ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Sept. 7, 2023) – Dillon Machavern and Thad Moffitt head to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for round 10 of the 2023 Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series with a three-peat in mind for Team SLR and M1 Racecars after Connor Mosack’s back-to-back victories at the iconic circuit in 2021 and 2022.
While Mosack has shifted his focus this year to the NASCAR Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series after his two fulltime TA2 seasons with TeamSLR and M1 Racecars, the prospects for a successful result in Sunday’s 30-lap, 75-minute race around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course are in more than capable hands.
Machavern, the 28-year-old veteran road racer from Charlotte, Vermont, has every reason to believe he can extend TeamSLR’s winning run at The Glen behind the wheel of his No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/M1 Racecars Ford Mustang this weekend. For starters, he drove to the TA2 victory at the iconic Watkins Glen circuit in 2016. In 2018, he co-drove to the GTD-class victory with Turner Motorsports in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, then followed it up with a second-place finish with the same team in the prestigious event in 2019. He’s also logged countless laps there in the IMSA Challenge Series since launching his racing career in the early 2010s.
Meanwhile Moffitt, the 22-year-old TA2 Series rookie who’s the grandson of racing legend Richard Petty, is ready for his second outing at the Upstate New York track where he qualified 15th and scored in 11th-place finish in the 2021 ARCA Series race behind the wheel of the No. 46 entry for team owner Johnny Gray. The driver of the No. 43 Safety-Kleen/Victory Impact Chevrolet Camaro for TeamSLR arrives at The Glen having scored top-10 finishes in three of the last four events, including his runner-up result June 4 on the streets of downtown Detroit that marked his first TA2 podium. He’s coming off back-to-back eighth-place finishes – July 9 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and Aug. 5 on the streets of downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
At least one M1 Racecars entry has earned a spot on the podium at all nine TA2 races so far this season, including a pair of victories by Peterson Racing’s two-time series champion Rafa Matos – at the season-opener at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in February and in June at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. TeamSLR’s Machavern posted his first podium finish of the season at Mid-Ohio, and Mosack opened the season with a third-place finish at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway in February after starting on the pole and leading the first 19 laps of the race.
A pair of TA2 test sessions kick off the weekend’s on-track action Friday, with official TA2 practice set for 10:05 a.m. EDT Saturday, followed by qualifying at 5:25 p.m. Race time for Sunday’s 30-lap, 75-minute race is 11:05 a.m. with live television coverage by MAVTV, and live video streaming coverage on the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. MAVTV will air a 60-minute race show at 8 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Sept. 14.
Dillon Machavern, Driver, No. 17 Heritage Automotive/Unifirst/SLR-M1 Racecars Ford Mustang:
Your overall thoughts heading into Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen?
“I’m just excited to get back into it. We had the pretty unfortunate ending to Nashville and it seems like it’s been forever. It’s always disappointing when you have a bad result and then you have to sit and stew and think about it for that long instead of getting back on the horse the next weekend. I’m just excited to get back in the car. TeamSLR and its M1 Racecars have had a lot of success at Watkins Glen, so hopefully that translates into giving us some good luck, too, because that seems to be the only element that’s been missing these last few races. Watkins Glen is one of my favorite tracks, for sure, and it definitely lends itself to the TA2 machines with its fast, wide-open corners.”
Is there any carryover from your success in the GT car to the TA2 car at Watkins Glen?
“There’s really not a whole lot that’s similar between those cars. GTD, you have a ton of downforce, you have all the electronic aides, so you’re really just throwing the car around using the aides that you have – the downforce and the traction control – to keep the thing on the road. The TA2, you have to just grab it by the scruff of the neck a little bit. It’s just a little bit more aggressive driving, I would say, versus the GTD. I enjoy driving deep into the braking zones and then getting on the gas in the TA2 car and going through the gears.”
What are the key places to get right if you want to make a fast lap around Watkins Glen?
“Turn two, hitting that apex is super important, and then getting on the gas early and getting a clean run out of there is going to carry all the way down the back straightaway. You go flat out all through the esses and you’ve got to carry your speed for a long time. The bus stop, getting through cleanly and not getting out of shape through the rumble strips is huge because it’s easy for other cars to get up underneath you there. The rest of it is just being really aggressive on the brakes and carrying your speed through the corners. It’s a lot of carrying that momentum and being on the edge all the time that makes that place so fun.”
You and TeamSLR have had success at The Glen in recent years. Does that give you added confidence going into this weekend?
“When we won the six-hour, I think none of us woke up that morning with any expectation of winning, but we were just super consistent in that race, so that was really cool. The year we won TA2, it was literally snowing at the end of the race. I won the race and pulled the car into the winner’s circle and the rear tire was flat, it was corded. With Connor Mosack having won there for TeamSLR the last two years, I guess there are some expectations going back this weekend. But it’s nice to know the team has a good playbook going back there. It’s nice to go back to places where you’ve been successful and where your team has been successful.”
Thad Moffitt, Driver, No. 43 Safety-Kleen/Victory Impact/SLR-M1 Racecars Chevrolet Camaro:
Watkins Glen is one of the few road courses this season where you’ve raced before. Your thoughts?
“I’m excited. Other than Detroit, the best speed we had throughout the whole weekend was Mid-Ohio, another place I’d been before. I’m just excited about going somewhere I actually know where I’m at. I think over the last few races, we’ve found some things as a team. Dillon’s been really fast, and I’ve been running in the top-10 pretty consistently. I’m just ready to get back at it.”
In addition to your previous Watkins Glen experience, how much does it help to go there with the team’s success at the track the past two seasons?
“I feel like this is a place where I’m grateful the team has a good package, for sure, because it’s not an easy racetrack by any means. It’s very difficult, and they’ve been really successful. But I don’t think it puts any more pressure on me than anywhere else we’ve been. Going up against everybody else’s road-racing experience versus the nine races I’ve run this year, I’ve got to be realistic with expectations. Of course, I want to win every weekend, but there are so many other drivers who have a lot more laps at that place. We’ll see how the weekend goes, but I definitely think we’ll be more competitive this weekend just from start to finish, from the time we unload all through the race.”
What are some of the unique characteristics that are key to making a fast lap around Watkins Glen?
“I think the boot makes the track a lot harder, but it’s really neat. Some of the corners remind me of some of the oval tracks I’ve run. Like turn six, it’s a lot like Gateway, where it’s a long, sweeping, off-camber turn with not a lot of banking. Then when you drive into turn seven and you go up the hill and it’s kind of banked, I would say it’s like Bristol the way you drive it in there really hard, and then you’re back on the gas. I hadn’t had that feeling in a road-course car, yet. What really gets me is when you get back onto the NASCAR track, which would be turn 10 in the boot, you crank the throttle and set the nose and you’re right back in it. That’s a place where you can make up a lot of time, in just that one corner.”