15-Year-Old Brent Crews is the first Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli winner on the brand-new Detroit Grand Prix course on the downtown streets. After taking over the lead on lap 12, the Young Gun held off champions Rafa Matos and Thomas Merrill to win his fifth-career race and earn his second-career street circuit victory in the 3-Dimensional Services Group Muscle Car Challenge.
Connor Zilisch in the No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro started Race 1 of the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series doubleheader from the pole and got off to a great start, effortlessly pulling ahead of second-place driver Austin Green in the No. 89 3-Dimensional Services Group Camaro. As Zilisch pulled ahead of the field, Crews in the 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/GearWrench Ford Mustang maneuvered around Green and into the second position. Zilisch and Crews had the rest of the field in their wake through the first full-course caution on lap seven for competitor Mike Skeen in the No. 86 3-Dimensional Services Group Camaro making hard contact with the wall.
When the race returned to green on lap 11, Zilisch initially pulled ahead, but Crews was quick to get to his tail and pull to the inside of Zilisch going into Turn 5. With Crews going wide into the tight lefthander, the pair ran out of room and Zilisch nosed into the tire barrier. Only drawing a local caution, Zilisch had to wait for traffic to pass before righting himself, dropping him down to the 21st position. Refusing to give up, Zilisch fought his way back up to eighth within 20 laps. Unfortunately, he lost traction on the bumpy surface and once again made contact with the wall. With heavy right-side damage, the 16-year-old was forced to visit pit road and was out of contention for the victory.
After Crews took over the lead, he was hounded by former champions Matos (No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Mustang) and Merrill (No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang) in second and third. He continued to hold them off, but a full-course yellow on lap 19 regrouped the field for the lap-29 green flag. Evan Slater in the No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Camaro was the reason for a caution, as the young driver had a mechanical failure and made hard impact with the tire barrier in a runoff.
Following an extensive cleanup, Crews had a perfect restart and was able to pull away from Matos and Merrill. Merrill now had competition from Thomas Annunziata (No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang), slowing him down. Crews and Matos pulled way ahead of the third and fourth-place competitors and Matos had a few flawless laps which would allow him to challenge for the lead. Unfortunately, Matos had to go into preservation mode with just a few laps to go, as he felt something was amiss and wanted to ensure he made it to the finish. Crews was able to open up a gap in front of Matos, and he crossed the finish line to win his second race of 2023. He was followed by Matos, Merrill, Annunziata and Dillon Machavern in the No. 17 SLR-M1 Race Cars Ford Mustang.
“First, this wouldn’t be possible without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” said Crews. “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to my whole team and to [Matos and Merrill] for racing hard. That was a blast. There definitely was not a dull moment and it wasn’t easy. My Nitro Motorsports team did an incredible job. To be able to hold pace like that and to be able to turn those fast laps at the end of the race is truly amazing. I want to thank my whole family, everyone at Franklin Road Apparel, Ken Thwaits, everybody who got us here. I also want to thank Tony Parella and everyone at Trans Am. This is an incredible series and it’s not often that you get to come to an amazing street course like this and be able to race with INDYCAR.”
“I can’t thank my 3-Dimensional Services Group team enough,” said runner up, Matos. “This is a very important weekend for [team owner] Doug Peterson and his company, which is sponsoring the race, so it was really important for us to get a good result. I was hoping that we could catch Brent at the end. I kept the pressure on him but faced some issues toward the end of the race and I had to choose between finishing the race or potentially suffering a parts failure trying to win. I’m really proud of my team and to be racing against these two very talented drivers. Hopefully we will win tomorrow.”
Notes of Interest
Today’s victory was the second for Crews in 2023. His first win was Round 2 at NOLA Motorsports Park.
This is the second street course victory of Crews’ career. Crews won the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix last August at the age of 14.
This was Matos’ fourth podium in five races this season, which includes one race victory in the season-opener at Sebring International Raceway.
Doug Peterson’s 3-Dimensional Services Group, which is sponsoring both of this weekend’s races and the 3-Dimensional Services Group Triple Track Tournament, was the highest-finishing Masters competitor. 3-Dimensional Services Group employs 500 people at their nearby Rochester Hills facility.
Last fall, Peterson was inducted into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is like a homecoming for me, because I’m originally from the Detroit area,” said Peterson. “I love Detroit. Let’s do it again tomorrow.”
TA2 Top Five:
1. Brent Crews, No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/GearWrench Ford Mustang
2. Rafa Matos, No. 88 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang
3. Thomas Merrill, No. 26 Bennett/HP Tuners/Mike Cope Race Cars Ford Mustang
4. Thomas Annunziata, No. 90 Nitro Motorsports Ford Mustang
5. Dillon Machavern, No. 17 SLR-M1 Race Cars Ford Mustang
TA2 Masters Award:
Doug Peterson, No. 87 3-Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang
TA2 Pro/Am Winner:
Bruce Raymond, No. 54 Optima Batteries/FM3 Marketing Ford Mustang
COOLSHIRT Cool Move of the Race:
Brent Crews, No. 70 Franklin Road/Mobil 1/GearWrench Ford Mustang
Omologato Watches Fastest Lap of the Race:
Connor Zilisch, No. 7 Silver Hare Racing Chevrolet Camaro
Serck Precision Clean Up:
Ty Young, No. 22 Ty J Young Wealth Management Ford Mustang
Bassett Hard Charger:
Misha Goikhberg, No. 10 BC Race Cars Ford Mustang
Full official race results can be found here.
The Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series returns to the track tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. ET with the 3-Dimensional Services Group Motor City Showdown.
A highlight show combining Race 1 and Race 2 in Detroit will air on MAVTV on Thursday, June 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET.