Shift Up Now Athlete Michele Abbate earned her best result of the season so far, finishing 12th in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli’s Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series at Watkins Glen International Raceway on September 8-10, 2023.
After nearly eight weeks of being unable to compete, Abbate’s return to racing was highly anticipated. The Las Vegas native suffered a brake failure earlier in the season at Road America, resulting in a right-ankle injury that required surgery. She was fitted with a custom articulating brace to allow her to race while her injuries continue to heal.
Just ahead of the Watkins Glen event, Abbate was cleared to return to competition.
Driving for her new team, Nitro Motorsports, and getting familiar with her new chassis, she was eager to get back on track.
The TA2 team had a less-than-ideal start to the weekend when a competitor blew out a motor on the out-lap of the first test session. This covered the track in oil, forcing all competitors to return to the pits without turning any laps. However, the second test session did afford Abbate and the rest of the field the chance to run some laps.
Weather played a factor for the first official practice, but being a fan of driving in the rain, Abbate was undaunted. Her bright yellow Ghost Energy / Lucas Oil entry ran halfway up the field in P22. This session later proved to be crucial, as qualifying was canceled later that afternoon due to heavy rain and fog. As a result, practice times set the field, giving Abbate her best starting position of the season so far.
On Sunday, another storm passed over the 3.450-mile, 11-turn racetrack before the Trans Am TA2 cars went to grid. Half of the 38-car TA field took on the damp track on slicks, while Abbate and the other half elected for wet tires.
As the field came to the green flag, Abbate’s bright yellow Ghost Energy livery stood out and she got to work charging toward the top 15. Her progress was halted when the first full-course caution flew on lap six, and she was one of many competitors who took the opportunity for a pit stop.
Due to the rarity of Trans Am TA2 pit stops, drivers were queued for service. Therefore, it was a race against time to get Abbate back on track without losing a lap. She rejoined the field in P33.
When the race returned to green, she set to marching her way forward again. She was able to make passes and stay out of trouble on the slippery track. Cautions continued to fly as competitors came together on track.
A final, late-race restart gave Abbate one final chance to advance, and she crossed the finish line in P14. After post-race penalties were assessed, she was awarded P12. This would be her best finish of the season so far, and matched her personal best series to date.
“I am so proud of our results this weekend at the Glen,” said Abbate. “It feels really good to have a strong showing after being out of the seat for so long. This has boosted my confidence even more and I’m truly excited to see how we can keep improving as we finish out the 2023 season with Nitro Motorsports!”
The Trans Am National Tour TA2 Series returns to action in two weeks, where Abbate will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway on September 22-24, 2023. Catch the Watkins Glen race replay on MAVTV tomorrow Thursday, July 13 8:00 p.m. ET