ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Aug. 2, 2023) – This weekend’s third annual Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, has the TeamSLR camp hoping the third time’s a charm after scoring podium finishes in each of its first two visits to what has quickly become one of the most highly anticipated events on the Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series calendar.
A third-place finish in 2021’s inaugural Music City Grand Prix and runner-up finish last year were both delivered by young driver Connor Mosack, who used his two fulltime seasons with TeamSLR in M1 Racecars equipment as a launching pad to high-profile rides this year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series. The focus this weekend will be to go one better and hoist the first-place trophy from the top step of the podium.
This season’s fulltime TeamSLR lineup features 28-year-old road-racing veteran Dillon Machavern of Charlotte, Vermont, and 22-year-old TA2 rookie Thad Moffitt of Trinity, North Carolina, who’s the grandson of racing legend Richard Petty. Both will be racing for the first time in their careers on the 2.17-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit that encircles Nissan Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, and crosses the Cumberland River twice each lap by way of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge on its way to downtown and back.
Machavern and Moffitt will be joined this weekend by returning TeamSLR driver Justin Marks, the resident of nearby Brentwood, Tennessee, who owns NASCAR’s Trackhouse Racing team and also is part of the Music City Grand Prix ownership group, and TeamSLR newcomer Jordan Bupp of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both Marks and Bupp competed in the inaugural Music City Grand Prix TA2 race in 2021, Marks wheeling his TeamSLR M1 Racecars Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish and Bupp his Stevens-Miller Racing Chevrolet to a 10th-place finish.
Even though they’ll be seeing the Nashville circuit for the first time this weekend, Machavern, driver of the No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/SLR-M1 Racecars Ford Mustang, and Moffitt, driver of the No. 43 Safety-Kleen/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro, are encouraged by strong showings when the series raced for the first time on the downtown streets of Detroit during a doubleheader weekend June 3 and 4. Machavern drove to a fifth-place finish in the Saturday race while, in the Sunday race, Moffitt came away with a runner-up finish for his first TA2 podium in just his sixth start.
Marks, the 42-year-old who’ll be driving the No. 8 Tootsies/Trackhouse/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro this weekend, also took part in this year’s Detroit doubleheader with TeamSLR and closed the weekend with a fourth-place result in the Sunday race. His near podium for TeamSLR in the 2021 Music City Grand Prix came in the first TA2 race of his career, which includes victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, ARCA Menards Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series.
The 36-year-old Bupp returns to racing for the first time since being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma late last year and completing treatment early this year. His history racing in the Trans-Am Series presented by Pirelli dates back to 2009, and he’s been racing in both the TA and TA2 classes off and on with his family’s Bupp Motorsports team ever since. He finished eighth in the 2018 TA2 championship despite running just eight races, buoyed by his victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, a third-place finish on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course, and back-to-back top-fives during a doubleheader weekend on Detroit’s Streets of Belle Isle circuit.
Returning for his third Music City Grand Prix this weekend is Chris Liesfeld, the 47-year-old from Richmond, Virginia, who’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 96 Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro and is part of the 10-car contingent of M1 Racecars-equipped drivers in the 33-car field for Saturday’s TA2 event. It will be Liesfeld’s first TA2 outing of the season.
Four of those M1 Racecars entries are Ford Mustangs campaigned by Peterson Racing, led by two-time series champion Rafa Matos in the No. 88, who’s joined by teammates Austin Green in the No. 89, Roy Fulmer IV in the No. 86, and team owner Doug Peterson in the No. 87. Also piloting an M1 Racecars entry is Jade Buford, who’s back behind the wheel of the No. 48 Ford Mustang for Big Machine Racing, the car number his team owner Scott Borchetta drove to a third-place finish in last year’s Music City Grand Prix for his first career TA2 podium.
At least one M1 Racecars entry has earned a spot on the podium at all eight TA2 races so far this season, including a pair of victories by Matos – at the season-opener at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in February and in June at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
A pair of TA2 practice sessions kick off this weekend’s on-track action Friday, with qualifying set for 9:10 a.m. EDT Saturday, followed by the 46-lap, 75-minute TA2 race at 4:40 p.m. The series’ newest television partner MAVTV will provide live television coverage, while the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube provide live-streaming coverage. MAVTV will air a 60-minute race show at 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Aug. 10.
Before hitting the track this weekend, Moffitt, Marks and Bupp and their respective TeamSLR Camaros will take part in the Music City Grand Prix FanFest from 5 to 7:30 p.m. CDT Thursday. The free event takes place on Broadway between 1st and 4th Avenues.
Dillon Machavern, Driver, No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/SLR-M1 Racecars Ford Mustang:
You’re back to street-course racing this weekend, and it will be your first time on the downtown Nashville circuit. Your overall thoughts?
“I’m excited. I think we were relatively successful at Detroit. Taking away the mechanical issue we had, we had a lot of pace, so it seems like the car and the team are well-suited to street circuits. I haven’t seen the course yet, in-person, but I’ve watched a little bit of video and it looks like it’s super fun. Obviously, I have a small disadvantage not having seen it before. That’s something at Detroit that was different – it was everybody’s first time seeing that track. Hopefully we’ll pick it up pretty fast. We have the team’s data from the past couple of seasons, which should be a huge advantage because we don’t have a lot of practice time. I’m looking forward to it.”
TeamSLR and M1 Racecars have been strong at both previous Music City Grand Prix events with podium finishes both years by Connor Mosack, last year with Scott Borchetta, and a fourth-place finish by Justin Marks two years ago. Does that enhance your expectations for this weekend?
“I think we have to get the first practice session under our belt so we can determine which direction we want to go. At this point in the season, we’ve established that (Connor) Mosack and myself have a little bit different driving style. Especially when we were testing at Road Atlanta, we were both there together driving on the same setup and were giving different feedback. That’s an indicator that we’re not both driving exactly the same. But that’s a good piece of information for us so we don’t have to burn a whole session determining what kind of changes we want to make.”
What is it you enjoy most about these street-race events?
“I think it’s great exposure for the series and the sport. I enjoy street circuits, I really do – they’re a blast, they’re really technical and fun. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and running hard. There’s no margin for error, which I enjoy. Consistency, I think, has always been my strong suit, not necessarily outright speed. Hopefully that’ll play into my favor and I’m just excited to get out there. It looks like an exciting track. Everybody who’s been speaks very highly of it. I’ll get a taste, myself.”
Are you particularly determined to bounce back from the disappointing result after the cut tire early in the race at Road America three weekends ago?
“The pressure’s really off for us at this point. We’ve had enough bad luck that the championship is really not realistic for us at this point, so we’ll go out and have fun trying to win races. It’s a nice place to be in some regards. Obviously, you want to be in the hunt, but if you’re not, it’s fun to know we can go out and race for wins.”
Thad Moffitt, Driver, No. 43 Safety-Kleen/Victory Impact/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
You got your first taste of street racing at Detroit in June and you emerged with a podium in the second race that weekend. Thoughts about heading back to a street course?
“Yeah, I’m pretty optimistic because of how Detroit went for us. I know Detroit was a new place for everybody, so we were kind of on a level playing field. The first race, we had a little misfortune with the left-front tire going flat, but I feel like we still had good speed. And regardless of what happened at the end of the race, I think we still would’ve run at least seventh or eighth. And then we ended up with the podium in the second race. The most consistent speed we’ve had this year has been at Detroit. The only thing about Nashville is that 90 percent of the field has raced there at least once, if not twice, and it’s brand new for me.”
You have the benefit of the team’s success at Nashville the previous two years. Do you agree?
“I think that having Connor Mosack’s data to lean on will be pretty good, and having his video to lean on has been very good. But like every other racing series, things are ever changing, so I think it’s great stuff to have to lean on, but for what we’re doing, Dillon and I haven’t seen this place. It’ll be something brand new for me, and hopefully we’ll pick it up like we did in Detroit and just get faster and faster all weekend. The biggest thing I’ve learned in TA2 is just surviving in these deals, at the street courses, for sure. If you can keep it in one piece and keep it between the two concrete walls for most of the day, you should end up with a pretty solid result.”
How would you compare the Detroit street course with what you expect to see at Nashville this weekend?
“It’s the same setup with all the blind corners. What struck me the most about my first street-course race was the first time going into the corner and you have no idea if a car is sitting sideways when you’re gassing up on the other side. It really tests how reactive you can be behind the wheel. I think, for what we have front-end setup-wise, it’s been really responsive, so that’ll help us a lot on the street course. If somebody does spin getting off the corner, the front will react when I turn really hard versus it being really numb. It’s totally different racing over the bridge, from what I hear. There’s one really high-risk area on the track where you’re braking down off the bridge, over the bumps, downhill, it kind of falls away from you. Everywhere else is pretty tight like Detroit. There were a lot of places in Detroit where you could’ve passed but it would have been not smart. At Nashville, there are two or three key places where you can pass, and other places where you want to keep it in line and not be part of the carnage.”
Do you feel a particular cool factor by being a part of downtown races like Detroit and Nashville with the IndyCar Series?
“Being part of the Detroit Grand Prix was awesome. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and it’s something that nobody in my family, for the first time since I’ve been racing, could relate to. So it was cool for me to be a part of that. But Nashville and stock cars just go together. Just everything about the area, and everything about what we do as racers, I think kind of fits pretty good in downtown Nashville. Nashville’s cool either way, whether there’s a race there or not, but for me to get to race on the streets of Nashville, over the bridge and back, the layout I think is going to be cooler than Detroit. I think it’ll be a really special event and it’ll be big for our series as a whole, and to be there with IndyCar is always a plus. Those guys are really fun to watch, and I’m just excited to get the weekend going.”
Justin Marks, Driver, No. 8 Tootsies/Trackhouse/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
You’re back in the driver’s seat for the Music City Grand Prix for the second time with TeamSLR. It’s a hometown event for you, and you also are part of the ownership group for the event. Safe to say all of that adds up to make it a very special weekend for you?
“First of all, I’m just a huge fan of street races and had a lot of fun racing this car the first year for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix and just hated that I had to miss it last year. So I’m really excited to get back into it. I had a good weekend in Detroit, so I was able to be in the car on a street course leading up to this one. Nashville is home for me, and Trackhouse being an investor in the event, it’s just so special on so many levels to be able to participate.”
How would you describe the layout of the downtown circuit and its key aspects?
“It’s a unique track, for sure. It’s got a lot of unique challenges to it. What I like about it is it’s really got a little bit of everything – it’s got really tight corners, it’s got fast straightaways, which makes it a challenge from a setup standpoint for the teams. But it also means that we have some great passing opportunities and the result of that is some great racing. Driving over the bridge is such a unique sensation, and it breaks up the track a lot. You’ve got your tight sections you’re navigating, and then you have this incredibly long straightaway where you can see how fast you can go. It’s got it all.”
M1 Racecars have earned multiple podium finishes in the first two Nashville street races, and you came just one spot short of one with your fourth-place finish in 2021. Do you feel it’s a chassis particularly suited to street racing?
“What I like about the M1 Racecars is that there’s been a lot of development on these cars, and I like racing for the team that has designed them and built them – that extra expertise and understanding the philosophy behind the design and all of that. So that’s always a good experience. All you want at the end of the day is for the cars to be fast, and these M1 cars are fast. Street racing is all about attrition, and there’s certainly racecraft involved, a lot of elements that are unique to that type of event. But if you can have a fast car, you can make anything happen.”
Jordan Bupp, Driver, No. 27 Nacarato Truck Centers/Averitt Express/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
You’re racing for the first time since being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma back in November and completing treatment. How did this opportunity with TeamSLR come about?
“It turns out my doctor is a gentleman racer, and I asked him if everything turned out the way they planned, if racing at Nashville would be a realistic target to keep us all motivated. It turns out everything went according to plan and, by the grace of God and the power of prayer, here we are. TeamSLR agreed to work with me on this. We tested at CMP (Carolina Motorsports Park) two weeks ago and I think I surprised Scott Sr., and Jr., and the guys and myself. I’ve always had an ability to communicate with the guys about what the car’s doing, and that’s a key component to being successful, especially in TA2, where everything’s always been so competitive. The car was great. I was down to as quick of a TA2 lap as has ever been run there. Getting in the car was really the litmus test as to how I was going to do. We had zero issues in the car, really trying to dial all the cars in and get a good baseline before we loaded up for Nashville.”
How would you describe your experience working with TeamSLR at the test, and your expectations this weekend?
“I’ve had a really, really good relationship with Scott Jr. We raced against each other in TA2 in 2018 when we were both fighting for the championship and it was always clean racing. I could not have been more welcomed to the test at CMP two weeks ago, really felt supported and encouraged, and I really look forward to working with them more. I got to spend some really good time with Scott Sr., and his ability to diagnose and dissect what’s going on with the car is unlike anybody I’ve ever dealt with. He knows the chassis so well and he knows the tuning changes so well, and it was so easy to communicate with him and to make valid, relative changes that made progress on the track. It was amazing what we learned in two days, and I attribute that to their success and to their program. They’ve just been constantly working on these cars and setups and I think they have such a good program. A key component I’ve been missing from my success is fitting into a program like theirs, where they have a window that they operate in, knowing where they need to be and how to make the changes in and out of the window to get the car where it needs to be. It’s so nice to work with such a professional operation. There’s a saying where you do things one way, the right way, and they absolutely do that. I’m looking forward to getting them a good, strong qualifying effort and finish at Nashville and go from there because I’m honored to be representing M1 Racecars and TeamSLR.”
How do you feel your successful test will translate to your and the team’s performance on the track at Nashville?
“It feels like these TeamSLR M1 Racecars are geared way more toward my driving style and I felt really comfortable in the car. There are a couple of corners at Nashville that are pretty daunting, and if the car’s not under you, it can be pretty hair-raising. But I have a lot more confidence coming off the test. I got in a rhythm, and we used the gears that we’re going to use at Nashville, so I have a lot of that muscle memory plugged in. I think we should roll off the trailer really good, like we loaded at CMP. We’ll have Justin (Marks) there, he’s always freaking fast. And I’ve been racing with Dillon (Machavern) pretty much my whole life, and we always looked ahead to running together and being teammates. Thad (Moffitt) and I got off to a really good start, and after two days together I have a lot of faith in him. He’s wise beyond his years for 22 years old. He has a total mindset to learn and has an open mind to any kind of critique and criticism and help. He’s on the come-up, for sure. We’re all on the same page and we’ll work together closely all through the weekend at Nashville. I’m really looking forward to it.”
You haven’t raced in TA2 since the 2021 race at Nashville. How do you expect to match up against this year’s field?
“A lot of these guys in TA2 are super young, and that’s great because they’re really fast, and I won’t put anything past any of them on some short-run stuff. But you really have to gauge these cars, almost having to drive the race in reverse with the tires and the fuel load. And my experience has come into play a lot between the attrition and gauging the balance of the car throughout the race. If by some miracle that race goes green, we’ll be in really good shape. Just keeping the car clean and being there at the end is really going to be the key. And I’m really going to try and put an emphasis on qualifying to try and get myself away from the riff raff. I had good success there in the inaugural race in 2021. I did it with a different team, got a top-10 out of it, but I have very high expectations and hope stepping up to really good equipment this year can put us over the top.”
Chris Liesfeld, Driver, No. 96 Fields Racing/M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
You’ve competed in both previous Nashville TA2 races. What are your expectations for this weekend?
“I do have experience with this track since the beginning and I think, if I qualify well, it could turn out to be a really good weekend. Just staying off the walls and staying out of trouble is where it starts. I ended up starting pretty far back both previous races but was able to stay out of trouble and make up a lot of positions. I went from 28th to 13th the first year and from 38th to 19th last year. It does make for a fun race when you start in the back and fight your way toward the front, but that’s certainly not what you want to happen. If I qualify well, which I have every intention of making happen, it’ll be good to have a better chance to get a really good finish.”
What is the racing like at Nashville compared to other street courses you’ve experienced?
“The track is so unique. There are other street courses in the United States, but this one just has unique features that stand it apart from the others. The atmosphere of Nashville is a lot of fun, the town itself. It’s hot, for sure, which always makes it interesting from a racing standpoint. When you go across the bridge, that whole section in the downtown part of the track is tight, slow-speed corners and there are not a lot of passing opportunities in that section. The braking zones when you get to the end of the bridge are good passing opportunities, but there are bumps you have to deal with as you’re braking hard, so you have to consider your risk versus reward. Overall, it’s just a really cool race to be a part of.”
TeamSLR (Scott Lagasse Racing) competes fulltime in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli in a multifaceted effort that includes dedicated entries in the TA2 division, customer programs, driver coaching and car construction. Its history dates back to 1985 and covers a wide spectrum of motorsports, including NASCAR, IMSA, SCCA, ARCA and ASA. TeamSLR is a family-owned organization run by Scott Lagasse Sr., and Scott Lagasse Jr. The father-and-son duo have combined to win more than 120 races and seven championships across a variety of series and styles of racecars, from paved ovals to road courses to dirt tracks. For more information, please visit us online at www.TeamSLR.com, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram and on LinkedIn.