NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Sonoma wine country
Monday, July 21, 2014
The stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will battle in the luscious Wine Country region of Northern California, as they head to the second stop of the Western Swing, for the 15th race of the 2014 season at the 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 25-27, at Sonoma Raceway.
The best in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will all compete for coveted Wally trophies at the world-renowned track located just north of San Francisco. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Sonoma Raceway has hosted loyal NHRA fans since 1988. The well-known event will once again provide a grueling test as teams of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series hit the track during the second stop of three consecutive race weekends during the famed Western Swing. Only three races will follow the NHRA Sonoma Nationals until the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoff fields are set; meaning teams will be going all out as they attempt to qualify for the opportunity to pursue NHRA Mello Yello world championships.
Reigning Top Fuel world champion Langdon took home the win last season in Sonoma and he is beginning to round into form in 2014. Langdon, driver of the Al-Anabi Racing dragster, took home his first victory of the season in Bristol and currently sits third in points.
Points leader Doug Kalitta has five career wins at Sonoma and will be looking to extend his points lead over the rest of the field. Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster has one win in 2014 and six runner-up finishes.
Don Schumacher Racing teammates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher both have won at the Northern California track with Brown winning three times while Schumacher has emerged victorious twice. Both are threats for the championship this year and a great finish at Sonoma could go a long way in helping them chase down Kalitta.
Others to watch in the Top Fuel field include two-time season winner Spencer Massey, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Englishtown winner Richie Crampton, Denver champ J.R. Todd, and category veteran Steve Torrence.
NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger Funny Car driver Capps picked up the win in Sonoma last season and he is entering the last stretch of the regular season in fine form, picking up his first win of the season at New England Dragway in late June. Capps has four victories at Sonoma and a second could help him move higher than his current third place position in the Funny Car point standings.
The 16-time Funny Car world champ, John Force, who drives the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, has the most wins of any driver at Sonoma Raceway with seven, but he hasn’t visited the winner’s circle there since 2007. Cruz Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car world champ, has two wins at the Northern California track, as does veteran Tim Wilkerson. Points leader Robert Hight, who won last weekend in Denver, has five victories at the controls of his Auto Club Mustang and has won in Sonoma before (2008). Topeka winner Courtney Force, Del Worsham, two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria and recent Bristol winner Tommy Johnson Jr. are a few of the other Funny Car competitors who are expected to challenge for the victory.
Vincent Nobile took home the NHRA Sonoma Nationals Wally in Pro Stock last season, the first time that Nobile has won at the scenic motorsports facility. For now, Nobile is safely in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, but he knows a win at Sonoma could help boost him to become one of the main contenders for the championship.
After missing the first five races of the season following off-season heart surgery, Greg Anderson has reached two finals (Atlanta and Englishtown) in his attempt to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Anderson is the winningest Pro Stock driver at Sonoma Raceway with four wins, and a victory this season will be vital for him in his quest to earn another world championship crown.
Mopar teammates Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Allen Johnson, who made up the final in Denver, both have won in Sonoma and will be big competitors for the Pro Stock title this year. Former Sonoma winners Jason Line and Dave Connolly, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens and Shane Gray are just a few of the drivers who will be challenging for the win in the 200-mph factory hot rod class.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. is the defending champion. Arana Jr.’s Lucas Oil Buell has been one of the top contending bikes in 2014, but he is still looking for his first win. Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammates Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec have both won in Wine Country before and currently lead the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings. Angie Smith claimed the first Wally of her career after defeating her husband Matt Smith in New England and the Smith pair will be among several riders to watch in the two-wheel category.
Sonoma Raceway will also host the MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle, a specialty bonus event for two-wheeled drivers in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. The event will take place on Saturday, July 26 and feature eight riders vying for the top prize. Pro Stock Motorcycle riders began earning points for the event at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in March.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, July 25, with sessions at 4:15 and 6:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 26, at 12:55 and 3:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 27. The MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle will occur on Saturday, July 26 with rounds at 12:45, 3:15 and 4:40 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Sonoma Raceway at 800-870-RACE (7223) or visit www.racesonoma.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free on the final day of qualifying, Saturday, July 26.