It was a day for first-time entrants in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli Western Championship event at The Ridge Motorsports Park, with both winners victorious in their first Trans Am starts. TA2 driver Brody Goble had a dominant run, leading from flag to flag in his Trans Am race debut, while Xuanqian Wang overcame early mechanical issues to win the SGT class by attrition in the final laps.
When the green flag waved to kick off Round 4 of the Trans Am Series Western Championship event it was short lived, as SGT competitor Chris Evans had a heavy impact in Turn 6 in his No. 92 Chris Evans Inc. Ford Mustang, taking him out of the race on lap one and putting the event under caution. When racing resumed, Motul Pole Award winner Goble pulled out in front of the field, followed closely by two-time 2022 winner Jeff Holden in the No. 11 Dakota Lithium/RelaxandCBD.com Chevrolet Camaro and Ken Sutherland in the No. 68 Cascade Sotheby’s/Wyatt Fire Protection Camaro. SGT leader Greg Anthony in the No. 23 Prime Roofing BMW M3 settled into a solid fourth place, with Wang second in the SGT class in his No. 22 AURALIC North America McLaren 570S GT4.
A full-course yellow was displayed again four laps later when Howard Johnston in the No. 32 IWS Acquisition Group Mustang went off the track and into the tire wall, ending the day for the SGT competitor. When green-flag racing resumed, Goble had to once again hold off Holden and Sutherland, but was able to protect his lead. In the SGT class, Anthony held onto the lead, running fourth overall, while second-place Wang suffered mechanical issues and pulled to pit road, putting him one lap down.
On lap 19, second-place Holden spun in Turn 12 and stalled on track, bringing out the third and final caution of the day. Holden was able to finish the race, but was now one lap down and out of contention for the win. When the field went green again, Goble had to hold off Sutherland on the restart, but once he pulled away, he never looked back, opening up the lead and dominating until the checkered flag.
Just after the restart, five cars tangled in an incident in Turn 1, including TA2 competitors Matt Crandall in the No. 74 Avant Garde Collection Mustang, Mitch Marvosh in the No. 29 Wolf Entertainment Mustang, and Michael Fine in the No. 66 Architectural Glass Systems Inc. Camaro, but all drivers were able to right themselves and continue without a yellow. John Schweitzer in the No. 00 Superior Builders Ford Mustang had previously gone off the track and was slightly behind the leaders, putting him in the position to skillfully navigate around the incident and move into third in class. This move ultimately earned him the ChillOut Keep Cool Move of the Race and a third-place finish. Sutherland held onto the second position for the remainder of the race, an especially impressive feat after a crash in testing nearly destroyed his car.
Anthony seemed on pace to take the checkered flag for the SGT class, running third overall until lap 34 when he was slowed by a mechanical issue, allowing the lapped Wang to pass him and earn the victory in the class.
“Everything went the way it was supposed to go this weekend, I’m speechless to be here in first place,” said Goble from the top step of the podium. “The car was just perfect, and we had a lot of good luck. With a new car and a new driver, there was a little bit of a learning curve. I was really impressed by the speed we were able to maintain the entire race and seeing how the tires lasted for all 75 minutes. A few of those restarts, Jeff [Holden] and Ken [Sutherland] were all over me and certainly made me work for it. I was happy it went green until the end from halfway. We had a lot of caution laps early in the race, and those can be brutal on drivers because you’re sitting there behind the pace car and overheating yourself. This was my first time using the ChillOut systems cooling package, and it would be hard to go without one now after experiencing it. I’m so grateful to drive into Victory Lane in my first start. It took lots of family and friends to get to this point, and I just want to say thanks to Tim Brown for always believing in me. Brown Bros. Racing is two-for-two in Trans Am.”
“I’m just glad to be here after Friday,” said Sutherland of his second-place finish. “We lost brakes into Turn 1 during the test and took the whole front end off. Our team worked all night long and got the front end back on it. Our Cascade Sotheby’s Camaro was really good for the race and this is a great points day for us. We had a lot of problems at Thunderhill earlier this year with a DNF, so today was a good day for us. It’s a testament to our crew, who works so hard. Everybody on the team was doing something on the car, from wiping it down and cleaning it to putting the duct tape on it. We had contributions from a lot of people to make this happen.”
“If you want to finish first, you first have to finish,” said Wang of his comeback victory after early mechanical issues. “The computer was having some issues and it cut the power to the car and put me a lap down. At that point, all I was trying to do was finish. We would have done a lot better if we hadn’t had the mechanical issues, but this was a great opportunity for me to participate in Trans Am and race an hour-long race on a single set of tires. It offers you a great experience to go fast and battle the competition and tire management and the racetrack. I’m really grateful to get the win in my first time out. This was a great experience for me; Trans Am offers a great platform for drivers.”
The Trans Am Western Championship returns to the track July 15-17 at Portland International Raceway.
Full race results can be found here