Familiar setting has funny car's Ron Capps thinking big at Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals
With this weekend’s 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway closing out the famed three-race Western Swing for the first time since 2009, back-to-back Funny Car world champion Ron Capps is ready to put on a show at a track he has always considered special.
The longtime standout grew up nearby, camps at the picturesque facility all weekend and has a multitude of fond memories of racing in Sonoma. That includes four event wins at the track and he’ll try to add another this weekend in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra.
He made the fastest run at last year’s race (334.48 mph) and Capps is after his first win on the Western Swing. To do so, Capps and his team, led by crew chief Dean Antonelli, will have to be fast from start to finish. Sonoma Raceway has long been synonymous with spectacular performances and Capps knows he’ll need to dial up something special this weekend to earn his second victory in the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the 75th in his incredible career.
“It’s been a fun couple of weeks, but this is one of my favorite races of the year and I'm really looking forward to it,” Capps said. “I consider Sonoma to be one of my home tracks, having grown up in San Luis Obispo and going there a lot as a kid. This event always gives us what I feel is one of the best Friday night qualifying sessions of the year. When that sun starts to go down, the Sonoma fans are gifted with a fantastic qualifying session from top to bottom.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won the 2022 event, and this year’s race will be broadcast on both FOX and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations coverage starting at 1 p.m. PT on Sunday, July 30 on FOX. It is the 12th of 21 races during the 2023 season and Capps finds himself in a great position as the season heads to crunch time.
He’s swapped the points lead with Matt Hagan this year and while Hagan grabbed it back with his Denver triumph, Capps is well within striking distance at just 17 points back. The veteran’s success in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race gives him added bonus points into the playoffs, and he won the Saturday specialty race last weekend in Seattle.
Capps isn’t in the four-car field this weekend, as Seattle winner Tim Wilkerson takes on Blake Alexander, while the other matchup features J.R. Todd and Chad Green. Add in the likes of Hagan, Robert Hight, who has dominated at Sonoma over the years, John Force, Cruz Pedregon, defending event winner Tasca and Alexis DeJoria, and Capps will have his hands full all weekend.
That makes the Friday’s thrilling throwdown session under the lights that much more important and Capps and his team will be ready as he looks to put on a show at Sonoma Raceway in front of plenty of family and friends.
“I’m looking forward to one of my favorite times of the year, which is the Sonoma race,” Capps said. “That Friday night is one of the coolest Friday night qualifying sessions we will see, and we’ll be ready to throw down. Having my friends, my family, mom and dad, people I hung out with growing up, they all come out. Everyone camps out and I get to enjoy some good home-cooking up on the hill. I’m just looking forward to a great weekend all around.”
In Top Fuel, Brittany Force will look to repeat her record performance from last year as she seeks her first win in 2023. Standing in her way are a number of stars, including points leader Steve Torrence, who won in Seattle, Justin Ashley and Leah Pruett. Torrence will also take on Shawn Langdon in Sonoma as part of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race on Saturday, while the other matchup features Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican.
Sonoma fans will also see exciting Pro Stock Motorcycle action all weekend, including the first appearance at the facility from current points leader Gaige Herrera, who is looking to sweep the Western Swing. The field also includes defending world champ Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr., Eddie Krawiec, Steve Johnson and Angie Smith.
The category will also get the spotlight on Saturday with the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout, pitting eight top riders against each other in a unique specialty race. The first seed will get the chance to select his opponent, followed by the second seed until all matchups are set in the exciting shootout race. The first-round selections will be made on the starting line at 7:45 p.m. PT on Friday.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, featuring some of the top drivers in the sport. The weekend includes the NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League Shootout, Street Legal and Top the Cops exhibitions as well, along with autograph sessions at the Toyota and Mission Foods Midway Displays. Pro Stock Motorcycle autograph sessions will take place at the Suzuki Display, while a special kids-only autograph session takes place at 2 p.m. on Friday under the main grandstands.
Race fans at Sonoma Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Sonoma event winners.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. PT on Friday, July 28 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 29 at 12:40 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. PT on Sunday, July 30. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations on FOX at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The first round of the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout takes place at 12:30 p.m. PT, with the semifinals at 2:15 p.m. and the finals at 3:40 p.m. It will be broadcast at 10 p.m. ET on FS1.
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Headquartered in San Dimas, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 21 national events featuring the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown™ and Top Fuel Harley Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and NHRA Street Legal™. NHRA also offers the NHRA Jr. Street® program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League® for youth ages 5 to 17. With 120 Member Tracks, NHRA allows racers to compete at a variety of locations nationally and internationally. NHRA’s Youth and Education Services® (YES) Program reaches over 30,000 students annually to ignite their interest in automotive and racing related careers. NHRA’s streaming service, NHRA.tv®, allows fans to view all NHRA national events as well as exclusive features of the sport. In addition, NHRA owns and operates three racing facilities: Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park; and In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Southern California. For more information, log on to www.NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.