Motorsports power couple Courtney Force and Graham Rahal are due to wed this fall, but before they say “I do,” Sonoma Raceway put them through their paces with a one-of-a-kind couples’ skills challenge on Wednesday, July 22.
Force, NHRA’s winningest female driver, and Rahal, currently second in Verizon IndyCar Series points, squared off on the drag strip and road course, and in an old-fashioned grape stomp.
First, the couple took to the drag strip to race Traxxas remote controlled cars. Force dominated the best-of-three matchup on the 1/8-mile strip, besting Rahal in all three races.
“This is definitely my comfort zone, so I’m really glad I could beat him out here,” said Force, who pilots the Traxxas Chevy Camaro Funny Car. “It was fun to be out here on the drag strip racing against each other.”
The couple then headed to the Simraceway Performance Driving Center, located near Turn 1 of the road course, where they utilized simulators to pilot Indy cars around the 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course. Rahal outpaced Force by almost a full lap to take the checkers in the five-lap race.
“I couldn’t let her win this one,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Mi-Jack entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “This was a great way for Courtney to understand what it’s like to race on this road course. It’s really challenging, and almost impossible to describe. And, I think we might need to get one of these simulators at home.”
The final challenge came down to an old-fashioned grape stomp in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle, where the drivers slipped off their shoes, rolled up their pants and stomped grapes for three minutes in authentic wooden barrels. Force took the win by collecting the most juice from the grapes in her barrel.
In addition to bragging rights “for as long as they both shall live,” Force also received a magnum of Korbel champagne from the raceway.
“This was really fun,” said Force. “We’re both really competitive, but we’ve never gotten to do something head-to-head like this. It’s neat to do this together and try out each others’ disciplines. And, of course, I’m very glad I won.”
Force and Rahal will both compete at Sonoma Raceway in their respective series later this summer. Force, who beat her father in the final Funny Car round in Sonoma in 2014, will take to the drag strip at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 31-Aug. 2.
Rahal, who boasts a best finish of fifth in Sonoma in the Verizon IndyCar Series, returns to wine country, Aug. 28-30, for the series’ season finale at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Photos courtesy Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Registration for the seventh annual Eric Medlen Golf Tournament benefitting the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent is now under way.
Hosted by Morgan Lucas Racing, the tournament returns to Eagle Creek Golf Course in Indianapolis on Thursday, Sept. 3, just before the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.
For registration information, go to EricMedlenMemorial.com or contact Brittany Bailey at (317) 858-1333 or email@example.com.
Registration is $500 for a foursome or $125 per player. Various sponsorship opportunities are also available:
- Gold sponsorship, $4,000: Includes one foursome, your logo on golf carts, signage on one hole, recognition during awards ceremony, full-page ad in event program, and a special Team Lucas package
- Silver sponsorship, $3,000: Includes one foursome, your logo on golf carts, signage on one hole, half-page ad in event program, and a special Team Lucas package
- Bronze sponsorship, $2,000: Includes one foursome, signage on one hole, recognition in event program, and a special Team Lucas package
- Putting contest, $2,000: Includes signage on putting green, recognition in event program, and a special Team Lucas package
- Driving range, $250: Includes signage on driving range and recognition in event program
- Beverage cart, $100: Includes signage on all beverage carts
The tournament was founded by Morgan and Katie Lucas in 2009 as a way to honor Medlen's life and love of children. The tournament has raised more than $250,000 for children over the years.
Joe Lepone Jr., a former national event winner in Pro Stock, died July 12 after a long and brave battle with throat cancer. He was 58.
Lepone raced in Pro Stock for two decades, after famously parlaying his efforts as a crewmember for Pro Stock legend Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins into a ride in Jenkins’ famed Grumpy’s Toy Chevy in the early 1980s. Even after he left the Jenkins team, he continued to be associated with the Pro Stock icon, whose engines powered him to his lone NHRA national event win, at the 1985 World Finals in Pomona.
Lepone also collected six Pro Stock runner-ups and finished in the top 10 eight times, with career-high fifth-place finishes in 1982, 1983, and 1986.
Lepone was Summit Racing’s first sponsored NHRA Pro Stock driver, piloting the Summit Racing Chevy Beretta from 1990-92. He also drove for a number of team owners before his final competition in the class in 2001.
Lepone further cemented his legacy in the years after as a tuner and trainer for numerous drivers in many sanctioning bodies around the world, bringing with him his years of experience and a particular expertise in larger-cubic-inch, nitrous-assisted engines.
NHRA Funny Car driver Ron Capps will be inducted into the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals later this month.
Capps, a native of San Luis Obispo on California’s central coast, has posted four Funny Car victories in Sonoma (1997, 2010, 2011 and 2013), as well as two runner-up finishes. Capps grew up racing on drag strips throughout California, including Baylands Raceway and Lions Drag Strip, before making his first start at then-Sears Point Raceway in 1994.
In his Sonoma debut, Capps recalls that he piloted John Mitchell’s Montana Express Top Alcohol Dragster, and went on to beat his hero, Jay Payne, on a holeshot.
But the on-track statistics tell only a portion of the story, as Capps has become an active supporter of the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC). Capps was among the first drivers to attend and participate in SCC’s annual NHRA Tour de Charity karting event, as well as the Eric Medlen Nitro Night fundraising dinner, and he’s missed only one event since their inceptions. These events have combined to raise more than $250,000 since 2002.
Capps will be inducted prior to pre-event ceremonies on Sunday, Aug. 2. He will become the 19th member of the raceway’s Wall of Fame, joining fellow NHRA racers Warren Johnson (2005), John Force (2006), Gary Scelzi (2007), Doug Kalitta (2008) and Don Prudhomme (2011).
“I am so honored to even be mentioned with the people on the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame,” said Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. “I have so many great memories in Sonoma, and it’s always truly felt like my home track. I love the facility, the fans and supporting the charity there, and it is incredibly special to be inducted.”
Nationally, Capps is one of the most recognizable faces on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. He’s finished second in the Funny Car point standings four times (1998, 2000, 2005 and 2012) and earned 45 career event victories in 90 final-round appearances. He is currently ranked second in Funny Car point standings with two victories so far this season.
“Ron Capps is one of the greats of our sport and his record at Sonoma Raceway has been phenomenal. But beyond his success on the track, Ron understands the role pro athletes can play beyond the competitive arena, and his generous spirit is part of what has made him a crowd favorite,” said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “We are proud to add Ron Capps’ name to the Sonoma Raceway Wall of Fame.”