Young Derek Kraus of Wisconsin has the pole position for Sunday’s West Coast Round 4 of the Trans Am Series, presented by Pirelli at Sonoma Raceway, in his first-ever time in a Trans Am race car. His lap, which was for the TA2 class as well as overall, was 1:38.183. That time almost wasn’t recorded as the transponder in the No.11 Shockwave Camaro was intermittent. It had to be changed, during the qualifying session, as TA rules require that qualifying times all have to be through the same transponder system – they can’t be recorded manually. And this was the second change for the 17-year old driver Saturday afternoon, as he had to quickly change cars after the afternoon practice session as the engine blew in No.5 Shockwave Camaro. He’s a quick study.
Kraus was fastest in the afternoon practice with a lap of 1:38.389. That session had only ten cars. The high school senior is competing in his first Trans Am race, and it comes with help from Shockwave team owner, Dave Smith, who offered the ride to Kraus so he could get more track time in preparation for next weekend’s NASCAR K&N West Series race. Kraus is currently leading the points in that series, and also in the K&N East Series. Smith further offered his own race car to Kraus for qualifying, when the No.5 Camaro failed. The crew scrambled for sheets of foam for Kraus, who is about a foot shorter than Smith. There had been no time for a seat change. At this point, Kraus doesn’t know if he’ll stick with the padding or do a seat change for Sunday’s race. While the purpose is to get track time for NASCAR next week, Kraus said every seat he’s in he wants to win. so he’ll be trying for a Sunday victory.
This is the first time Trans Am has raced at Sonoma Raceway since 2004, and this time there will be four classes – Trans Am West, TA2, GT and SGT. The TA class is the Trans Am we knew and loved back in the day. It’s back with 800 hp cars with no electronic driver aids. The TA2 Class is basically hot rod muscle cars, and the largest subscribed class within the series, as it is more affordable. GT is limited-preparation production street cars, the most affordable class within Trans Am. SGT is the Super GT class, with high end production cars with few limitations. They all run Pirelli tires. Their races are sprints, 70 minutes long or 100 miles in length, whichever comes first. The drivers this weekend come mainly from the West Coast, but as far flung as Florida, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
Second on the grid, starting besides Kraus, will be Michelle Nagai of Loomis CA, who had the top time in the TA class, of 1:38.583, driving No.72 Berkeley Jet Drive, Inc Corvette. She was excited about her ‘first real pole’ in the car, which she bought this season from retiring driver, Frank Emmett. Nagai said she’s been working on tweaking it all year and especially this weekend, and she’s feeling more comfortable with the car. She said Emmett been helpful with the transition, and might come out Sunday for the race.
Trans Am points leader, Simon Gregg/No.59 Derhaag Motorsports Camaro was third fastest overall, at 1:38.713. The only other TA racing this weekend is Steve Goldman/No.13 LIG Racing Corvette, and he starts 4th overall.
The fastest GT car was Clark Nunes of San Jose CA with a time of 1:45.981 in No.79 Premier Homes Camaro. Oli Thordarson of Trabuco Canyon CA was the only SGT car, and his time was 1:46.306 in No.22 Corvette.
Several cars had transponder problems and fast Brad McAllister of Oregon was one in No.24 www.PortlandimplantDentistry.com Mustang. So he’ll plead his case with the Trans Am stewards.
The qualifying weather was mild and sunny, 70 degrees F, with a brisk breeze. It had been cool (60F) and foggy for the morning 40-minute practice session. Morning practice was relatively uneventful, save TA driver Michael Fine/No.66 TAAGS-Arcitecture Glass Systms Chevrolet Camaro being towed in with a lot of smoke. His car remained in the garage for the afternoon sessions.
Anthony Honeywell/No.76 Honeywell Competition/TFB Perform Chevrolet Camaro was tops in the morning, at 1:38.216.He pipped Kraus at the last minute The top TA was Gregg, fourth overall. Roger Eagleton/No.21 Five Star Prop Mgmt/Energy Real Estate Ford Mustang was the top GT car. It was a last-minute substitution for Eagleton, who had been scheduled to drive No.98 Mustang. The lone SGT driver, Oli Thordarson/No.22 Chevrolet Camaro was seen on course, but had zero laps.
Local champion, Greg Pickett, had to withdraw prior to the event due to ongoing problems locating engine parts after his two earlier failures at Thunderhill earlier in the spring, forcing him to miss the rounds at Auto Club Speedway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Pickett is second on the all-time list of Trans Am starts. This leaves points leader Simon Gregg/No.59 without his strongest competitor. Gregg runs the entire Trans Am Series as well as the West Series. On the West Coast, he will be battling local drivers. Gregg originally hadn’t intended to run the full West Series, but after doing so well at first, he continued on and has now decided to go for the Championship. With Pickett absent, and Fine’s participation questionable, Gregg’s main competition will be Nagai.
Trans-Am qualifying was split into two groups – Three classes, TA/SGT/GT for the first 15 minutes, and the 13 TA2 cars for fifteen minutes. The TA2 session was cut short by a red flag for Cameron Parsons/No.83 Parsons Racing Camaro. He lost a suspension piece in Turn 7 and hit the wall hard in Turn 9. He is unhurt. Michele Abate/No.30 Grr Racing Chevrolet Camaro also had a throttle break coming out of Turn 11, and coasted towards the Starter stand. She said it could be fixed. The field pitted and then went out for their last five minutes. It’s unknown at this point if Parsons can repair the car. People had started arriving with parts, but it did look severe.
All the qualifying information is provisional, based on screen captures. The qualifying will be final Sunday morning.
Sidebar: The Trans Am Series is running with a NASA amateur event, and among the many entries in the multiple classes and events was a NASCAR driver – Current K&N West Driver, Hailee Deegan in a Miata. She’s won two races this season and currently is second in the standings, behind Kraus. They are teammates on the Bill Mcanally Race Team. No doubt she also is getting track time on the full road course prior to next week’s big NASCAR weekend which features the K&N Series West as well as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The track is going all out on a blowout event as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Another familiar name was Mike Bliss, who raced in all three top tier NASCAR Series, and was the 2002 Truck Series Champion. He’s racing his No.31 Legends car.
Sunday’s Trans Am race starts at 12:45 pm and will stream on MotorTrend TV.