Trans Am West continuing action tradition in Sonoma return

Images by Seth DeDoes

Trans Am West continuing action tradition in Sonoma return

Trans Am

Trans Am West continuing action tradition in Sonoma return

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In 2018, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli West Coast Championship renewed the series’ long tradition of fender-to-fender racing at Sonoma Raceway after a 14-year hiatus. This weekend, the Trans Am is back again for the August 21-23 Round 2 of the West Coast Championship with 100 miles of racing and an expanded 22-car field.

Sonoma Raceway hosted the national Trans Am Championship 24 times, consecutively from 1969 through 2004; then returning to the schedule in 2018 as host for a West Coast Championship round.

Continuing a tradition that started in 1982 and ran through 1986 of both spring and fall races each year, Sonoma will once again play host to two rounds of Trans Am competition in 2020.

In 2019, Simon Gregg (TA), Anthony Honeywell (TA2), Carl Rydquist (SGT) and Roger Eagleton (GT) all added their names to the list of Trans Am winners at Sonoma Raceway.

While Gregg is entered this weekend, he won’t be defending his TA win, having switched from his iconic red, white and blue Corvette to a new Derhaag Motorsports AMG Mercedes GT3 entered in the Xtreme GT class. Gregg debuted the GT3 at Thunderhill, breaking track lap records and picking up the overall pole, and is eager to test the aerodynamics and added downforce package that the XGT car offers on the hilly, twisting 2.52-mile Sonoma circuit.

West Coast TA champ Gregg’ new XGT-class Mercedes AMG took the overall pole at Thunderhill,

Local favorite Greg Pickett, meanwhile is a four-time Sonoma Trans Am winner, driving his own Corvette in 1978; Roush Mercury Capris in both 1984 events; and a Mustang in 2018.

Last season, he missed Sonoma due to engine related issues, but after reaching a milestone in the Thunderhill season-opener – collecting professional race wins in six consecutive decades! – Pickett will be gunning for his fifth Trans Am win at his home track this weekend driving his Pickett Racing Ford Mustang.

A win this weekend would be another history-making moment for Pickett, marking five wins in four different decades at the same track.

Also returning to the TA field are Michelle Nagai (Nagai Racing / Berkeley Jet Drive Chevrolet Corvette) and Steve Goldman (LIG Racing Chevrolet Corvette). Sadly, Nagai missed the opener due to her ‘Vette being unable to meet Thunderhill’s newly implemented sound rule.

“We were very disappointed to miss the first race at Thunderhill,” said Nagai. “But, we are happy to make our season debut at Sonoma.”

The TA2 powered by AEM Sonoma round was enlivened last year by the presence of a young NASCAR star, a veteran driver coach and a front runner from the National series – Derek Kraus, Chris Cook and Lawless Alan respectively – who stole the headlines from the season-long points battle between eventual TA2 West champion Brad McAllister and West runnerup Anthony Honeywell.

Of the five, only Honeywell is returning to Sonoma this weekend, hoping to rebound from a tough 2020 debut at Thunderhill. While fighting for a podium position, Honeywell’s TFB Chevrolet Camaro tangled with another car, sending him to the back of the field, although he did recover to score some valuable points.

Oklahoman Honeywell is looking to get his Tim Barber-prepared Camaro into Victory Circle at Sonoma – home base for the TFB Performance crew.

“After a rough season opener at Thunderhill, the whole team and I are looking forward to getting back on track at Sonoma,” said Honeywell. “My TFB Performance crew have been working diligently to get the No. 76 Honeywell Competition Camaro ready. Sonoma is a great drivers track in the heart of Napa Valley, and I can’t wait to put on a good showing for my sponsors — K1 Racegear, TrailerAlarms.com and Alexander Ranch.”

With a personal best TA2 finish at Thunderhill, Michele Abbate also made history in the class, her fourth-place was the best finish ever for a female. But that’s not good enough for the TA2 sophomore driver who is shooting for a podium finish at Sonoma.

“My dream was to race in America’s best road racing series, Trans Am, and my goal is to become a TA2 champion,” Abbate said. “I know this will take time, (but) I am laser focused on the path to get there. We need more women in motorsports, and I am proud that our Grr Racing team efforts are creating some attention. This is just the beginning…”

Celebrating his one-year Trans Am anniversary, Rydquist returns to Sonoma, the sight of his first Trans Am SGT win in the MyRaceShop.com / Tel-Tac / Mendeola Factory Five Racing GTM. Rydquist opened his first full Trans Am West Coast season with a victory in the SGT class over Natalie Decker, whose N29 Technologies LLC Audi R8 GT4 is fielded by Ave Motorsports.

Rydquist’s rare Factory Five GTM scored a stunning first-time-out SGT victory at Sonoma in 2019, and set the pace in the Thunderhill opener.

”Returning to Sonoma feels very special this year; it marks the first Trans Am anniversary (of our debut),” said Rydquist. “The track is technical, fun and offers a lot of action. A good race strategy is normally key but the twistier it gets, the brighter our Ridetech racing shocks shine. We have a superb setup here and can run pedal to the metal the entire distance without much tire management. That should give us a good shot to defend our win from last year!”

GT class reigning West Coast champion Roger Eagleton missed the first round but will make the long trip from Honolulu, Hawaii, to begin his title defense in the No. 98 Five Star Property Management / Ford Performance Ford Mustang GT. He faces some tough competition, though, from current points leader Joe Bogetich (No. 65 Westover Corporation Camaro) and long-time friend and sparring partner Beau Borders (No. 7 APEX Race Parts Ford Mustang).

ENTRY LIST

Drivers will participate in open testing on Friday, as the official weekend starts on Saturday with an all-class 40m practice beginning at 9:15 a.m. PDT. This will be followed by back-to-back 30m qualifying sessions, beginning with the TA2 class at 2:00 p.m. followed by TA/XGT/SGT/GT at 2:35 p.m.

On Sunday, the 100-mile combined-class feature race will start at 12:45 p.m. PDT.

Live timing and scoring is available at GoTransAm.com or on the Race Monitor app. For more information, visit GoTransAm.com.

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