have gotten from racing in Trans Am will prepare me for the next step. Being the youngest champion in history is a huge accomplishment, especially for how full of talent Trans Am has been and will continue to be.”
What is the next step for Crews? While the driver has not yet unveiled his plans for 2024 and beyond, it can be assumed that NASCAR will be in his future sooner than later. Crews is already part of Toyota Racing Development and has said that his goal is to chase championships in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Crews was signed by NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick’s agency, KHI Management, in 2021 at the age of 12 following the company’s creation of its Youth Sports Division. KHI represents some of the biggest names in NASCAR, UFC, PGA, motocross and music. When Crews won his title, Harvick had this to say about the young champion:
“Brent is a very talented young racer with a bright future in our sport,” said Harvick. “He has won a lot of big races, but capturing his first TA2 Championship and becoming the youngest champion to ever do it speaks a lot about his talent. I’m looking forward to watching him continue to progress over the next couple years.”
Other young drivers in the series appear to be on a similar path. 17-year-old Connor Zilisch, who won five TA2 races this season, finished fourth in the TA2 points. Earlier this year, he was signed by Team Chevy, and is also expected to move up through the NASCAR ranks soon.
“I chose TA2 because the series has always been intriguing to me, the competition and the car that is provided makes for some incredible racing,” explained Zilisch. “It also is a great stepping stone to many forms of professional motorsports. It felt like the right choice for me for what I hope to do in the future.
“I really liked the TA2 car’s power,” continued Zilisch. “Until I drove it, the most horsepower I’ve had in a car was no more than 150. To jump straight into something with 500 horsepower was obviously a big jump, but that’s what made it fun. Having to control the throttle on the exit of the corner was something new to me. I picked it up quickly though, and soon felt very comfortable in the car.”
Once Zilisch mastered the 500-horsepower engines in TA2, he had the opportunity to jump into an 870-horsepower TA car at VIR in October, which he took to instantly. He won the pole and went on to dominate the TA race on his way to victory. Winning the TA2 race the following day, he became the first driver to win in both TA and TA2 on the same weekend.
Both Crews and Zilisch, who have been competing in high-profile late model races this season in addition to running with Trans Am, would be following in the footsteps of other Trans Am winners who have made the transition to NASCAR. Connor Mosack, who competed in the TA2 class full time in 2021 and 2022, was signed to drive in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Sam Hunt Racing this past season. He competed alongside teammate and 2022 Trans Am TA class winner Kaz Grala. February’s Daytona 500 featured 10 drivers who previously had made starts in Trans Am’s TA2 class: Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Ty Gibbs, Riley Herbst, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez.
When asked about the state of the sport, Trans Am President John Clagett saw great things for the series’ future:
“Trans Am’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series has experienced incredible growth since its inception just over a decade ago,” said Clagett. “Entries in the class have grown exponentially, and it has evolved to be a home for young drivers, particularly those on a trajectory to compete in NASCAR and some of the other top stock car racing series. The parity of the cars and the high competition level makes TA2 a proving ground.
“Trans Am has always served as launching point for incredibly talented drivers, from Willy T. Ribbs and Wally Dallenbach to Scott Pruett and Ernie Francis Jr., but what we’ve seen in the last few years in terms of competition and the names coming through our paddock is unprecedented,” continued Clagett. “We are no longer the best-kept secret in motorsports. We’re proving to be both a destination for some of the most talented competitors in racing, as well as an essential point of development for racing’s future stars.”