TeamSLR Eyeing Victory at VIR: Connor Mosack Seeks Second Straight TA2 Win

  •  It was this time last year when a 21-year-old Connor Mosack made his debut in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli. He was only a few months into his senior year at High Point (N.C.) University when he climbed behind the wheel of TeamSLR’s Chevrolet Camaro for a doubleheader at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton. Mosack finished fifth in the first race and 14th in the second race on the 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course. Now a fulltime Trans Am competitor, Mosack returns to VIR for Sunday’s penultimate Trans Am race as the series’ most recent TA2 winner.


    The 22-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, won Sept. 12 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. It was a dominant victory as Mosack took the class lead on the opening lap from Trans Am veteran Rafa Matos and never relinquished it, leading all 30 laps around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn track to finish .883 of a second over his nearest pursuer, Tyler Kicera.


    The win put an exclamation mark on Mosack’s progression this season. The driver of the No. 28 Nic Tailor Custom Fit Underwear/Interstate Foam & Supply Chevrolet Camaro secured his first career podium finish June 26 at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course, just a month-and-a-half after graduating with a degree in business entrepreneurship from High Point. Then on Aug. 8 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, Mosack earned another podium finish. That set the stage for Mosack’s breakthrough win at The Glen, with the victory coming in his 13th career TA2 start. The triumph also boosted Mosack to third in the TA2 championship standings, where he holds a 17-point advantage over fourth-place Thomas Merrill.


    Mosack’s upward trajectory in his rookie Trans Am season is emblematic of his racing career as a whole. Mosack didn’t begin racing until he was 18. He started in Legends cars and after winning five championships, transitioned to Late Model stock cars in 2019. Mosack augmented his Late Model schedule with four TA2 races in 2020 for TeamSLR via the doubleheader weekends last fall at VIR and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, respectively.


    With road-course racing becoming more and more prominent in NASCAR’s national touring series, Mosack wanted to sharpen those skills. The allure of regularly turning left and right in America’s Road-Racing Series was enough to convince Mosack to commit fulltime to Trans Am in 2021.


    Aiding his decision was the tutelage provided by TeamSLR. Mosack is coached by the father-and-son duo of Scott Lagasse and Scott Lagasse, Jr. They have combined to win more than 100 races and seven championships across a variety of series and styles of racecars, from paved ovals to road courses to dirt tracks. One of those victories came at VIR in 2018 when Scott Jr., won from the pole and clocked the race’s fastest lap.


    The Lagasse’s depth of knowledge is augmented this weekend by the return of Chris Liesfeld, who will be a teammate of Mosack in TeamSLR’s No. 96 M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro. The 47-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, has a long tenure with the St. Augustine-based organization. Liesfeld’s company, Fields Racing, has been competing with TeamSLR and the Lagasses for several years. Liesfeld will make his 12th career Trans Am start Sunday at VIR and his second of the season, with his last outing coming in Nashville.


    The combination of Mosack’s rising star talent and Liesfeld’s encyclopedic Trans Am knowledge, both of which will be buoyed by the Lagasses’ coaching acumen, makes TeamSLR’s presence in the paddock a formidable one. Recent history, and the decades of know-how accrued by the Lagasses, convene this weekend at VIR.


    Connor Mosack, driver No. 28 Nic Tailor Custom Fit Underwear/Interstate Foam & Supply Chevrolet Camaro:


    Trans Am winner. How’s that sound?

    “It’s a big relief for me just to know that you can do it, but I think it will really help us going forward because the first one always seems so hard to get and the next ones come pretty quickly. Hopefully, that’s the case for us and we can go get another one or two the rest of the year.”


    How satisfying was it to get that win, especially after some strong drives at Mid-Ohio, Road America and Nashville?

    “The celebration there was definitely short-lived. Obviously, the car was very fast, but we all felt like there was a lot of room for improvement, and that’s what we’re wanting to get after, but the win was very nice.”


    Your win at Watkins Glen bumped you up to third in the championship standings. Is second place attainable, or is it more about defending third in these last two races?

    “We definitely would try to get second more than try to defend third. At the end of the year, I don’t think there’s anything you gain by saying you’re second or you’re third or you’re fourth. Really, our main goal is to try to win these last two races. Without having a real shot at winning the championship, points don’t really matter to me. The only way we could have a shot at the championship is if we dominated both weekends and Rafa (Matos) had two terrible weekends, and I still don’t know if it would be possible, and it’s also unlikely for him to have two bad weekends.”


    Talk about your progression in Trans Am. After all, it was this time last year when you made your Trans Am debut at VIR, and here you are returning to the track as Trans Am’s most recent race winner.

    “I’m looking forward to going back to VIR. I feel it’s the track I know the most, it’s the one I have the most laps on, and it’s the first track I raced Trans Am in. Definitely feel like I’m much more experienced in these cars than I was last year. I know the guys that I’m racing with now, which is a big deal, and I have a lot more confidence, which also is a big deal. Last year, I didn’t know these cars very well and I was just kind of doing what I knew how to do naturally. Now, I’m doing that and also applying the experience I’ve gained and how to race these guys – it’s just a matter of knowing how to put a whole weekend together now. I feel good about the weekend, going into it, confident about at least being on the podium. I really think, barring a mechanical problem or something like that, we could have a really good shot at the win.”


    Describe a full lap around VIR.

    “It’s got a lot of high-speed sections and it’s got some very technical corners. Turns three, four, five – that whole section is one of the toughest set of corners of any track we go to, and that leads up the hill to the esses, which is probably second or third of my favorite sections of a track. It’s really close to being wide open. You’ve got to really be perfect to make that happen, and it’s just a really fun section. That leads to the back straightaway, a long straightaway, heavy braking zone there, and then down the hill – we call it Roller Coaster. It’s another really fun section, but you’ve got to really get it perfect to get set up for the front straightaway that ends the lap. It’s really a track that has every kind of corner – both slower corners and a lot of high-speed corners. Being a driver, it’s a lot of fun.”


    Do you view VIR as kind of a home race, as you went to High Point University, which is not too far from the track?

    “I don’t know if I’d call it a home track. It’s not really somewhere I grew up going to. To now have the Charlotte Roval on the schedule, I would consider that my home track. But, otherwise VIR, I would say, is the next-closest one I would call a home track since I know it the most and I get to go up there more often than any other track. You can say it’s somewhat of a home track. That’s where I had my first and have the most road-course experience.”


    You graduated from High Point back in May, and while racecar driving wasn’t a course, you’re already proving to be a successful alumni. What were some of the courses that helped prepare you for this career, and who were some of the professors that stood out to you?

    “I had several very good professors, and lot of it for me was business advice that can be applied to racing, not really behind the wheel, per se, but as a driver trying to find sponsors or talking with teams. I think there were definitely helpful moments there. I feel that’s been the biggest help about going to a good university like High Point, understanding that side of the sport more. I think that will help me find and support sponsorships for later in my career and always be with good teams. It’s important to work well with them in addition to just being their driver.”


    Chris Liesfeld, driver No. 96 New Field/M1 Racecars/Fields Racing Chevrolet Camaro:


    Talk about Fields Racing and its relationship with TeamSLR.

    “Fields Racing started when my father used to race in the NASCAR Grand National Series back in the ’80s and they raced under the name of Fields Racing, kind of an anagram of the spelling of our last name. We carried the name on when I got into racing, which was back in 2001 driving spec Miatas, and stock car road racing. Fields Racing and TeamSLR work together through my company. We help build the M1 Racecars chassis that’s approved for the TA2 class in Trans Am, and we work with the Lagasses in providing them with some of the racecars.”


    For those who may be unfamiliar with your background, what is your racing history? More specifically, what is your history at VIR?

    “It’s been about two years since I last raced at VIR, so I’m looking forward to going back there. Compared to my last race at Nashville where I drove for the first time in two years, I at least got reacquainted with the car. And this time I don’t have to learn a new track like I did at Nashville. Now, I can focus on improving my driving. I know the track well enough to where I can really focus on the car and continue trying to get those cobwebs out.”


    How did your race last TA2 race at Nashville go for you?

    “I actually felt pretty good with the result. I didn’t get hardly any practice at all, and before the race I may have, in total with the practice sessions and qualifying, I had maybe seven or eight laps. All that being said, along with everything else going against me, I was very happy with the result.”


    You’re from Richmond, Virginia. Do you view VIR as your home track?

    “VIR is not too far from where I’m from, so I guess you can say it’s kind of like my home track. I can’t even count how many times I’ve raced there, in different classes – Miatas, stock cars, and TA2 – so that’s the track where I’ve probably got the most laps of any other track in the country.”


    Describe a full lap around VIR.

    “I’d say VIR is somewhat of a technical track. There are a couple of corners there you have to set up and get just right, otherwise it throws off the next series of corners afterward. One particular corner is called Oak Tree (turns 11 and 12) and, if you can get a good run coming off that corner, it really sets you up with straightaway speed and trying to take advantage of the long straight on the back side of the track. So, coming off that corner is important, and the last corner before the frontstretch (turns 17 and 17A) is very important. NASCAR Bend (turn three) can sometimes be a little tricky with its decreasing radius. It’s just a lot of subtle transitions in the way the corners go from being slightly cambered to slightly off-cambered. It makes it interesting as you transition through the turns. All tracks have their characteristics that you have to learn and understand, and this one is certainly not short on that.”


    TeamSLR comes into VIR as the most recent TA2 winner with Mosack. You’ve worked with this organization for many years – talk about what the Lagasses bring to the table when it comes to driver development and, specifically, the kind of coaching they provide at a track like VIR?

    “I would say, between Scott and Scotty, they bring a lot to the table. They really do care tremendously about making sure the drivers come out with good results. They want to make sure they’re giving them everything they can in the way of coaching, as well as finding performance in the car. Even the days when things aren’t working in their favor as far as the racing goes – things can happen during the race and there can be problems – and still trying to make the best of those situations. There have been some really strong results, and there have been some results that have been really good while there were some struggles. But just constantly working on that, I think if it were anyone else, the results wouldn’t be as good as they are with the Lagasses with their devotion and dedication. There’s always coaching going on, even as the laps are being turned. Connor is constantly getting good feedback and good coaching, and you see it from the beginning of the year to this point. It was just a matter of time before he was going to win. I myself will always be a student, especially not driving week after week and not having been at every race. Every time I get back in the car, it’s always having to learn a lot and get back up to speed. I’m going to try to attend more races so I don’t have to constantly be working through that learning curve. I’m always trying to learn all I can and I appreciate all the feedback I get from the Lagasses. And even from Connor – I don’t put myself in a position where I feel like I’m so good that I can’t listen to some advice from him, as well.”


    Scott Lagasse, Jr., owner of TeamSLR and driver coach:


    How satisfying was it to see Mosack win at Watkins Glen?

    “It was good. I don’t know that I spent a whole lot of time thinking about it, to be honest. We went right to hammering on what we did good and bad there and how to get better. I don’t know that I sat around and cherished it too much. It’s called competitiveness, I guess. You have to assume that those that you beat are going to leave there and go to work, so why wouldn’t you need to? The minute you think that’s not happening, you’re kidding yourself. Unfortunately, I’ve had my teeth kicked in enough to learn the hard way. The conversation (after Watkins Glen) was, ‘Enjoy it, you did a helluva job, I’m impressed with the gains you made from the week before, but where can we get better? Here’s a couple things I saw to continue to work on.’ The cool thing with Connor is, when you tell him what to work on, he goes and works on it. And we followed up with Jack Wood on why that car wasn’t as good as it should’ve been. Obviously, Jack’s new to road racing and he’s going to learn a lot, but my belief is you have to make cars good enough that people can learn in and still run well. He ran well, but it always can be better. Probably part of my problem on the driver side is I’ve never done a good enough job of pumping people up and letting them know they did a great job. It’s always about how they can get better. I’m learning to be more like a cheerleader, maybe. (Laughs.)”


    Mosack’s win at Watkins Glen bumped him up to third in the championship standings. Is second place attainable, or is it more about defending third in these last two races?

    “I don’t know that we let it affect us at all, either way, in my opinion. We’ve got to have internal plans and goals of what we need to accomplish and, more important than anything, is making it a successful year for Connor. We’ve got to remember that he’s here to learn and get ready for the next stuff. We’ll be mindful of it. I honestly haven’t looked at it deep enough to know whether we have a shot at second or not. I figure we go do the best we can do and let the chips will fall where they may.”


    VIR marks a year of Trans Am racing for Mosack. Talk about his development in the series since his debut at VIR last year?

    “Mentally, he’s very strong. He’s committed, he trains hard, and he wants to do well. He takes criticism well and he adapts very quickly. And he’s got natural speed, so he’s actually a lot of fun to work with. The example would be, and he’ll tell you this, he lost Nashville on a restart and he didn’t lose Watkins Glen on all the restarts. He was on his restart game from the initial start, rolling the outside and taking the lead out of turn one. Nashville was painful for him. He owned up to it, wanted to figure out how to get better. He asked the right questions and I guess we told him the right answers because he was pretty on his game at The Glen on restarts. Those are the kinds of things I’m more proud of than a trophy. That’s really what made The Glen sweet to me – and I was up on the spotter’s stand watching every bit of it – was the way he took a weakness from the week before and made it a strength, and he did it. You only do that by understanding it and working at it and implementing it. He asks the right questions and he absorbs quickly and implements quickly, and, like I said, it’s fun.”


    TeamSLR has two wins with two different drivers this year – Sam Mayer at Road America and Mosack at Watkins Glen. There’s still two races left in the season. Talk about what you’ve accomplished this season and what you’d like to accomplish this weekend at VIR.

    “Obviously, it’s a competitive sport and you know where you stand each week, but my goals internally for this year had nothing to do with winning races. I knew the race wins would come if you do everything else below it right – the structure, the people, the driver training – those things it takes to win races at this level. And, in all honesty, it’s all new to me and us. We’ve done a lot of driver training over the years and we’ve been able to relate and all that, but with regard to running an operation the size that we have right now, we’ve leaned on a lot of people to try and shorten our learning curve and get honest feedback for ourselves – to make sure we’re not kidding ourselves, that we are doing well and we are getting better. So, the wins will come if we do what we’re supposed to do. Racing is not rocket science. It takes a lot of really smart people but, at the end of the day, it’s the right people in the right places with the right motivations. You lean on those people and you’ve got to have them, but the recipe to win is not rocket science.”


    What is your history at VIR?

    “VIR gave me my first Trans Am win (in 2018). VIR has been good to the M1 cars. We’re fast there, we win there, and we’ve also tumbled one pretty good and proved how safe they are. In any kind of racing, safety is a big deal, especially these cars. A lot of these guys come over here for training, so they want the safest thing they can find, or they’re racing here for the weekend and have to be back at a real job on Monday, so they want their car to be safe. VIR has been as good for the M1 as can be imagined, even in the bad times like when I took a tumble (in 2019) leading the race. It was big. It was really big. But it made a statement that the cars are safe and, as they say, out of negative comes a positive. Trust me, I didn’t want to take that ride, but I’ll take what it’s done for us.”


    What are the keys to making a fast lap at VIR?

    “The place is so intricate. It’s such a cool, little racetrack. There’s a lot of edginess to the racetrack, or uneasy corners or situations, so you want something that drives good and solid. I think having a good, solid racecar underneath you is a big deal, at least it’s a big focus of ours. We’ve got some little things we’ve worked hard on over the years from the driver’s seat that kind of just clicked with me when I saw it for the first time that are a little bit unorthodox in how you approach the place, but it still just comes down to a solid racecar.”

Adam Sinclair