TeamSLR Trans Am Race Report from Brainerd
July 18, 2021
TeamSLR Trans Am Race Report from Nashville
August 8, 2021
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Trans Am’s First Visit to Nashville Provides Level Playing Field for

TeamSLR Driver Trio of Connor Mosack, Chris Liesfeld and Justin Marks

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2021) – How do you bridge the gap between drivers with years of racing experience and drivers with only a few race experiences? With an actual bridge, more specifically, the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge that spans the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

This weekend’s inaugural Music City Grand Prix includes the TA2 division of the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli. Practice at the 2.17-mile, 11-turn street circuit begins Friday with qualifying taking place before the race on Saturday. Nearly 40 drivers – some with a handful of Trans Am championships and some with just a handful of Trans Am starts – will navigate the city layout that drives by Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and traverses the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge.

It’s the first Trans Am street race since 2019 when the series raced at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park. While there are some competitors in Saturday’s TA2 race in Nashville who competed in that race in Detroit, there are many who haven’t, which includes all three of TeamSLR’s drivers – Connor Mosack, Chris Liesfeld and Justin Marks.

Nashville presents a level playing field for this driver trio, as everyone is a rookie on the streets of Nashville.

Twenty-two-year-old Mosack is TeamSLR’s veteran driver with 13 career TA2 starts. The Charlotte, North Carolina-native is running the full TA2 schedule in 2021 for TeamSLR after competing in two doubleheaders last year at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, respectively. Mosack 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 (N.C.) University.

Liesfeld will make his 11th career Trans Am start Saturday at Nashville and his first since 2019. The 47-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, has only competed in the series’ TA2 division, earning a best finish of third in 2012 at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway. His experience with TeamSLR, however, is deep. Liesfeld’s company, Fields Racing, has been competing with TeamSLR and the Lagasses for several years.

Marks has only competed in seven Trans Am races, but don’t let the dearth of starts fool you. The 40-year-old from Rocklin, California, who now calls the Nashville suburb of Brentwood home is a proficient road-course racer. Marks won a NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2016 at Mid-Ohio and an ARCA Menards Series race in 2010 at Palm Beach (Fla.) International Raceway. He also has eight wins in the GT category of the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series, including a 2009 victory in the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Of all the drivers competing at Nashville, Marks arguably knows the most about the track. He is a part of the ownership group behind the Music City Grand Prix. He also has a keen understanding and appreciation of the effort TeamSLR puts into preparing its racecars. Marks owns Trackhouse Racing, which is currently in its inaugural NASCAR Cup Series season.

TeamSLR is owned 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. They are hands-on owners, meticulous in their car prep and driver prep. They get man and machine to sing from the same sheet of music, and that’s appropriate when you’re racing in Music City.

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

Because the inaugural Music City Grand Prix is a new event for everyone, do you feel like you come into this race weekend on a level playing field with the rest of your counterparts? After all, you have the same level of experience at this venue as they do.

“It definitely makes it more even, especially for somebody like me who hasn’t been to most of the tracks we’ve raced at this year. Everybody we race against pretty much has been to all these tracks a good number of times, especially the veteran guys, which gives them a leg up on me since I’m learning most of these tracks for the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing how we all adapt to a new place.”

You’ve used simulation and video from past races to prepare for other events on the Trans Am schedule, but what do you do when you have a new venue like the Music City Grand Prix? What tools can you use to prepare?

“We run other street courses, like the Detroit Grand Prix circuit. It’s obviously a different layout, but it’s good as far as learning how to navigate streets and picking your marks with all the walls looking about the same, and with the surfaces and how rough it is and how off-camber they can be in some corners. Doing some races on the simulator, you see guys tend to wreck a lot more, so you learn where you need to place the car in certain spots on the track and be aware. I think Long Beach has a couple of corners – I think the final corner at Long Beach has a similar corner to Nashville with the way you get in there and off onto the straightaway. But it’s kind of hard to tell without ever seeing it. I’ve just been trying to run as many street courses as I can find on the simulators and figuring out different aspects of each one.”

Typical Trans Am venues have a lot of runoff area. Street circuits don’t. Will you have to be patiently aggressive, knowing that the risk versus reward is higher on a street course?

“It’ll depend on where we start. If we’re up there in the top-three with the best guys, I think we can kind of run with them for a while and see where we’re a little bit better or where they’re a little bit better and try to take advantage of that as the race goes on. If we have a bad qualifying and start eighth or 10th in the field, I think you have to be careful and be patient. Obviously, you’ve got to start moving forward, but it’s still a pretty long race and I’m sure there will be at least two or three cautions. So you just have to be patient and pass guys when you have good opportunities and, when the cautions come out, hopefully you can be there at the end to take advantage of that.”

Do you feel that your Late Model experience, where you’re racing with 30 other others cars on half-mile ovals with concrete walls to your left and right, will help you get quickly up to speed with Nashville’s layout?

“I think that could help. I’m used to driving the car all the way to the wall. Some tracks we go to, the wall wraps all the way around the bottom and you can’t see around the corner, so I think going to places like that will help me feel a lot more comfortable with getting that close to the barriers at Nashville. Obviously, being side-by-side with others cars while doing that just adds an extra level of difficulty.”

Nearly 40 drivers are entered in Saturday’s TA2 race. How important will qualifying be at Nashville?

“I think it’ll be very important. It’s hard to tell how tough it’ll be to pass. I know with the long straightaways you might be able to get a couple done getting into the corners, but it’s tough to tell on paper how narrow some of those corners are. I’ve heard that some of them are one lane, so passing in those areas will be tough, obviously. If you end up having a wreck in practice and have to miss qualifying, you’ll really be in a hole there, so it’s definitely something we’ll be focusing on. You don’t have to be on the pole to have a good finish or win the race, but I think you’ll have to be somewhere in the top-five.”

Many Trans Am regulars are competing in the TA2 race at Nashville. Do you see that as an opportunity to go up against guys with a lot of experience and even learn from them?

“Absolutely. Every time you get a chance to go against guys with a lot of experience or who have raced at higher levels, there are definitely things to learn from them. But, at the end of the day, we’re all there to race each other and I think I also have an advantage on them being in these cars all year and knowing how they drive. So I think you learn from them, but you’re also out there trying to beat them.”

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? And has any of that history come on a street circuit like Nashville?

“I’m not a fulltime racecar driver these days, but I raced in TA2 back in the earliest days of the series around 2012, and in the following seasons we brought in my younger brother to drive for us along with a number of other drivers. We raced the Detroit Grand Prix street circuit a couple of times with Kyle Marcelli driving our car, so there is that experience of putting a car on the track on a street course, although I didn’t drive either of those times. This weekend will be my first street race as a driver.”

Nashville marks the first of three planned races with TeamSLR, with you rejoining the outfit at VIR in September and Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in November. What are your expectations for Nashville and how can that experience translate to your upcoming races at VIR and COTA?

“My expectations would be to do as best as I possibly can do considering I’ve been out of the car for a while and I’m going to a street circuit for the very first time. But that’s what’s making it interesting and exciting for me – it’s something I haven’t done before. If I can stay clean and make it to the end with a respectable finish, I’ll be very happy with that. Then, I can focus on these tracks that I’m familiar with, and with road-course racing in general, and focus more on improving myself and providing good feedback to the team. I want to help improve the car and hopefully turn some good laps and finish well in the races coming up at VIR and COTA. Nashville is definitely going to be a learning experience for me – learning about the car and learning about street races. I know the team well, as we’ve worked together in various ways on the operational side, spotting and working on the cars. I’ll be going through the learning curve again this weekend, and I’ll definitely be talking to Scott (Lagasse), for sure. He has a lot of experience with street circuits and I’m going to lean on him pretty hard. We’ll have Justin Marks this weekend, who has a ton of experience, as well as Connor Mosack – he’s a young guy and relatively early in his race career, so I’m going to lean on him, too.”

Typical Trans Am venues have a lot of runoff area. Street circuits don’t. Will you have to be patiently aggressive, knowing that the risk versus reward is higher on a street course?

“I would say it depends on how I qualify. To be realistic, with my experience, I would think my qualifying times may not put me in the top-five or the top-10 in the field. So, being further down in the field, the strategy is to try and protect the car, being cautious and looking ahead and keeping your head up and making sure I’m not going to get involved in a crash, because I can imagine that could take out a lot of cars. On a track with a lot of runoff, if a car goes off, you can probably come back on the track safely and be fine. But on a street circuit, there’s nowhere to go. If you’re cautious about it and save it for the end, that’s the way to go.”

Nearly 40 drivers are entered in Saturday’s TA2 race. How important will qualifying be at Nashville?

“I think it’s going to be very important to qualify as well as you can with the number of cars we’re going to have. But even though there are a lot of drivers with experience on street circuits, this is the first time for everybody at Nashville, so I think everyone’s going to be on an equal level. Qualifying is going to be important to avoid any kind of potential carnage that can happen at the start of the race. I would say, looking at the entry list, there are a lot of good drivers who are going to be competing, so it seems like you’ll need to qualify up there in the top-five if you’re going to have a chance. The field is going to be pretty deep with a lot of good drivers, so I know I’m going to have my hands full.”

Justin Marks, driver No. 99 BC Forever/M1 Racecars/Fields Racing Chevrolet Camaro:

You have a vested interest in the Music City Grand Prix – you’re part of the ownership group and your car in the TA2 race is honoring Bryan Clauson. Talk about the event as a whole and, specifically, the cool factor of competing in the TA2 race as part of a race weekend that you’ve had a significant hand in creating?

“I’ve been a big believer of this event in totality since the first day I heard about it. It’s going to be the first year of an event that I think is going to be very special and successful for a long time. It was easy for me to make the commitment to get involved from an ownership standpoint. And personally, driving in the event – I’ve raced basically fulltime for 20 years but, when I retired, it didn’t necessarily mean that I was going to stop driving. I still love driving from time to time when I have the opportunity to do so, and I love the Trans Am Series. Early on, when there were discussions about Trans Am being a support event to the Grand Prix, I had it circled on my calendar as it was one that I really wanted to participate in because I only live 20 miles away, and it was a great way to totally immerse myself in an investment.

“Honoring Bryan Clauson is a really special thing for me. Bryan was a friend of mine, and when the Grand Prix made the commitment to honor his memory with the pole trophy for the NTT INDYCAR Series race, I saw it as an opportunity to further the legacy that he’s had in racing and run a tribute car for him. It’s been a number of years since Bryan’s been gone, but his legacy remains alive and well. But, personally, it’s a big moment for me. Bryan passed away five days before I won my first and only NASCAR race and I won that race driving for the team he was with in NASCAR. So he’s a big part of my story and I have just so much respect for him and his family, and his father Tim, and everything they’ve done and continue to do in dirt racing. So it’s just a special, personal thing.”

In addition to competing in the TA2 race on Saturday, you get to present the Bryan Clauson Pole Trophy to the NTT P1 Award winner of the INDYCAR race. Talk about Bryan the competitor and Bryan the giver, as he was able to provide the ultimate gift in the gift of life.

“Bryan’s one of those guys who never really met a stranger. And from a racing standpoint, I have a tremendous amount of respect for multi-disciplinary drivers – guys who can jump in anything and can race and be fast in anything and they just want to race and compete no matter what it is, and Bryan was that to a tee. He raced in the Indy 500 and, when the race was over, he jumped in his car and ran a 410 Winged Sprint car that night. They don’t make drivers quite like that anymore, so he was a throwback and I have a tremendous amount of respect for his talent and his ability, and he was a great human being. Like I said, he never met a stranger, always had time for everybody, really appreciated the opportunity that he had in his life, and that was reflected in his support of the organ donor program and trying to give back and realizing that he had a platform to make a positive difference, and he did so.”

You’ve competed in Trans Am before – what is it about the series that draws you to it and keeps you coming back?

“I just think it’s a great format for racing. I like hung-body road-race cars, lots of horsepower, and the race formats are great. It’s a sprint race, but it’s just long enough to have an endurance element to it. I think it’s a great series, great racecars and a great format. I’ve done plenty in the Trans Am division and this is actually the first time I will have competed in TA2. When they formulated this division and wrote the rulebook for it, it has really shown what the early promise was, and that’s evidenced by the fact that we’ve got nearly 40 cars going to Nashville and the competition is fierce. We’ve got a lot of big-name drivers and I think it’s a great, healthy road-racing series and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

You have two road-course wins – one on an actual road course (an Xfinity Series race in 2016 at Mid-Ohio) and one on a street circuit (an ARCA race in 2010 at Palm Beach International Raceway). Can you explain the nuances you have to deal with on a street circuit compared to a purpose-built road course?

“The consequences of making mistakes are magnified on a street course because there’s no margin for error. Visibility and sight lines are difficult. On a natural road course, you can see a lot farther ahead, so you have to train your eyes to pick up on different visual cues on a street course. You can’t look off in the distance as much, so your mind has to operate at kind of a higher cadence. And there’s not a lot of air flow, so the strategy of taking care of your equipment, managing your tire life, and especially managing your brake life through the race becomes magnified as well because there’s not a lot of air that gets to the front of the car, so there will be a lot of brake management. It’s going to be really hot and humid in Nashville, so it’s going to be easy to burn the tires off of it. I think at street races, in general, you have to be a bit more focused, a little bit more in tune, but you have to be smart, too, because these races have the tendency to really come back to people more so than on natural road courses.”

Typical Trans Am venues have a lot of runoff area. Street circuits don’t. Will you have to be patiently aggressive, knowing that the risk versus reward is higher on a street course?

“I think it depends on where you qualify. If you qualify in the top-five, you get through the first corner and go racing. If you qualify midpack, you might be in the hornet’s nest for a good part of the race. If that’s the case, I think your strategy changes a little bit. If I’ve got 10 or 15 cars out my windshield, I will probably run the first half of the race with a little bit left in the bag and have my strategy be to let the race come to me a little bit, try to save my equipment so I can push the button with 10 or 15 laps to go and try to make something happen, but I think it all depends on where you start.”

Nearly 40 drivers are entered in Saturday’s TA2 race. How important will qualifying be at Nashville?

“I think qualifying is going to be huge because these street races are really unforgiving and I definitely anticipate a day of attrition, probably a decent amount of laps behind the pace car under yellow, and it’ll be a little tricky to pass. It’s going to be hot, so that’s going to be hard on equipment and hard on people. But I look at all that as a great opportunity to try and have a great day because of these variables you can focus on trying to do well. It’s going to be a tough race for a lot of people, but I love street racing because I love racing in situations where the consequences are big for getting it wrong, which means you have to drive with some courage and that’s the style of driving that I like. I don’t like going to racetracks with big runoffs where everybody can dive-bomb corners and be a hero. At a street race, if you get one corner wrong, your day can be over, so it’s a matter of how close you want to get to that edge, and I thrive in that environment.”

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

Because the inaugural Music City Grand Prix is a new venue for everyone, do you feel like you come into this race weekend on a level playing field with the rest of your counterparts since all of your drivers have the same level of experience as everyone else?

“I’m actually looking at it as a positive for us. Justin Marks is very good and has a lot of street-course experience, so I think that’ll pay huge dividends in that regard. Connor Mosack has proven time and again that he doesn’t care if it’s a new racetrack – he can figure it out and figure it out quickly. And Chris Liesfeld is one of the smartest guys in the field. He’s methodical and doesn’t tear up equipment, and at the end of the race he ends up being very fast. It’s very exciting from a team standpoint. It’s going to be a chess game as much as any other race on our schedule. Our guys’ minds are in a really good spot right now. We’ve been talking extensively on how we’re going to approach the weekend and I’m really looking forward to it.”

You’ve used simulation and video from past races to prepare for other events on the Trans Am schedule, but what do you do when you have a new venue like the Music City Grand Prix? What tools can you use to prepare?

“We’re going to lean on Dad and our other resources, which has been the key to our success so many times in the past. There are a lot of good racers in this series, so if you think you’re going in with any kind of an edge, chances are they’re probably doing the same things you are. You can try to find advantages, but the thing with us I see day in and day out is the experience Dad has had at the highest levels of racing for so long. That may not amount to any tricks up our sleeve every time, but there is a lot of experience to lean on as far as what the right approach is going to be during our preparation and when the time comes to be productive once we get to the racetrack, helping us not waste resources and head in the wrong direction. So, this race as much as any we’ve been to, we’re leaning heavily on him.”

Typical Trans Am venues have a lot of runoff area. Street circuits don’t. Do your drivers have to be patiently aggressive, knowing that the risk versus reward is higher on a street course?

“For starters, when you have a Justin Marks-caliber guy on a street course, he’s a veteran and we’re going to utilize the experience he has, and Dad has to the fullest. Our group is fun because we are very tight-knit and everybody is in this together and working very pointedly and having fun because we’ve got a lot to lean on. The risk-versus-reward speech has been given to the drivers and everybody else for the past month now, so there’s no question what’s at stake. The examples from the past that we keep coming back to involve the words, ‘We didn’t have the speed, but we had the result.’ Those are the best examples to lean on in this situation. We can show them video, tell them, ‘Here’s what I did, here’s how it came out, we had Dad on the radio and smart people all around us.’ That’s the way to be successful with most everything we do.”

Nearly 40 drivers are entered in Saturday’s TA2 race. How important will qualifying be at Nashville?

“It’s going to be an eye-opening experience for a lot of people. I believe it’s going to be a very tough circuit for a lot of people. Obviously, I think qualifying is important, but the last street race I ran, I didn’t qualify well, but I finished well. I actually think there will be guys who are going to be so focused on qualifying that they could lose their way. Sure, it makes life easier if you qualify well, but I have a feeling it’s going to be more like a restrictor-plate race – you’ll see guys riding around until the end, and then it’ll be anybody’s ballgame.”

Many Trans Am regulars are competing in the TA2 race at Nashville. Do you see this as an opportunity for your drivers to go up against guys with a lot of experience and even learn from them?

“I do. That’s the cool thing about the Trans Am deal – you’re going to race against somebody better than you no matter where you’re at in the field, all racing hard and learning a lot. That was always the situation during my rookie season in NASCAR. There was always a big argument about the Cup Series guys coming down and taking the jobs of the younger drivers, but I looked at it the other way. When I grew up playing basketball, I constantly found myself in situations where my grade school team played the middle school team, and my middle school team played the high school team, and I loved that experience. You always wanted to play against better competition because you wanted to learn. Here in Trans Am, we have good, experienced racers showing up every race, and that’s nothing but a good thing for a relatively young guy like Connor Mosack. He’s here to learn and get better, and it wouldn’t do him a lot of good to just run away. He’s learning every time he’s out there, and that bodes well not only for his future, but for our program.”