The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to Sonoma for the 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 27-29, and Antron Brown, the defending Top Fuel champ and winner of the most recent tour event in Denver, can’t wait to return to Wine Country, even if he’s not much of a wine drinker.
“I don’t drink wine, but I like looking out at the vineyards and the beautiful countryside that surrounds the track,” Brown said. “It’s just the atmosphere up there and the weather where it can be cool in the morning and then warm up in the afternoon.”
Sonoma’s textbook weather and premier facility have provided great conditions in seasons past, and this year should offer more of the same.
“The sun setting over the mountains is something I always look forward to because then it gets cool and quick, especially in Friday night qualifying, and that’s when it’s time to throw down,” Brown said.
This year, the event in Sonoma is the middle leg of the grueling three-week Western Swing, and Brown has plenty to look forward to as he returns not only as a two-time winner at the track, but also a fan favorite.
“It always feels great to go back to a track where you won at the year before,” Brown said. “Sonoma has been one of my favorite racetracks on the tour since I started racing Pro Stock Motorcycles there. It’s more exciting out there because you have all types of fans that come out, a lot who have followed me from when I was on a Pro Stock Bike to when I moved to Top Fuel.”
Brown’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also defending winners of the event that will be telecast on ESPN2.
Brown understands the importance of the entire Western Swing, especially Sonoma, but he also is looking forward to the Countdown to the Championship. With only four races left in the regular season, the Western Swing means that it’s crunch time for teams hoping to secure a place in the top 10, and the Matco Tools team is looking for consistency and to use the Swing to help in the final races of the regular season.
“The Western Swing helps us get ready for the Countdown,” Brown said. “We need to keep focused and be more in line to be ready for the Countdown. We used to really hit the Western Swing hard, but we’ve learned it’s more important to prepare for those last six races than just worry about those three races.”
As much as Brown wants to focus on the Countdown, he would love to defend his win in Sonoma and use success in the Swing to move from second in points to first for the 20-point bonus that the leader receives at the beginning of the Countdown.
“Don’t get me wrong — we always hit it hard and want to win every time we roll our Matco Tools dragster to the starting line, and Sonoma is no different,” Brown said. “But we are working on things that might help us later in the season. We took a brand-new dragster the boys built back at the shop at Don Schumacher Racing to Denver to break in and plan to use that at Sonoma, too. We have to keep working on getting better and get our mindset ready to go for the championship.”
Not only can fans expect great on-track action all weekend in all four NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, but plenty of fan-friendly activity is also planned in the pits. The track will host special events throughout the weekend, including the Nostalgia Get-Together car display, winner’s circle interviews, Blast on the Grass car show, and the annual Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social Sunday afternoon after the final round.
A special Nitro Generation Track Walk is planned for Sunday morning with John Force and Courtney Force as well; log on to RaceSonoma.com for upgrade details.
All fans are welcome to head down to the starting line on Sunday morning to be a part of the pre-race ceremony to see the top 16 drivers in each category introduced and for a chance to see their favorite driver up close and personal. After eliminations are complete on Sunday evening, fans can head back down to the starting line for the winner’s circle celebration and enjoy the taste of victory with the weekend’s winners.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, call Sonoma, 800-870-RACE (7223), or log on to www.racesonoma.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 28, and three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 29.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The NHRA Sonoma Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:15 a.m. on July 27; eliminations begin at 8:15 a.m. on July 28 and continue through July 29.