Life in the wealthy lane: The Thermal Club experience offers the golden ticket for race car enthusiasts

The $1 Million Dollar INDYCAR Challenge will heat up the course on March 22-24

By Alison Elsner

Visitors to The Thermal Club may see the world through a different lens after discovering life inside this oasis of opulence. The energy as well as the gears start to shift the moment one passes through the unmarked gates which are tucked between acres of farmland and date palm groves, five miles from the Jacquelyn Cochran Regional Airport in Thermal, California at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains.


The Club is a posh resort for mega well-heeled (as in average $30 million net worth each) motorsport enthusiasts who can savor race car action at their doorsteps and over their private balconies. You might say they’re the one percent of the one percent. First opened in 2013, the Club offers four (soon to be five) racing circuits, karting and autocross tracks, designed by Alan Wilson. Each track has its own covered paddock and a full pit crew. The tracks can accommodate any vehicle at any speed, from F1 to high performance exotics to vintage motorsports racecars.


The grounds feature gas pumps, car washes, detailing equipment and full-time mechanics and driving instructors. When members wish to sell their classic Ferrari for the newest Porsche, there is a salesperson onsite to ensure Club members receive a fair price. There are also 24- hour armed guards and an 18-foot high barrier sound wall.


In the past two decades, there’s been a marked increase in the number of women participants in the sport of racing, both behind and beyond the wheel, proving that women wear the firesuits well. These days, race tracks see any number of female lead performance engineers, gearbox mechanics, drivers and fans. At The Thermal Club, there are two female members who are the primary drivers in their family, and they participate in nearly every member racing event.


On March 22 through 24, 2024, The Club will host the $1 Million Dollar INDYCAR Challenge, an exhibition race for the NTT INDYCAR Series, to be televised on NBC on March 24. While Championship points will not be on the line, the event will feature a multi-million dollar purse. A draw party to begin the event will embed members of The Thermal Club with each of the 27 race teams and drivers. The weekend format will include a qualifying session and two heat races, with the top six from each heat advancing to an All-Star showcase. The top five finishing teams will split their earnings with The Thermal Club members, including a $1 million prize awarded to the winner.


The NTT INDYCAR Series hosted a successful Open Test on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout last February to jump-start the 2023 racing season, setting the scene for the 2024 season. Prize breakdown will be $700,000 for second place, $500,000 for third place, $200,000 for fourth place, $100,000 for fifth place and $23,000 each for sixth through 27th place.


Spectator tickets start at $2,000 each, and the VIP experience includes lunch, beer and wine, parking, pit access and a premium view of the track. Tickets may be purchased at: There’s also a member’s race over the weekend for which limited amateur slots are available for $150,000 each. Each entry will ensure a $5,000 donation to Martha’s Village & Kitchen.


The Thermal Club was established and financed by car collectors and enthusiasts Tim and Twanna Rogers, who amassed their $7.5 billion in sales by buying and supplying fuel to 7-Eleven convenience stores and gas stations as well as owning Tower Energy Group (as in Tower Markets). The Club provides amenities including a motorsports village, spa, hotel for guests with 48 casitas, fitness center, tennis courts and a pool.


In order to open it up on the track as a member of The Thermal Club – either with one’s own racing vehicle or with a car ordered for the day provided by The Club – the buy-in is $200,000 initiation fee, $2,400 per month membership fee and purchase of a lot with the firm commitment to build a luxury villa within five years, minimum 6,500 square feet. Most homes average 8,000 to 15,000 square feet, while Rogers’ is 24,000 square feet. Garages are two and three stories, often with viewing lofts from inside – think modest airplane hangar. Keep in mind these are second, third or fourth dwellings for most of these billionaire residents, who include a famous athlete’s son, a celebrity musician, a prominent entertainment executive and the son of a recently deceased political kingmaker and philanthropist.


Membership includes access to all tracks and amenities, and the standard membership is vertical, including the primary member, spouse, children and children’s children. Out of the 276 available lots, 140 have currently been sold, according to Rogers.


A three-person design review committee that includes Tim Rogers, his construction manager and main architect must approve the design of each villa, which usually falls into Spanish style or clean-line minimalism. And Rogers maintains the right to expel any member for lack of compliance such as abusive behavior to staff or failure to move forward with building. When asked if he’d ever had to exercise this authority, he responds, “Absolutely.” Rogers says, “The point is to develop the property, not leave these sites vacant for years.”


Each residence has custom touches such as a concealed, year-round Christmas room behind cleverly camouflaged bookshelves, state of the art surveillance cameras, wine cellars on every level, and upper story patio grass for the pet pooch’s convenience. For those concerned about lack of a golf course, not to worry. Most members and homeowners can play where they keep their other homes at The Madison Club, The Quarry Golf Club or in another palatial So Cal community.


Tim Rogers estimates that he’s spent $350 million to date to develop the 425-acre property, but he doesn’t cut corners. He says, “During COVID, we never closed. It was important to stay open, including our restaurants, for our members as well as to keep our 165 employees working.” The three restaurants have their own executive chef from France and pastry chef, and they serve breakfast and lunch seven days a week with dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.


Savvy businessman that he is, Rogers has ensured revenue opportunities for The Club such as a 70-car storage facility for members’ race cars with untold millions worth of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes and LMP2 race cars inside. Indigo Auto Group maintains a storage property on site to assist with client sales, and BMW operates its Performance Driving Center West on property for a rental fee of $300,000 each month.


One prominent member who graciously provided a home tour – while hosting a holiday gathering for Club employees who spent the day “racing” on the 40-foot model track built above the garage – noted that it’s the excitement of watching the racetrack from one of his and his wife’s many panoramic patios that’s the appeal here. He says, “The mountains are gorgeous and all, but sitting around watching them just doesn’t do it for me. I want to see action.”


Rogers is supportive of the community, having provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements such as constructing the Borrego Health building (now occupied by DAP Health Center) and funding a local park for $150,000. He supports events at or near The Club including a recent charity event for DAP Health and an upcoming Sheriff’s conference. One event he particularly enjoyed was a recent night driving event for members of the CIA, FBI and MI-6 who took their vehicles up to 125 miles per hour then enjoyed a gourmet dinner.


When Rogers is asked if there is anything or anywhere else like The Thermal Club in the world, his response is simple: “No. It’s one of a kind.” He adds, “An invitation to race and be a part of The Thermal Club is considered the golden ticket.”


Whether new driver, gentleman or lady racer or seasoned professional, the motto is the same: drive fast or go home.


The Thermal Club

61980 Tyler Street

Thermal, California 92274