Chris Walsh, Jeff Ricca, and PJ Groenke Take First Wins of the Season at Sonoma Raceway

Chris Walsh, Jeff Ricca, and PJ Groenke Take First Wins of the Season at Sonoma Raceway
  • Chris Walsh Claims First Victory in TCX
  • Jeff Ricca Dominant in TC
  • PJ Groenke Leads in TCA
  • Final Results

The TC America Powered by Skip Barber Racing School field kickstarted the racing action as they took over Sonoma Raceway for the first race of the season, setting off for 40 minutes of palpable action. 

Chris Walsh clinched the opening win of the season in the TCX Class, while Jeff Ricca returned to the top step of the podium once more in TC, with PJ Groenke earning another win in TCA. 

TCX Class

Lucas Catania, poised in his No. 17 Rigid Speed 17 BMW M2 CS (Cup), roared away from pole position, determined to maintain his lead. However, the battle behind him was intense, with Chris Walsh and Celso Neto engaging in a gripping duel for the coveted P2 spot with their No. 104 Carrus Callas Raceteam BMW M2 CS (Cup) and No. 22 Skip Barber Racing Acura Integra Type S entries. 

Walsh, undeterred by the challenge, relentlessly closed the gap to Catania, their cars practically glued to each other, with less than a second separating them lap after lap. With only seven minutes remaining in the race, the tension reached its peak as Walsh launched a daring attack on Catania. Walsh executed a flawless pass, seizing the lead and going on to take the checkered flag to secure the first victory of the 2024 season. Lucas Catania and Celso Neto completed the podium in second and third place. 

“The start didn't quite go as planned” explained Chris Walsh. “I got caught off guard by Lucas; it seems he got checked up, and as a result I got checked up, and Celso did a great job and squeezed in there. So, in that moment I thought, 'Hey, I need to settle down, hit my marks, and catch back up,' even though I also made a mistake. After getting past, I just sat behind Lucas until I found the gap and decided to go for it. And then, it was there.” 

“It turned into a flat-out race to the end. I was struggling with tires at the very end, but we did enough to finish. This victory marks my first professional win, which feels really good. The team put a lot of faith in me to come out and perform well.” 

Walsh also claimed the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap of the race award thanks to his impressive 1:49.392. Aaron Kaplan had a great comeback in the race, commanding his No. 18 Kaplan Racing Systems BMW M2 CS (Cup) from the 14th place up to the 7th position. 

TC Class

In the TC Class, Jeff Ricca was ready to conquer the challenges ahead as he took off from pole position in class and never looked back. While Ricca set off on the road ahead, the spotlight soon shifted to the fierce battle between teammates Sally McNulty and Ruben Igleisias Jr in the No. 780 and No. 77 Ricca Autosport Hyundai Elantra N1 TC for podium positions. 

The competition between the two teammates was intense, with McNulty and Igleisias Jr. pushing each other to the limits. However, fate intervened when McNulty the two made slight contact, resulting in a drive-through penalty for the No. 77 car. 

Ricca continued on his way, taking complete control of the field before adding another victory to his tally, in addition to the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap award. McNulty was able to recover and secure second position, accompanied on the podium by Joey Jordan in third place in the No. 71 FTG Racing Mazda 3.

“Last year we were pretty dominant, and we were pretty dominant again today,” said Jeff Rica. “We have a car that's just so strong, so reliable and goes the distance across all 40 minutes of the race, and the Pirelli tires maintained their grip the whole time. I’d like to extend a big shout out to Honda USA and LIQUI MOLY. I wouldn’t be here without them and I’m looking forward to what’s to come this year.” 

TCA Class

Over in the TCA Class, PJ Groenke emerged victorious in his No. 62 MINI JCW Team MINI JCW, showcasing his skill and determination on the track. With unwavering focus and a stellar performance, Groenke clinched the win, further exemplifying his expertise. The Canadian also claimed the CrowdStrike Fastest Lap award. 

Maddy Lemke gained more valuable experience and track time in her No. 9 Ascent Racing Honda Civic Si FE1.

“It’s magical to be here,” exclaimed PJ Groenke. “I can't thank the MINI JCW Team and MINI USA enough, as well as all my sponsors. I wouldn't be here doing this without them. This is where we belong!”

Let’s Get Racing

The TC America powered by Skip Barber Racing School will return Sunday, April 7th for Race 2 at 9:55 AM PDT. 

If you can’t make it to Sonoma, be sure to tune-in to SRO’s free live streams all weekend long on YouTube (GTWorld) and Twitch (SROMotorsports) and follow all the action through our social media channels and the event hashtag #GTSonoma.