NASCAR invades Road America this weekend and Trans-Am

The addition of the iconic Road America course to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule this season left many drivers looking for innovative ways to find track time.

While Road America is one of the few race weekends with a practice and qualifying session this year, drivers unfamiliar with the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course were looking for more.

As of Friday morning, eight drivers planning to enter either the Xfinity or Cup series races this weekend had entered one of two Trans Am races also taking place at Road America.

Cody Ware, who is entered in Sunday’s Cup race, is the only NASCAR driver entered in the TA/XGT/SGT/GT classes race on Sunday morning, while the remaining seven – Cup drivers Ryan Newman, Christopher Bell and Austin Dillon and Xfinity drivers Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs, Harrison Burton and Riley Herbst – will compete in Saturday’s TA2 class race.

Austin Dillon, Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Austin Dillon, Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Trans Am/Chris Clark

Participating in the sports car racing series races provided the NASCAR drivers test and practice sessions – in addition to qualifying – on Thursday and Friday leading up to the races.

When NASCAR drivers head to new or unfamiliar tracks, one thing they crave is track time and for younger drivers and for those trying to brush up on their road-racing skills, many have found Trans Am can be a viable alternative.

“I think it’s just key to have the track time. I haven’t been to this track in a number of years now, so just being able to get on track more than just the one practice we have in Cup is beneficial,” said Bell, who owns a 2019 win at Road America in the Xfinity Series.

“The cars are completely different than the Cup cars, but it’s still track time. You are still shifting gears, and the shift points relatively match up. It’s not like testing a Cup car, but it is helpful.”

TeamSLR, a regular in Trans Am racing, added two NASCAR drivers to its four-car lineup in TA2 this weekend.

Joining Connor Mosack, who is contesting the full TA2 schedule, is Xfinity driver Sam Mayer, who has made four previous TA2 starts with the team. Austin Green and Cup series driver Austin Dillon are both new to the organization and both making their first career Trans Am starts at Road America.

Ryan Newman

Ryan Newman

Photo by: Trans Am/Chris Clark

All four drivers will be coached by veteran racer Scott Lagasse Jr. who has made more than 115 starts across the Xfinity, Truck and ARCA Menards series. He is a two-time ARCA race winner who has been competing in TA2 since 2016.

Mayer, a Wisconsin native who turned 18 last weekend, said the Trans Am experience has been an important part of his learning curve.

“Anytime you can get some practice and racing at a track that is as challenging as Road America is a good thing. I look forward to driving for TeamSLR and JR Motorsports this weekend

because I know we can win both races if we have everything come together the right way,” he said.

“Road-course experience is very important because NASCAR is going to do a lot of road racing in the next couple of years. Anytime you can run a road-course race in any car it is valuable. Having as many Trans Am starts as I have right now is a big help in experience and expectations for me.”

Dillon has previous Xfinity starts at Road America as well but said he “barely remembered” them.

“So many years have passed, and I’m sure the track has aged quite a bit,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to knock the dust off in Trans Am early in the weekend.

“I’m really thankful to Scott Lagasse and everyone at TeamSLR for this opportunity because I know it’s important and will be helpful in getting me up to speed for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.”

Sam Mayer, Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Sam Mayer, Team SLR Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Trans Am/Chris Clark

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