This weekend’s Trans Am Championship West presented by Pirelli event at Sonoma Raceway is the renewal of a long tradition of fender-to-fender racing at the fabled California circuit. Many of the legends of American sports car racing have been Trans Am winners at the circuit located in the heart of California wine country.
Over the years, Sonoma Raceway has hosted the national Trans Am Championship 24 times, cosecutively from 1969 through 2004, then both spring and fall races five times from 1982 through 1986.
Sonoma was the site of the 1978 season opener, and served as the season finale in 1981 and 1982.
Trans Am’s first visit to what was then known as Sears Point International Raceway came in 1969. Mark Donohue won his fifth of six races, boosting Chevrolet to its second consecutive manufacturer championship. In addition, Donohue captured the unofficial drivers championship for the second straight year, although that title was not officially instituted until the 1971 season.
Donohue did not have the fastest car that day, but the Penske Racing team excelled in the pits. Parnelli Jones, driving a Bud Moore Ford Mustang, qualified two seconds faster than Donohue’s Roger Penske-fielded Sunoco Camaro, and Donohue needed to make three pit stops, to only two for Jones. However, the overall time on pit road for the Penske Camaro was 31 seconds faster than Jones’ two stops. Donohue battled throughout with Jones’ teammate, George Follmer (photo above) and led only the final 11 of the 80 laps, but beat Jones to the checkered flag by 2.17 seconds.
Darin Brassfield was the most successful Trans Am racer at Sonoma, winning four consecutive years from 1989 through 1992. His first Sears Point victory came after a thrilling race-long duel with Dorsey Schroeder.
Brassfield was at the wheel of a privately entered Corvette, and he held off Schroeder — a current Trans Am official — by 0.17 seconds, the closest finish in event history. Brassfield won the following two years in a Rocketsports Oldsmobile Cutlass, and made it four in a row in 1992 driving a Camaro owned by George Robinson.
Tom Gloy also was a four-time Trans Am winner. He drove his own Ford Mustang to victory in 1981 and 1982, then fielded the winning Mustang for Schroeder in 1995 and a Qvale Mangusta for Brian Simo in 2001.
Greg Pickett was a three-time Sonoma winner, driving his own Corvette in 1978 and Roush Mercury Capris in both 1984 events. In addition to his Trans Am Championship victories, he also won the 2018 Trans Am West Championship presented by Pirelli at the circuit.
Willy T. Ribbs also pulled off the hat trick, winning in fall 1983 in a DeAtley Camaro; spring 1985 in a Roush Capri; and 1988 in a Les Lindley-owned Camaro.
The list of two-time winners at Sonoma includes Elliott Forbes-Robinson (U2 driving a Porsche 911 in 1969 and fall 1985 in a Buick); Wally Dallenbach Jr., who swept the 1986 races in Protofab Camaros; and Scott Pruett (1987 in a Roush Mercury Merkurn XR4Ti and 2003 in a Rocketsports Jaguar XKR).
The most recent visit for the national Trans Am was in 2004, won by Boris Said in a Ford Mustang.