Trans Am National Championship returns to Sonoma for first event since 2004
In the second leg of a back-to-back West Coast swing, the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli heads to Wine Country for a combined National and Western Championship event this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. While Sonoma has appeared on the Western Championship schedule six times since the series’ inception in 2017 (with the 2021 event being a Pro/Am and Western combo event), a National event has not been held at the track since 2004. Only two drivers entered this weekend competed in that 2004 event: Greg Pickett, driver of the No. 6 ALTWELL Ford Mustang, and Tomy Drissi, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Ford Mustang.
Multiple Past Sonoma winners entered this weekend
Several drivers competing this weekend have recent victories at the track earned in the Western Championship or Pro/Am combo event. Defending champion Chris Dyson, driver of the No. 20 ALTWELL Ford Mustang, won in 2021 in the TA Pro/Am category (pictured above). Two-time Western champion Simon Gregg (XGT in 2020 and TA in 2019), driver of the No. 59 Burtin Racing/59 Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro in TA, won in the XGT class for Western competitors in 2021, as well as in TA in 2019. California native Thomas Merrill has won three TA2 Western events at Sonoma, two in 2020 and one in 2018. Carl Rydquist, who has won Western championships in the last three years (TA2 in 2021, SGT in 2020 and 2019) was the TA2 victor for the Western series last year, and also has three Sonoma victories in the Western Championship SGT category in 2020, and one SGT victory in 2019.
Two-time TA Western champion Greg Pickett has the most Trans Am victories at Sonoma of any driver. He has three victories at the track in the Western championship in 2020 alone, in addition to one Western victory in 2018. He also won in 1978 in Cat II and both the Spring and Fall races at the track in 1984.
Trans Am history at Sonoma
Despite this being the first National event at the track since 2004, Trans Am’s history at Sonoma is rich, with 24 National races held at the track since 1969. In the first Sonoma Trans Am event, Trans Am legend Mark Donohue beat Parnelli Jones by 2.2s. Last weekend’s Grand Marshal Willy T. Ribbs, who was the first African American man to test an F1 car and first African American man to qualify for the Indy 500, won at the track three times (1983, 1985 and 1988). Local driver Darin Brassfield won four consecutive races at Sonoma (1989-92) with three different teams and three different cars. Three of his victories were extremely close, with a margin of victory under 0.223s. In the most recent event at the track, Boris Said won while pulling an impressive triple duty. In addition to running the Trans Am event, he ran the NASCAR Cup Series race and NASCAR Southwest Tour race, participating in every on-track session of the weekend.
This weekend, Historic Trans Am will be making its 23rd appearance at Sonoma Raceway, layering more Trans Am history at the California track.
California drivers dominate Sonoma entry list
This weekend’s race at Sonoma has 16 drivers entered from the state of California. In the TA class, Californians include National driver Tomy Drissi (Los Angeles) and Western competitors Michael LaPaglia (Murrieta) and Mike Sheehan (Costa Mesa).
TA2 competitors from California are National drivers Carl Rydquist (Pleasanton), Thomas Merrill (Salinas) and Lawless Alan (Los Angeles). Western drivers include Tim Lynn (Kentfield), Mitch Marvosh (Santa Barbara), Nick Rosseno (Rancho Cucamonga), Greg Tolson (Rancho Cordova), Skip Rebozzi (Morgan Hill), Andy Kwitowski (Morgan Hill), Michael Mihld (Temecula), Michael Fine (Orangevale), Cameron Parsons (Hanford) and Roy Fulmer IV (Placerville).
Trans Am races stream live for free, no app required
For those wishing to tune in to the events at Sonoma this weekend, the Trans Am Series races will air live on the Trans Am YouTube page and Facebook page, and a full schedule of events, including Historic Trans Am and racing from the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association will be available on the new SpeedTourTV YouTube page.
CBS Sports Network air times
This weekend’s races from Sonoma Raceway will air on CBS Sports Network the week following the event.
TA/XGT/SGT/GT will premiere on Saturday, May 7 at 1 p.m. ET, with an encore presentation that night at 10 p.m. ET and another airing on Sunday, May 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET.
TA2 will first air on Sunday, May 8 at 5:30 p.m. ET, with an encore presentation later that evening at 10 p.m. ET.
Will history repeat itself after 2021 Sonoma 1-2 finish for CD Racing?
Chris Dyson enters this weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway fresh off a victory at Laguna Seca and three victories in four rounds in 2022. While Sonoma has not been part of the National schedule in nearly two decades, both Dyson and CD Racing teammate Humaid Masaood, driver of the No. 21 allgram Ford Mustang, head to Sonoma with recent experience atop the track’s podium. The two competed in the Western Championship event last year as part of the Trans Am Pro/Am Challenge, with Dyson winning the pole and race in the TA class and Masaood finishing second, tying the English driver’s best finish of the 2021 season. Sonoma is the home race for Dyson’s sponsor ALTWELL, and his victory there last season was his first win with an ALTWELL livery.
Winning at Sonoma is nothing new for the Dyson family. Chris’ father, Rob Dyson, drove his Porsche 962 to victory in IMSA in 1986, and his Dyson Racing team scored two Sonoma IMSA wins during the 90’s. Chris also earned a podium finish at the track in 2003 on his way to winning the American Le Mans Series driver title.
Ken Thwaits returns to Sonoma after 36-year absence
This weekend, 2020 XGT champion Ken Thwaits, driver of the No. 7 Franklin Road Apparel Camaro, will be driving through the gates of Sonoma Raceway for the first time since 1986. Thwaits last competed at the California track 36 years ago in Pro Formula Mazda, where he finished third. In order to get up to speed, Thwaits will participate in both the TA and TA2 test sessions to get maximum track time before official practice sessions begin.
The Showtime Motorsports owner/driver has a rich racing history, both in Trans Am and many other racing series and disciplines, including go-karts, SCCA, Formula Mazda, SVRA and the Optima Search for the Ultimate Streetcar.
Western Championship: Greg Pickett enters Sonoma with six-decade winning streak
75-year-old Greg Pickett, who holds the title for most Trans Am wins at Sonoma Raceway, comes into this weekend with a six-decade winning streak. The driver of the No. 6 ALTWELL Ford Mustang has been competing in the Trans Am Series since 1975, and has notched a victory in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. His last victory in the series came in 2020 at Circuit of The Americas in the Western series. That season, he won every race on the Western schedule from the pole en route to his second championship in the series. Pickett is currently ranked seventh on the list of all-time wins in the TA class, tied with Tony Ave at 18 victories. Pickett is competing for Western Championship points and won the pole in the season opener at Thunderhill Raceway Park earlier this month, but was forced to withdraw before the race began due to a mechanical failure.
Another points leader in TA2
Following his second consecutive win, Mike Skeen has taken over the TA2 point standings lead with 97 points, despite missing the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, he steps out of the car once again this weekend at Sonoma, handing over the No. 89 3Dimensional Services Group Ford Mustang to Canadian driver Louis-Philippe Dumoulin. Just three points behind Skeen is Tyler Kicera in the No. 77 Liqui Moly/Turn 14 Distribution Chevrolet Camaro with 94 points, followed by Skeen’s teammate Rafa Matos in the No. 88 3Dimensional Services Group Mustang with 88 points and Cameron Lawrence in the No. 6 Franklin Road Apparel Camaro with 75 points. With their consistent performances and Skeen’s part-time schedule, the championship battle is shaping up to be between Kicera, Matos and Lawrence, but in a field this stacked with talent, just one wild race can rerack the points.
Jeff Sexton shows continuous improvement in rookie race
Evan Slater, driver of the No. 35 Cube 3 Architecture Ford Mustang currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings, but only six points behind him is Jeff Sexton in the No. 12 Horse Soldier Bourbon Whiskey Ford Mustang. The Bassett Wheels Hard Charger Award totals the number of positions drivers gain in each event, and Sexton has improved a total of 54 positions in the first four races of the 2022 season, holding a large advantage for the award over Matt Parent in the No. 14 Venture General Construction Ford Mustang, who has improved 37 positions, the second most of any driver. What is most impressive is that Sexton has not lost any positions in any race this year. As the top gainer in two of the first four rounds of the season, Sexton is showing his ability to improve in every event with smart, clean driving. If he continues the trend, he may soon lead the rookie standings.
TA2 drivers enter Sonoma race with recent track experience
While most Trans Am competitors have not made a lap at Sonoma Raceway in a long time (or ever), three TA2 competitors took the green flag at the track less than two weeks ago. Thomas Merrill, Rafa Matos and Misha Goikhberg all competed in the SRO Motorsports America season opener at Sonoma on April 16-17. Merrill teamed up with Alain Stad and Matos was paired with Tim Horrell in the Pirelli GT3 America doubleheader, while Goikhberg drove with Giacomo Altoe in the Fanatec GT World Challenge America’s Pro category.