Memorial Day Classic Next Target for Silver Hare Racing

The most recent race winner on the 2023 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series tour, Silver Hare Racing’s Connor Zilisch, has been itching to get back on the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli trail since he captured his first career TA2-class victory March 26 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

 

After an eight-week break in the schedule, the 16-year-old from Mooresville, North Carolina, will finally get his wish as he and his Silver Hare Racing teammate, 14-year-old Ben Maier of Chester, Maryland, head to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut, for this weekend’s traditional Memorial Day Classic, a focal point of New England’s road-racing culture dating back to 1972.

 

Saturday’s 68-lap, 75-minute race around the 1.48-mile, seven-turn “Classic” configuration at scenic Lime Rock takes Zilisch and the Silver Hare team to an event they can rightfully feel owes them one. A year ago this weekend, in just his seventh career TA2 start, Zilisch saw a potential top-five run on race day end prematurely when a rock punctured a waterline under the hood of his Silver Hare Racing Camaro, leading to overheating issues that ended his day less than a third of the way through the scheduled race distance.

 

Still, he and the team feel confident there is momentum to bank on from not only the victory at Road Atlanta, but Zilisch’s successes away from the TA2 Series in the eight weeks since, to help carry them over the top once again this weekend.

 

Always one to search for opportunities during the Trans Am off weekends to perfect his racecraft by competing in other forms of racing, Zilisch most recently joined the ranks of the CARS Tour for Pro Late Models and Late Model Stock cars, which races on short tracks throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. His debut in that series came in typical head-turning fashion April 22 on the .363-mile Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway oval, where he qualified on the Pro Late Model pole and finished third in the series’ second round of the season. Two weeks later, Zilisch qualified fourth for the May 5 event at the .4-mile Ace Speedway oval in Altamahaw, North Carolina, led 26 laps and scored the Pro Late Model victory in just his second start. Then, last week, he qualified sixth and finished third on the .625-mile oval at the newly renovated North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway during this year’s NASCAR All-Star Race festivities. Zilisch pulled double duty by also competing in the Late Model Stock class at all three events, posting finishes of eighth at Hickory and 12th at Ace before a multicar accident at North Wilkesboro ended his bid in that race, as well as that of a handful of other drivers in the NASCAR star-studded field.

 

Add his May 13 victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, where he earned Rookie of the Year honors as a fulltime competitor last year, and it’s no wonder Zilisch is anxious to get back to business in his Silver Hare Racing Camaro at Lime Rock this weekend. He arrives third in the TA2 driver standings after his seventh-place finish at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, fourth-place finish at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, and the victory at Road Atlanta.

 

Maier, a TA2 class rookie whose racing background includes numerous karting titles and SCCA Regional competition, as well as forays into Stadium Super Trucks, Nitro Rallycross and NASA’s Spec Miata championship in recent years, has utilized the combination of his racing prowess mixed with patience and saavy in executing clean race weekend performances at each of the three TA2 rounds this season. After finishes of 21st at Sebring, ninth at NOLA and 20th at Road Atlanta, Mayer is 13th in the driver standings and third in the TA2 rookie standings heading to Lime Rock, where he scored a victory in the SCCA Northeast Regionals last June in his only previous outing at the track.

 

As are all Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series events this season, Saturday’s race, set for a 1 p.m. EDT start, will be live streamed via the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. The series’ new television partner MAVTV will air a 60-minute version of the race at 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 1.

 

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 Daniel Suárez, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Harrison Burton have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities in top-flight equipment.

 

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.

 

To further enhance Silver Hare Racing’s driver development capabilities, the team’s race shop in High Point is now equipped with a SHOCKWAVE Simulator, a tool specifically developed for drivers to accelerate racetrack familiarity, improve car control and confidence, and build stamina. SHOCKWAVE has been involved in racing since 1965 and is currently actively participating in NASCAR, ARCA, Trans Am, Late Models, and Sprint cars. Its Trans Am package replicates a Howe Racing TA2 chassis, complete with cockpit controls and sounds.

 

“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 and Ben. We want people to know we have an arrive-and-drive program, where for people who want to run this track or another, we provide the opportunity to do that and be successful.”

 

Connor Zilisch, driver, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro:

 

“It’s been really good. The win at Road Atlanta was kind of the start of the upswing that I’ve had in the eight weeks since. I’ve been adjusting to all the cars I’ve been racing, having fun on the CARS Tour. I got my first win in that at Ace Speedway a few weeks back, I got a win at Laguna Seca in the MX-5 Cup, so I’ve been staying busy in the time off from Trans Am, but still making trips to the Silver Hare shop, checking on the guys and making sure we’re headed in the right direction as we head to Lime Rock and Detroit.

 

“I’m really excited for these two races. I feel like, just knowing what the guys have been doing in the shop and the strides we’ve been making make me really excited to come back hopefully with a lot of momentum for these next two weekends. It was kind of nice sitting on that Road Atlanta win for eight weeks knowing you were the last winner in the series. A lot of excitement leading into these three races over the next two weekends, a lot of anticipation being built up, and I just can’t wait to get out there and show everybody what we’ve got and how hard we’ve been working and how that work can pay off for us.

 

“Last year at Lime Rock, we were decently quick in practice but had to struggle through qualifying. I felt like we were going to be good for the race, the car felt good. It was mixed conditions – Lime Rock is known for rain – and it was a crazy race to say the least. Unfortunately, we had a rock hit the radiator hose and punch a hole in it and the car just overheated. We had to call it quits early. I was feeling good about the race and where I was running at the time, so I think the track owes us one. We’ll see what the weekend brings.

 

“I’m just excited to get there. That track is pretty cool, like a short track of road racing. Lime Rock’s the closest thing to short-track racing on a road course there is. It’s 51-second laps and you’re always around cars. There are 40 cars out there, so you’re always around someone and it makes for exciting racing. It’s tough to pass at Lime Rock, though, because it’s short and there are no straightaways to really get by people. So you’ve got to make it happen and make it work. It’ll be interesting to see how the race plays out and how we are, but I’m feeling confident going in. This is probably the most confident I’ve felt with where we are with our cars and everything else. I’m pumped to get out there and show what we’ve got because I know how hard the guys have been working, and I’ve been working on myself getting better as a driver.”

 

Ben Maier, driver, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro:

 

“I actually won the first time I raced at Lime Rock in an SCCA regional last year. It’s fun. I like the jump (between turns five and six) the most. It’s one of the coolest places we go to with the mountainside and everything. That was my only time there.

 

“It’s less than a minute a lap. The jump is the most exciting part because you have to get straight, get lined up before you get there or else you’ll get really squirrely. There are a lot of really long, sweeping turns, especially the first turn, where you’re sitting there turning the wheel for like six seconds, and turn two gets really sharp into the end of the turn, and then there’s a 90-degree right turn that’s more aggressive than the first two but still pretty mellow. There’s a pretty steep climb up to this part of the track, and you’re going through hills, which is really cool. Then you come to a sweeping, 90-degree right turn to go into the jump, and after that there are two more sweeping right turns as you go down the hill to the frontstraight.

 

“It’ll help that I was there last year as far as knowing the track, but I’ll have a lot to figure out in practice and qualifying before we get to the race. The TA2 car is going to handle differently than the car I drove there last year. But I’m really excited to get back in the Silver Hare car. It’s been a while. Since Road Atlanta, I’ve done a couple of SCCA weekends at VIR and a weekend or two doing go-karts, so I can’t wait to get back in the TA2 car.

 

“During the off time I’ve been doing a lot of iRacing trying to figure out all the tracks on the rest of the schedule. I’ve been to a few of them, which is a good thing, but definitely there’s still the learning curve at those places when it comes to getting around in the TA2 car. I feel like I’ll be ready, that’s the plan.”

Adam Sinclair