Pickett Takes Trans Am West Win at Sonoma
June 3, 2018
Trans Am Icon Takes 19th Career Win 40 Years After His First; Thomas Merrill Stays Hot in TA2
SONOMA, Calif. [June 3, 2018] --40 years and 8 days ago, Greg Pickett won his first Trans Am series race at Sears Point, now known as Sonoma Raceway. Today, he repeated that success by winning Round 2 of the Trans Am West Championship presented by Pirelli at that very same track.
Pickett, in the No. 6 Flavor Insights Ford Mustang, started the race on pole, and began to build a lead on second place finisher Tomy Drissi. By lap 12, the gap between them was over 4 seconds. Drissi, in the No. 8 Goshare Chevrolet Camaro, was not about to give up, and clawed back much of that time in the next few laps, reducing the gap to 1.5 seconds by lap 17.
Over the next 17 laps, the lap times see-sawed back and forth between Pickett and Drissi, maintaining that gap until lap 34, when Drissi put his car down the inside into Turn 12 to take the lead. The top spot was not his for very long, as Pickett passed him under braking into Turn 7 the very next lap. That pass was the decisive move of the race, and despite Drissi hounding him through the remaining laps, Pickett held on to the lead and took the checkered flag on lap 40, winning by just three tenths of a second.
On the podium, Pickett was effusive with his gratitude toward his family, his crew, and everyone who had a hand in this win, as well as to Drissi. “My hat truly goes off to Tomy. He raced a really good race. He raced me clean.”
Drissi’s race was almost finished before it started, with his team discovering a leak in a transmission line just 30 minutes before the green flag was shown. In an amazing show of how a team can work under pressure, a new line was constructed and fitted to the car, and Drissi made the grid with seconds to spare.
In a show of respect, Pickett told Drissi’s team that he would not start the race until they made it to the grid.
The mutual admiration and respect that Drissi and Pickett have for each other was demonstrated further on the podium, with banter and antics that had the crowd roaring with laughter.
In consolation, Drissi did take the fastest lap honors, with a lap time of 1:38.641, which was only one tenth faster than Pickett’s fastest lap. They both set their fastest lap times on lap 38, despite the low grip levels toward the end of the race, which shows just how hard they were racing each other.
“I didn’t take it easy on him at all” said Drissi. “He was just so perfect for the first half hour.”
Taking the last step on the podium, was the winner of the previous round at Fontana, Tim Adolphson. After thanking his crew, Tim laid down a challenge to Pickett and Drissi, by promising some closer racing at the Portland round of the Trans Am West Championship, a track he calls his home track.
Taking the top step of the TA2 podium was Thomas Merrill in his No. 81 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang. Merrill started the race from pole, and immediately set his fastest lap of the race, a 1:40.202, creating a gap between himself and second place finisher Chris Cook. That lead grew rapidly over the next six laps to over nine seconds. However, despite the comfortable lead, Merrill’s race was not without its challenges.
“[About halfway through the race] the engine started making a different noise, and I got a little panicked” Merrill said in the podium interview. Fortunately for him, the car held together, and he finished the race in first place.
Chris Cook, in the No. 22 Shockwave Marine Suspension Chevrolet Corvette, finished second in the race, even though he had only stepped into the car that morning for qualifying, not taking part in the previous test and practice sessions. Unfortunately for Cook, a gearing issue blunted his ability to threaten Merrill for the lead. Despite that, he had an untroubled race, and finished ahead of Brad McAllister in the No. 24 Portlandimplantdentistry.com Ford Mustang.
Michael Mihld in the No. 55 Track Fanatic Chevrolet Camaro, and Richard Diehl in the No. 18 Big Diehl Racing Ford Mustang completed the TA2 top 5.
Worthy of mention was Tim Lynn in the No. 46 RoofOptions Chevrolet Camaro. With his car failing to start on the grid, Lynn was forced to begin the race from the back of pack. Within two laps Lynn was up to tenth, chasing down David Smith in the No. 11 Shockwave Suspension Seating Chevrolet Camaro. On lap 4 Lynn had caught and passed Smith for ninth. Lynn then proceed to close down an eight second gap to the No. 18 car of Richard Diehl. Unfortunately for Lynn, his charge came to an end when his alternator failed, and he was forced to retire on lap 35.
Taking top honors in TA3 was Oli Thordarson, in his No. 23 Alvaka Networks/ Trackspec Chevrolet Corvette. Thordarson had recently rebuilt this car, and today’s race proved to be a successful shakedown for it.
Today’s race was the second round in the Trans Am West Championship presented by Pirelli, and went caution free for the entire race distance. The race ran for a full 40 laps,100.8-miles, and was completed in 1 hour and 7 minutes.
The next race in Trans Am West Championship is June 15th to 17th at the hallowed Brickyard, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.