Connor Zilisch, Ben Maier Set for Trans Am TA2 Round Two in ‘The Big Easy’

HIGH POINT, N.C. (March 8, 2023) – Silver Hare Racing’s pair of young drivers Connor Zilisch and Ben Maier were just 9 and 7 years old, respectively, when the Trans Am Series by Pirelli last raced at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, in 2016.

Zilisch, now 16, and Maier, now 14, will get their chance along with the rest of their Big Machine Vodka Spiked Coolers TA2 Series competitors when they take to the 2.75-mile, 16-turn road course on the outskirts of “The Big Easy” during this weekend’s New Orleans SpeedTour.

Both Silver Hare racers are coming off solid results at the season-opening event at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway two weekends ago, each overcoming his unique set of challenges.

For Zilisch, the challenge was getting up to speed quickly in a brand new No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro that had never turned a wheel prior to arriving at Sebring for race weekend. But the native of Mooresville, North Carolina, and the seasoned Silver Hare crew worked methodically throughout the weekend and proved to be competitive come race time. Zilisch started 10th and ran a relatively clean race – by Sebring standards – to earn a solid seventh-place finish. It was just the start to this year’s campaign Zilisch and the team had hoped for as their focus is keeping the young driving phenom in championship contention through season’s end.

Meanwhile, Sebring marked the Trans Am debut for Maier, who hails from Chester, Maryland. He joined the Silver Hare lineup just prior to the start of the race weekend. He first sat in his No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro just prior to the weekend’s first open test. He was able to muster minimal track time through testing, practice and qualifying as he and the team worked diligently to get him properly fitted into and accustomed to the workings of his racecar. He qualified 40th in the 45-car field but remained undaunted as he assumed his position on the starting grid for the race ahead on one of the most grueling racetracks in America. He put his experience as a successful go-kart racer, and his cameo appearances racing in SCCA spec series, as well as Travis Pastrana’s Nitro Rallycross series and Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Truck Series, and climbed his way all the way to 21st place by the time the checkered flag flew.

With their respective foundational work now behind them, and a successful weekend result at Sebring in the books, Zilisch and Maier are eagerly anticipating this weekend’s round two of the TA2 season in Bayou Country.

Saturday’s 37-lap, 75-minute TA2-clas race is set for 1:25 p.m. EST with live streaming video available via the Trans Am and SpeedTour channels on YouTube. The series’ new television partner MAVTV will air a 60-minute version of the race at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 16.

Silver Hare Racing leverages its Trans Am effort to promote its arrive-and-drive program, where aspiring racers and even tenured professionals hone their road-racing skills on some of the most revered tracks in North America. NASCAR Cup Series drivers Daniel Suárez, Christopher Bell, William Byron and Harrison Burton have all wheeled Silver Hare Racing-prepared cars to burnish their road-racing abilities in top-flight equipment.

The team offers six, professionally built and maintained TA2 chassis from Howe Racing for both competition and private testing. Silver Hare Racing has a dedicated, fulltime crew and operates out of a state-of-the-art facility in High Point, North Carolina. At the track, two 53-foot Featherlite transporters serve as the team’s base, each outfitted with a lounge and smart TVs for data and video review, as well as for hospitality.

“With NASCAR having so many more road-course races, it’s our goal for Silver Hare Racing to be the preferred team for drivers to get that road-course experience,” said Laura Hull, Silver Hare Racing co-owner and team manager. “We want to be that important step in the ladder for the young, up-and-coming drivers like Connor and Ben. We want people to know we have an arrive-and-drive program, where for people who want to run this track or another, we provide the opportunity to do that and be successful.”

Connor Zilisch, driver, No. 5 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro:

“I’ve seen the track, having been to the facility racing on the go-kart track. I’ve won there in go-karts multiple times in my career. But I’ve never had the opportunity to get out on the big track, so it’s going to be something new. It’s very flat, and not the kind of track like Laguna Seca and Sebring, which have things that set them apart. So I’m really looking forward to getting out there and seeing how it is. There isn’t much video out there to watch, and it’s not on any simulators, so there’s not a lot of preparation we can do as far as the track. But we have a lot of feedback from where we were at Sebring and we have some things that we’ve been working on.

“I think most of our progress from Sebring will be about getting the car to how I like it and getting the driveability better so we can qualify up front and run up front with those guys. We got close in the race, I feel like our race pace was really good. We had top-five speed in the race, but things got spread out and I got put in some bad situations, which held us back. More time with the new car is obviously going to help. Just minimizing issues and minimizing mistakes is going to be the key. We’re going to have to step it up and I’m going to have to step it up moving forward. But I’m just excited to get out there and get to work.

“Ben did a great job at Sebring. He wasn’t able to get out on the track very much in practice and qualifying, so he went into the race blind and came out clean, no scratches on the car, and I’m just proud to see him go out there and perform to the best of his ability and keep the car clean because that’s what really matters. We have these races that are so close together, you have to let the guys get home and work on the car rather than spend time just fixing the car. Just proud of him and I’m excited to see how he does with a little more seat time. He picked it up pretty quickly, though.

“Since this time last year, I’ve definitely grown as a person and a driver thanks to all the people around me. I’ve been put in a lot of fortunate positions and it’s allowed me to thrive as a kid growing up, not only on the track but as a person in general, off the track. I’ve been able to mature really quickly just being around people who are older and have a lot more knowledge and are much wiser than me. Hopefully next year we can get asked that same question and I’ll be an even better person. I have faith and I’m excited.”

Ben Maier, driver, No. 75 Silver Hare Racing/Gel Blaster Chevrolet Camaro:

“The car felt amazing at Sebring. It felt good to have some pretty good laps in the race. I wasn’t as fast as the guys up front, but I don’t think anybody expected me to be as fast as them, being my first time there and first time in the car. I was happy with the way it turned out. There were a couple of new things I had to get used to. I figured out the brakes, which was the biggest change for me because the pedal is so much stiffer that anything I’ve ever driven.

“I was a little nervous before the race, but it wasn’t that bad for me. I didn’t have a hot lap before the race, but in the race it was fine and I got used to the driving style and the other drivers pretty quickly. The first lap I was figuring everything out, and the second and third lap I started to settle in and work on gaining speed. I thought about just keeping it cool, not overdoing myself, not make a risky pass, not wreck the car. Those were my main priorities. I didn’t think that we were going to progress that far up the field. I thought we’d end up maybe 30th or something, so I think I outdid myself and my expectations.

“Now that I’ve driven the TA2 car, I could probably say comparing it to the Super Truck, it has the same horsepower but it’s not applied the same way because there’s so much body roll that it’s a completely different driving style. The TA2 has sort of the same grip as my Spec Miata, but it’s a lot faster and the shifting is different because it’s only four-speed and you don’t have to use heel-toe and use the clutch. It was like a big go-kart. It had a ton of grip, plenty of grip. It felt good.

“I’m pretty comfortable going to NOLA, really used to the car. I’ve run at the go-kart track there a lot and have won some races there. Now I have to get ready for the big track and figure it out when I get there because it’s not on iRacing. I looked at a couple of YouTube videos and that’s about it, so all I can say is it looks cool. I hear it’s bumpy, and the turns look like more rounded-off, sweeping turns. I’m ready for it.”

-Silver Hare Racing-