2023 Trans Am Titles Decided, Champions Crowned at COTA

The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli has crowned nine new title holders in its National and Western Championships, celebrating the conclusion of the season at the year-end Honors Gala. With some championships undecided until the wave of the checkered flag in the season finale races at Circuit of The Americas, 2023 closed just as it opened in February at Sebring International Raceway: with excitement and surprises.

TA National Championship: Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson in the No. 16 GYM WEED Ford Mustang clinched his third-consecutive title back at VIRginia International Raceway, putting him in an elite class of drivers. Until now, only five drivers have won three or more championships in the TA class. Three of them (Tommy Kendall, Ernie Francis Jr., Paul Gentilozzi) have won four championships each, while Peter Gregg and Scott Pruett have each won three. Only two drivers in Trans Am history have won three or more consecutive titles: Ernie Francis Jr. with four in a row (2017-2020), and Tommy Kendall with three in a row (1995-1997). Dyson earned his third straight title on the strength of four victories at NOLA Motorsports Park, Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and World Wide Technology Raceway.

 

“It’s just been a great season,” said Dyson. “The team worked incredibly hard and I’m a reflection of their efforts. We get the glory, but the team behind me deserves just as much credit for the success. Nobody who drives in TA makes it easy, we definitely had strong competitors all year. I’m looking forward to coming back. The most important championship is the next one.”

Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series National Championship: Brent Crews

Although he led the standings for the majority of the season, Brent Crews’ road to the championship was never a sure thing. Crews (No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang) had the opportunity to clinch the class by finishing fourth or better at VIRginia International Raceway last month, but disaster struck when a cut tire resulted in a crash which caused crippling damage to his car, relegating him to a 32nd-place finish. The result shrunk Crews’ lead from 132 points going into VIR down to just 45 points. However, a fourth-place result at COTA allowed him to ultimately prevail with the title, making him the youngest champion in Trans Am Series history at 15 years, seven months and six days old.

 

Crews’ season included four victories at NOLA Motorsports Park, Race 1 of the Detroit Grand Prix, Road America and Watkins Glen International, and the young driver has been at the top of the point standings since Round 5 in Detroit. He also clinched the 2023 Young Gun Award, which is a $20,000 cash prize awarded to the highest-finishing driver under the age of 25.

 

“It feels great to win the championship,” said Crews about his title. “The team worked hard all year. In my rookie year, we were able to come in third in the points, so this year, I knew what I needed to do from my perspective and how to get the car set up to make sure we ran well every race. Being able to finish every race, I think, is the main way to be a champion. That’s what I learned last year. Now, to be the youngest champion, I think that’s the highest bar. That’s a plus of being able to work with Nitro Motorsports and Nick Tucker. I grew up with him, working with him from five years old and on, racing go karts with him, winning championships. Coming into this professional series to race against the best drivers and best teams and to have been able to have success here, win races and win championships, that’s really special.”

XGT National Championship: Danny Lowry

Danny Lowry in the No. 42 Bennett/BridgeHaul/PitBoxes.com Mercedes AMG GT3 earned his first-career Pro championship after earning the SGT Pro/Am title and Rookie of the Year in 2022. Lowry tallied five victories on the way to his title, taking the checkered flag in the season opener at Sebring International Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Road America, Watkins Glen and VIRginia International Raceway, the latter of which is when he was able to clinch the title.

 

“It’s been a great season, better than I expected,” said Lowry. “I had a great deal of fun all year. It was wonderful to win the championship. I never came into the season expecting that. I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed running with all the guys that I get to race with in Trans Am. A couple years ago, we were debating about coming out here to Trans Am and we were like, ‘do we really belong out here with these high-quality drivers?’ We came out and we were welcomed in with open arms; it’s been a big family since then. It’s been a lot of fun and racing here has been really good for us. We’re looking forward to next season.”

SGT National Championship: Lee Saunders

Lee Saunders in the No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper claimed his third-career SGT championship while easily maintaining his record as the winningest SGT driver of all time with 21 victories. Saunders previously earned the title in 2015 and 2020, but his 2023 season was like no other. Saunders won seven races in nine starts, with a six-race winning streak which began at Lime Rock Park and continued through his final race of the season at VIR. His title also came with help from his competitors. Back at Road Atlanta, Saunders suffered multiple mechanical issues with his Dodge Viper, which led to Billy Griffin loaning him his Ford Mustang, allowing him to salvage a third-place finish.

 

“We’ve had a really good year, and I’m super excited to win the championship,” said Saunders. “I never thought we’d get one chance at it, much less three chances at it. I want to thank my team, Kevin Smith, KSR, Eddie, Drew, everybody that helped out this year. My wife for putting up with this again. Kevin and KSR, they just did an awesome time with car prep this year. They were such a joy, and the car was just fantastic this year. As far as the drivability and reliability, we’ve never had a car that’s anywhere near this good, and that’s them and not me. It was really awesome. Trans Am is such an awesome series, so much history, so much fun. The best bang for the buck.”

GT National Championship: Michael Attaway

Michael Attaway in the 91 Bennett/BridgeHaul/Pitboxes.com Audi R8 clinched the GT championship at VIR, claiming his first Trans Am title in his third year of competition in the series. Attaway’s title was earned via two victories at NOLA Motorsports Park and Road America, with seven podium finishes in 2023.

 

“It was a great year,” said Attaway. “Ricky Sanders talked to me before the season about going to GT to see if we could win, and lo and behold, we did. I had a really good year with a great crew. Trans Am’s people are great; the series does a really good job. I’m really excited and glad to be here, and very much excited about the championship. As an old man, it’s so special. You don’t know how many more years you’ve got, but I’m glad to be here this year. I want to thank my whole crew, Ricky Sanders, Danny Lowry, BridgeHaul, PitBoxes.com, Sweet Cheeks, Tyler Hoffman, everybody. This is a great crew.”

TA Western Championship: Steve Goldman

Steve Goldman in the No. 13 LIG Racing Chevrolet Corvette quietly drove his way to the TA title in the Western Championship. Despite competing in only four of the season’s eight events, Goldman accrued three victories between Thunderhill Raceway Park and both races in the doubleheader at Portland International Raceway.

 

“We had a great time running with all the TA Western Championship teams this year,” said Goldman. “It’s really helping us accelerate our overall improvement, both in car prep and driving. We hope to take advantage of the 2024 doubleheader schedule to run even more races next year. A big shout out to the Trans Am team for their professionalism and fun, competitive races this year. Thank you to Conor King Goldman, John Meek, Tim Bauman and Christian Belady, without whom, none of this would be possible. As our name, LIG (Life is Good) Racing indicates, we’re very grateful to spend our time racing.”

Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series Western Championship: Brody Goble

Brody Goble in the No. 69 Brown Bros. Ford/Cortex Racing Ford Mustang clawed his way into championship contention, overcoming an early points deficit from missing the first race of the season at Thunderhill. Once he arrived on the scene at Sonoma Raceway, there was no stopping him. Goble scored three victories at The Ridge, Race 1 at Portland and Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, and finished on the podium in all but one event. 2023 was Goble’s second year of Western Championship competition, and this is his first Trans Am title.

 

“That was awesome,” said Goble after claiming his title. “The Brown Bros. Racing team has been working hard all year. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make the first race of the year, and coming back from that kind of points deficit was tough. It’s tough to make up that many points, but we chipped away all season long and always made it to the finish. I want to thank Tim Brown and Shelley, my wife Grace and my dad. We’re a privateer team, so to come out here and cap it off on a National weekend is great. It was a big team effort and a weight off our shoulders to get it done.”

XGT Western Championship: Will Rodgers

Will Rodgers has made an impressive 2023 showing in his No. 32 Chris Evans Race Cars & Design Ford Mustang since joining the series at Sonoma Raceway and earning the overall race win in his debut. Rodgers has earned the XGT title after winning the first four races he entered this season (Sonoma, Laguna Seca, Portland Race 2 and Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch), with three of them being overall wins in the all-class events. In addition to winning his first Trans Am championship, Rodgers has shown the impressive speed of Chris Evans’ XGT cars.

 

“I’m really happy to have locked up the West Coast championship this year,” said Rodgers. “Funny enough, I hadn’t planned on running this year until I met Chris Evans at Road America when he was there for the National side of things. Jeff Jefferson runs his program, and Jeff and I have been close for a long time. I used to race with him in K&N years ago. Jeff saw the opportunity for me to come in to show the capability of these XGT cars, show why they’re so great for the series and can really fill a void. I’m honored to be able to do that, and obviously do so well to win the Western Championship title. I’m just really thankful for that opportunity and happy for these Chris Evans Racing guys. Without them, I wouldn’t be here having this much fun.”

GT Western Championship: JC Meynet

JC Meynet in the No. 28 Killer Shrimp Racing Chevrolet Corvette came into the season finale with just a 37-point advantage over second place, making the final race of the year an exciting event. Meynet was able to seal the deal with a win in the final event, capturing his first Trans Am title in the most competitive GT season the Western Championship has ever seen, scoring five wins (Thunderhill, Sonoma, Laguna Seca, Spring Mountain and COTA) and seven podiums.

 

“[COTA] was pretty awesome,” said Meynet. “I did the TA2 race earlier in the day for the first time ever, so I was pretty beat up. I might look like the picture of fitness, but I’m not maybe quite as good as some of these teenage boys out here. But I had a blast and learned a lot. GT was awesome. These guys have been great to race with, real fair, real even. It’s just a lot of fun. I want to say thanks to my crew, my family, my mom, my sister, my nephew, my wife, Carrie. I appreciate Trans Am doing a great job. Thank you to all the fans.”

 
Adam Sinclair