As the drivers of the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series travel to Elkart Lake, Wisconsin to tackle NASCAR’s first-ever doubleheader weekend at Road America, an assortment of drivers are scheduled to compete in one – or both — of NASCAR’s events this weekend, will also be competing in the various Trans Am Championship Presented by Pirelli events at the 4.048-milr road course, in hopes of gaining some crucial experience on an unfamiliar course.
In Saturday Afternoon’s TA2 Class event, happening almost immediately after the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Henry 180, seven drivers will be taking to the track for the 100-mile, 25 lap shootout at Road America. While the majority of these drivers will run in Sunday’s inaugural Jockey Made in America 250 for the NASCAR Cup Series, there are still a few drivers hoping that Thursday and Friday’s on-track activity is enough to give them an advantage over their competition.
Scheduled to make only his second career start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Sam Mayer will return to the Trans Am Championship for his eighth career start, at his home track of Road America, where he’ll pilot the No. 8 Jageman Stamping / QPS Employment Group Chevrolet Camaro for Team SLR – owned by former NASCAR competitor Scott Lagasse Jr. Mayer, who hails from Franklin, Wisconsin, will pull double-duty at the historic road course on Saturday Afternoon, in hopes of collecting one – or maybe two — victories for his already impressive resume.
“Anytime you can get some practice and racing at a track that is as challenging as Road America is a good thing,” Mayer said in a team release. “I look forward to driving for Team SLR and JR Motorsports this weekend because I know we can win both races if we have everything come together the right way.”
Joining Mayer as a teammate this weekend at Team SLR is NASCAR Cup Series veteran Austin Dillon, who will pilot the team’s No. 92 K&L Ready Mix / R1 Racecars / Fields Racing Chevrolet Camaro. The additional road racing experience is of the utmost importance for Dillon, who has recorded a best finish of 13th-place in 17 NASCAR Cup Series road course races. While the 31-year-old currently holds a comfortable margin to the bubble for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, a surprise winner could flip things upside down and throw Dillon to the hungry pack of drivers sitting just below the cutline.
“I think any time that you can get some extra seat time it’s advantageous,” said Dillon. “With road courses so important on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule now, we spent a lot of time during the offseason preparing, whether that be through running in other series, getting on the simulator, or just studying notes. All of that experience is important, just like racing in the TA2 race with Team SLR this weekend. I’m really thankful to Scott Lagasse and everyone at Team SLR for this opportunity because I kow it’s important and will be helpful in getting me up to speed for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.”
Teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, Christopher Bell and Harrison Burton will also be joined together as teammates in Saturday’s Trans Am TA2 Class event at Road America, as both drivers will compete for Silver Hare Racing, whose General Manager, Michael Self, was a former member of the Toyota Racing Development program. Bell will pilot the organization’s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro, while Harrison Burton will be getting behind the wheel of the No. 75.
“I think it’s just key to have the track time. I haven’t been to this track in a number of years now, so just being able to get on track more than just the one practice we have in Cup is beneficial,” Bell said in a media availability on Thursday Morning. “The cars are completely different than the Cup cars, but it’s still track time. You are still shifting gears, and the shift points relatively match up. It’s not testing a Cup car, but it’s helpful.”
Joining Burton and Bell in the event, is part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, Ty Gibbs, alongside his former teammate Riley Herbst, who will both be driving for Mike Cope Race Cars in Saturday Afternoon’s event. While Gibbs isn’t in the championship hunt in the Xfinity Series, the 18-year-old is looking to collect his third career victory in eight starts, which he’ll attempt to do in a fifth Joe Gibbs Racing entry (No. 81). Herbst on the other hand, isn’t in as favorable as a position, after a heaping of horrible luck and misfortune has left the Stewart-Haas Racing driver in dire need of a win., just to make it into the Xfinity Series Playoffs this season.
“There are a lot of benefits to putting down laps in the Trans Am series at Road America,” Herbst said. “Especially since I have limited experience at the track in NASCAR. We have practice and qualifying in the Xfinity Series this weekend, but this is still extra track time to help me learn the course. I’m thankful for the opportunity to run in the Trans Am series and hope to learn a lot from my time in the car.”
Riley Herbst will get behind the wheel of the No. 99 Ford Mustang, while Ty Gibbs joins the team to pilot the No. 16 Ford Mustang.
However, when it comes to name recognition, Gibbs and Herbst will be sharing resources from long-tenured NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman, who will be piloting an additional entry for the organization, in preparation for his first NASCAR-sanctioned event at Road America on Sunday Afternoon.
The busiest driver in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this weekend will be Cody Ware, who plans to run triple-duty at Road America this weekend. Ware will compete in Saturday Afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event in the No. 17 for SS Greenlight Racing, Sunday Morning’s Trans Am TA Class event in the No. 4 Nurtec ODT Chevrolet Corvette for Tony Ave and finally, Sunday Afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series event in the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing.
“I am super pumped to make my Trans Am debut this year with an already busy weekend,” Ware said in a team release. “It is always good to get more laps at a track that I have not had too much experience at before. Driving the IndyCar here a few weeks ago definitely helps with relearning the track. I think it will give me some great information for my Xfinity and Cup cars.”
On Thursday, the Trans Am Championship Presented by Pirelli (TA2) held both a testing session and two practice sessions for its drivers at Road America, both of which showed some positive results and progress for the competitors crossing over from NASCAR:
- No. 16 – Ty Gibbs
- 1st in Testing
- 11th in Practice 1
- No Time in Practice 2
- No. 8 – Sam Mayer
- 2nd in Testing
- 12th in Practice 1
- 5th in Practice 2
- No. 99 – Riley Herbst
- 6th in Testing
- 15th in Practice 1
- 15th in Practice 2
- No. 75 – Christopher Bell
- 8th in Testing
- 6th in Practice 1
- 7th in Practice 2
- No. 92 – Austin Dillon
- 11th in Testing
- 7th in Practice 1
- 2nd in Practice 2
- No. 26 – Ryan Newman
- 16th in Testing
- 28th in Practice 1
- 20th in Practice 2
- No. 77 – Harrison Burton
- 20th in Testing
- 17th in Practice 1
- No Time in Practice 2
On Friday Afternoon, Mike Skeen claimed the pole position for the series’ TA2 Class event on Saturday Afternoon, posting a lap time of 2:11.540 around the 4.048-mile road course. Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs will both start the event inside the top-10, while Harrison Burton and Austin Dillon will have to make dramatic rebounds if they hope to score solid finishes in the 25-lap event.
- 4th: No. 8 – Sam Mayer (-1.230 seconds)
- 8th: No. 16 – Ty Gibbs (-1.782 seconds)
- 11th: No. 99 – Riley Herbst (-2.076 seconds)
- 16th: No. 75 – Christopher Bell (-2.696 seconds)
- 19th: No. 26 – Ryan Newman (-3.079 seconds)
- 24th: No. 75 – Harrison Burton (-4.353 seconds)
- No Time: No. 92 – Austin Dillon
The Trans Am Championship (TA | XGT | SGT | GT Classes) held both a testing session and practice session on Friday Morning at Road America, comprised of 24 entries across the series’ four classes. Camping World SRX Driver Ernie Francis Jr. led both sessions in dominating fashion, while NASCAR Cup Series driver Cody Ware posted respectable laps in each session, ranking seventh-place overall in the test and sixth overall in the series’ first practice.
Ware will have an additional practice session and a qualifying session to contest, before the event takes place on Sunday Morning.