Western Championship Event Preview: Thunderhill Raceway Park
March 1, 2023
Length: 2.866 Miles
Layout: 15-Turn Road Course
Entry List: View
Saturday, March 4
8:20-8:45 a.m. PT
10:50-11:15 a.m. PT
Saturday, March 4
2:20-2:50 p.m. PT
Sunday, March 5
12:50-2:05 p.m. PT
Race Length: 35 Laps/75 Minutes?
Lucky Number 7
The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Western Championship is ready to hit the track for the first time in 2023, with the green flag in the air for the series’ seventh season. The year kicks off at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, California for the fourth time since the series’ inception, where 19 competitors will line the grid.
In its first six seasons, the Western Championship has expanded the footprint of Trans Am, providing a place for competitors in the western region of the United States to compete. It’s also served as a proving ground for drivers wishing to hone their craft before heading to the National Championship. 2022 Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series National champion Thomas Merrill got his start in the Western Championship, winning the TA2 title in 2018. National Championship mainstay Tomy Drissi also holds a Western TA title from 2018.
New Scoring System Debuts for Western Championship
Last weekend at Sebring International Raceway, Trans Am debuted a new points system, which will be utilized for the first time in the Western Championship this weekend. The new points system will make the series even more competitive, especially in classes with higher car counts like the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series. Last season, the maximum number of points available to a driver in a weekend was 35, but that number increases to 111 in 2023.
103 points are earned by winning a race, and the points awarded for each subsequent position decreases incrementally down to the 40th position, which receives one point. No points will be awarded to drivers finishing 41st and lower. This is unlike previous seasons, where the number of points awarded for a win was 30, decreasing to one point for those finishing 25th or lower.
This season will also see points awarded to the top five qualifiers, whereas previously only the top three received points. Moving forward, five points will go to the top qualifier in class, diminishing to one point for the fifth-fastest competitor in qualifying. Finally, one point will be awarded to any driver who leads a lap, and two more points will be awarded to the driver who leads the most laps.
Of note, in classes with less than five vehicles, qualifying points will not be awarded, nor will points be earned for leading laps if less than four vehicles take the green flag in a class. Classes with fewer than six starters will receive points on a prorated schedule.
With higher rewards come higher penalties. Any driver under penalty for an on-track violation (including pit road speeding) in qualifying or a race session is not eligible to earn bonus points until the penalty has been assessed and served. If a vehicle receives penalties during a post-session technical inspection, that driver will lose all points earned in that session. This means that a tech failure can cost a driver everything.
California Drivers Open the Season at Home
Nearly half of the drivers entered in this weekend’s race are from the state of California. Those from closest to the northern California track are Tim Lynn from Kentfield, Michael Fine from Orangevale and Roy Fulmer IV from Placerville.
JC Meynet, No. 28 Killer Shrimp Racing Chevrolet Corvette (Woodland Hills)
Kevin Michaels, No. 98 Killer Shrimp Restaurant Chevrolet Corvette (Malibu)
Tim Lynn, No. 17 RoofOptions Ford Mustang (Kentfield)
Mitch Marvosh, No. 29 Wolf Entertainment RAWsport Motors Ford Mustang (Santa Barbara)
Michael LaPaglia, No. 31 Papini’s Garage/F.A.S.T. Auto Ford Mustang (Murrieta)
Tim Carroll, No. 46 Carroll Racing Development Dodge Challenger (Santa Ana)
Michael Fine, No. 66 Architectural Glass Systems Inc. Chevrolet Camaro (Orangevale)
Roy Fulmer IV, No. 86 Fulmer’s Auto Body/Caulk Lok Chevrolet Camaro (Placerville)
Ricky Leigh, No. 09 1909 Gastropub Temecula CA Chevrolet Camaro (Murrieta)
Past Thunderhill Winners Back for More
Three drivers taking the green this weekend have captured the checkered flag in years past. Roy Fulmer IV is the most recent TA2 victor at Thunderhill, winning in dominant fashion while making his Trans Am debut last year.
Greg Pickett, No. 6 Pickett Racing Ford Mustang: 2020, 2019
Roy Fulmer IV, No. 86 Fulmer’s Auto Body/Caulk Lok Chevrolet Camaro: 2022
John Schweitzer, No. 00 Superior Builders Inc. Ford Mustang: 2021 (SGT)
Past Western Champions Kick Off 2023
This weekend’s field will consist of three past Western Championship title holders.
Steve Goldman (2021)
Greg Pickett (2020, 2017)
John Schweitzer (2021 SGT)
Turn Key Unveiled New SGT and GT Camaro at PRI
Over the off-season at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show (PRI), Turn Key Motorsports unveiled its new Chevrolet Camaro for Trans Am’s SGT and GT classes. The spec-level vehicle can be fully customized to customers’ specifications to race in either class, and can also be upgraded from GT to SGT at any time. Expect to see the new car on the track in both classes in 2023.
TA2 Gets a New Name, New Champion
Trans Am’s TA2 class kicks off 2023 with a brand-new name: the Big Machine Vodka SPIKED Coolers TA2 Series. The moniker may be different, but fans and competitors will enjoy the same great racing. TA2 comes off an exciting and competitive season, with the 2022 championship decided in the final race and only six points separating first and second. Neither 2022 champion Jeff Holden or second-place Ken Sutherland are entered in this weekend’s event, meaning we will see new competitors duking it out for the title this season. The top finisher in last year’s points entered at Thunderhill this weekend is Michael Fine in the No. 66 Architectural Glass Systems Inc. Chevrolet Camaro, who was fourth in the standings.
Three drivers will be making their first-career Trans Am starts in this weekend’s season opener.
David Hampton, No. 14 AR Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 CS
JC Meynet, No. 28 Killer Shrimp Racing Chevrolet Corvette
Kevin Michaels, No. 98 Killer Shrimp Restaurant Chevrolet Corvette