The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli returns to where it all began in 1966 to open up its 2023 season at Sebring International Raceway. Sebring was the home of the first ever Trans Am series race, and the longest-running professional road racing series in North America has opened its season at the Florida track since 2013.
Grand Marshals tied to series history
The grand marshals for this weekend’s two feature races are each talented racers linked to the history of the series.
NASCAR icon Richard Petty will give the command for Saturday’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race with his grandson, Thad Moffitt, in the field making his first-career Trans Am start. Petty has experience racing in Trans Am, competing in the series’ inaugural season. With one NASCAR title under his belt at the time, Petty went on to become a seven-time champion in the NASCAR Cup Series, amassing 200 race wins, including seven victories in the Daytona 500. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
Jagger Jones will serve as grand marshal for Sunday’s TA/XGT/SGT/GT event. Jones, who races in the Indy NXT series, is the grandson of racing legend Parnelli Jones, who competed in five Trans Am races in 1967, earning three top-five finishes. The elder Jones had a long and multi-faceted career, scoring victories in Indy cars (including the Indianapolis 500), NASCAR, Champ Car, midgets, sprint cars and more.
Higher highs and lower lows
This season, Trans Am will debut a new points system which will make the series even more competitive, especially in classes with higher car counts like the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series. Last season, the maximum number of points available to a driver in a weekend was 35, but that number increases to 111 in 2023.
103 points are earned by winning a race, and the points awarded for each subsequent position decreases incrementally down to the 40th position, which receives one point. No points will be awarded to drivers finishing 41st and lower. This is unlike previous seasons, where the number of points awarded for a win was 30, decreasing to one point for those finishing 25th or lower.
This season will also see points awarded to the top five qualifiers, whereas previously only the top three received points. Moving forward, five points will go to the top qualifier in class, diminishing to one point going to the fifth-fastest competitor in qualifying. Finally, one point will be awarded to any driver who leads a lap, and two more points will be awarded to the driver who leads the most laps.
With higher rewards come higher penalties. Any driver under penalty for an on-track violation (including pit road speeding) in qualifying or a race session is not eligible to earn bonus points until the penalty has been assessed and served. If a vehicle receives penalties during a post-session technical inspection, that driver will lose all points earned in that session. This means that a tech failure can cost a driver everything.
Flagtronics comes to Trans Am
Beginning this weekend at Sebring, every vehicle racing in a Trans Am National Championship event must have the Flagtronics FT200 display unit installed, which displays the current flag condition in real time. Flagtronics electric sign boards will also be utilized around the racetrack at every corner station, signifying the current track condition, including local yellows. The implementation of the Flagtronics system will allow drivers to be alerted instantly if the track condition changes, increasing overall safety for competitors.
2023 broadcast package with MAVTV
This year, Trans Am races will be broadcast on MAVTV Motorsports Network. Races will air in a one-hour format on the Thursday night following 12 National Championship event weekends. The Thursday night primetime slot will include a two-hour block of racing, with the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series airing at 8:00 p.m. ET and the TA/XGT/SGT/GT class race airing at 9:00 p.m. ET. The block will be capped off by the 30-minute Showtime Motorsports docuseries, Road to Glory.
Produced by Greenlight TV, races will initially air in their entirety live on Trans Am and SpeedTour’s YouTube channels.
Road to Glory docuseries
This season, the docuseries “Road to Glory” will debut on MAVTV. It will include a total of 22 30-minute episodes that will be released as the season unfolds. Each episode will reveal the behind-the-scenes story of a race weekend, with highlights and recaps, while sharing the journey of each of Showtime Motorsports’ drivers. Road to Glory will air on Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET.
Florida drivers take on the Sunshine State
Five drivers who call Florida home will be taking the green flag at Sebring this weekend:
Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper (Lakeland)
Billy Griffin, No. 14 Griffin Auto Care/Sheehan’s Towing Ford Mustang (West Palm Beach)
Patrick Utt, No. 49 RaceQuip/Driven Racing Oil Chevrolet Camaro (Tampa)
Roberto Sabato, No. 61 6th Gear Racing Ford Mustang (Bonita Springs)
Doug Peterson, No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (Bonita Springs)
Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang (Boca Raton)
Trans Am drivers winning elsewhere
During the Trans Am Series’ roughly 100-day off-season, several drivers in this weekend’s race scored big victories in other racing disciplines:
David Pintaric, No. 57 Kryderacing Ford Mustang
Won two GT1 class races in SCCA Majors at Sebring International Raceway
Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper
Won in A Sedan in SCCA Majors at Sebring International Raceway
Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang
Won in LMP3 class in the 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway
Won two GT class races in Asian Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Dubai at Dubai Autodrome
Barry Boes, No. 32 BCR/Accio Data Chevrolet Camaro
Won in GT2 class in SCCA Majors at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Won in GT2 class in SCCA Majors at Sebring International Raceway
Connor Zilisch, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro
Won in Spec Miata in SCCA Majors at Homestead-Miami Speedway
More NASCAR drivers in TA
Trans Am’s premier TA class, which features the series’ most powerful 850-horsepower machines, has become a popular home for current and former NASCAR drivers.
NASCAR driver and team owner Justin Marks joins the series full time in 2023 after getting his first victory in the class last year at Watkins Glen International. Marks, who has been dabbling in the series since 2017, will pilot the No. 99 Trackhouse Camaro for Showtime Motorsports.
Wally Dallenbach Jr. has driven in TA since 1983, tallying 10 victories in the last 40 years. During that time, Dallenbach spent more than a decade in the NASCAR Cup Series, in addition to commentating for NASCAR broadcasts. He now competes in Trans Am’s Heritage class, driving the No. 4 Ultimate Headers Ford Mustang. Last year, Dallenbach finished second overall in the Sebring TA event.
Road course ringer and 2002 TA champion Boris Said has been driving in Trans Am since 1994, competing concurrently in NASCAR’s Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series, as well as a host of other disciplines. Said will take the green flag at Sebring behind the wheel of the No. 79 ECC/Anchor Bolt & Screw Dodge Challenger.
Longtime NASCAR competitor Paul Menard once again will join Trans Am at Sebring, this time driving the No. 2 Weaver Racing/Technique Chassis Dodge Challenger. Menard began his NASCAR career in 2003 and made his most recent start in 2021 in the NASCAR Truck Series, earning four victories in NASCAR’s top-three series. Menard won his first Trans Am race last year at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Past Sebring winners seeking another victory
Five drivers in this weekend’s TA/XGT/SGT/GT race have past experience atop the podium at Sebring International Raceway. Lee Saunders in the SGT class has the most wins of any returning competitor, tallying five victories at the track since 2014.
Chris Dyson, No. 16 Gym Weed Ford Mustang: 2022, 2021
Amy Ruman, No. 23 McNichols Co. Corvette: 2015
Doug Peterson, 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang: 2014 (Racing in TA2 this weekend)
Lee Saunders, No. 84 LandSearch LLC Dodge Viper: 2020, 2019, 2016 (SGT) 2015, 2014 (TA3-I)
Billy Griffin, No. 14 Griffin Auto Care/Sheehan’s Towing Ford Mustang: 2022
Returning champions looking for more
Several former TA/XGT/SGT/GT champions return to the series in 2023 looking to add another title to their name. With six former champions and 10 titles between them, the depth of talent in the field will make this another exciting season to watch. In addition to those below, 2013 and 2014 TA champion Doug Peterson will be competing full-time in the TA2 class this year.
Chris Dyson (2022, 2021)
Tomy Drissi (2018 TA Western Championship)
Amy Ruman (2015, 2016)
Ken Thwaits (2020 XGT Champion)
Lee Saunders (2020 XGT, 2014 TA3-I)
Billy Griffin (2022, 2020)
CD Racing to defend back-to-back championships
Reigning back-to-back champion Chris Dyson returns to the TA class to defend his titles and chase his third championship trophy in 2023. This year, Dyson will pilot the No. 16 Gym Weed Ford Mustang. In Sebring, he will be accompanied by Humaid Masaood in the No. 21 allgram Ford Mustang, who is entering his fifth season with the team, and Matthew Brabham in the No. 20 ALTWELL Ford Mustang. Brabham has made five starts for the CD Racing team, scoring three victories.
Showtime starting strong for Thwaits’ final full-time season
Showtime Motorsports has a large and competitive TA stable to kick off the 2023 season. Team owner Ken Thwaits, who announced over the off-season that this year would be his final season of full-time driving, will pilot the No. 7 Franklin Road Apparel Camaro. Justin Marks, who won in the TA class driving for Showtime at Watkins Glen last year, will run his first full-time season in the No. 99 Trackhouse Camaro. Keith Grant will round out Showtime’s TA effort in the No. 40 Showtime Motorsports Camaro. Keith will be racing against his father, Richard Grant, who is entered in the class with his family team’s No. 30 Grant Racing Corvette.
Turn Key unveiled new SGT and GT Camaro at PRI
Over the off-season at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show (PRI), Turn Key Motorsports unveiled its new Chevrolet Camaro for Trans Am’s SGT and GT classes. The spec-level vehicle can be fully customized to customers’ specifications to race in either class, and can also be upgraded from GT to SGT at any time. Expect to see the new car on the track in both classes in 2023.
New name, same great racing
Trans Am’s TA2 class kicks off 2023 with a brand-new name: the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series. The moniker may be different, but fans and competitors will enjoy the same great racing. TA2 comes off its closest season on record and the first championship to be decided by a tie-breaker scenario. Last season, Thomas Merrill edged out Rafa Matos by winning the season finale at Circuit of The Americas, tying Matos in points and breaking the tie by having more wins over the course of the season. Merrill and 14-year-old Young Gun Brent Crews earned the most wins of the season with three victories each.
The eventful season saw the top-four contenders (Merrill, Matos, Crews and Connor Mosack separated by only 32 points in the final standings, and those four drivers accounted for 10 poles and nine wins in 2022.
With 15 of the 20 top point earners returning in 2023, a new class of Young Guns and a growing field, expect the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series to wow again this season.
TA2 winners looking to repeat
Three past Sebring winners return for this weekend’s event, hoping to tally another mark in their win column.
Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang: 2022, 2019
Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang: 2021
Dillon Machavern, No. 17 SLR-M1 Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro: 2017
The off-season led to many drivers and teams switching it up, meaning fans might need a scorecard to keep track of new rides. Here is where some of those movers and shakers landed:
Dylan Archer, No. 4 FPEC Chevrolet Camaro (Showtime Motorsports)
Michele Abbate, No. 30 Ghost Energy/Lucas Oil Camaro (Showtime Motorsports)
Evan Slater, No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Chevrolet Camaro (Showtime Motorsports)
Barry Boes, No. 32 BCR/Accio Data Chevrolet Camaro (BC Race Cars)
Adam Andretti, No. 41 Ultimate Headers Chevrolet Camaro (John Cloud)
Darin Mock, No. 51 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang (Nitro Motorsports)
William Sawalich, No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang (Nitro Motorsports)
A number of drivers will be making their first-career Trans Am start in Saturday’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series race. In addition to the drivers below, Parker DeLong in the No. 42 BridgeHaul/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang will be making his first National Championship start after competing in two Western Championship races last year.
Caleb Bacon, No. 18 Cortex Racing/Bacon Development Ford Mustang
Thad Moffitt, No. 43 Safety-Kleen Chevrolet Camaro
Ben Maier, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro
Taylor Gray, No. 80 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Laurent Graziana, No. 85 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang
TA2 news & notes
“Iron Man” Tom Sheehan will be making his 127th-career Trans Am start this weekend when he takes the green flag in the No. 97 LTK Insulation Ford Mustang.
Ten drivers who have previous starts in the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series were in the Daytona 500 last weekend: Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Ty Gibbs, Riley Herbst, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez
Connor Mosack, who finished fourth in the points in 2022, won the pole and finished second in the ARCA Menards Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Mosack’s success in 2022 led to a deal to compete in 23 NASCAR Xfinity Series and six ARCA races in 2023.
Young Gun Award returns
$20,000 will once again be on the line for TA2’s best drivers under the age of 25. The Young Gun Award will showcase the series’ young, up-and-coming drivers, awarding the cash prize to the season’s top points earner at the year-end awards gala.
Drivers currently eligible for the 2023 Young Gun Award are:
Thomas Annunziata, 17, No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Dylan Archer, 23, No. 4 FPEC Chevrolet Camaro
Caleb Bacon, 18, No. 18 Cortex Racing/Bacon Development Ford Mustang
Kaylee Bryson, 21, No. 72 AP Driver Development/LSI Racing Chevrolet Camaro
Brent Crews, 14, No. 70 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Parker DeLong, 14, No. 42 BridgeHaul/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang
Taylor Gray, 17, No. 80 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Austin Green, 21, No. 89 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang
Nathan Herne, 20, No. 29 Cube 3/Berryman Ford Mustang
Ben Maier, 14, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro
Darin Mock, 20, No. 51 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Thad Moffitt, 22, No. 43 Safety-Kleen Chevrolet Camaro
Connor Mosack, 24, No. 28 SLR-M1 Race Cars Ford Mustang
Luke Rumburg, 23, No. 95 Rumcastle Racing Ford Mustang
Boris Said Jr., 19, No. 86 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang
William Sawalich, 16, No. 60 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
Evan Slater, 17, No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Chevrolet Camaro
Jack Wood, 22, No. 8 SLR-M1 Race Cars Chevrolet Camaro
Connor Zilisch, 16, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro
Young Gun and Wilwood Rookie of the Year stats
The top-four contenders for Rookie of the Year in 2022 return to the series in 2023 (Dylan Archer, Brent Crews, Evan Slater and Connor Zilisch).
More than half the drivers in this weekend’s season opener (24) are either Young Guns or Rookie of the Year contenders, with 11 drivers who are competing in both categories.