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.”
Stratasys, a global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, will partner with the Precision Turbo & Engine Pro Mod team. Stratasys Ltd, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., will make its debut in drag racing with the current points-leading team in the NHRA J&A Pro Mod Series at Norwalk, Ohio.
“We’ve been focusing on technology partners for our race team this season; companies that develop parts for Precision Turbo & Engine. Recently we’ve added DMG Mori Ellison Technologies and now Stratasys,” said Harry Hruska, CEO of Precision Turbo & Engine and race team owner. “We take pride in introducing these high-tech companies to the sport of NHRA drag racing.”
Precision Turbo & Engine is taking delivery of a Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer, and already has projects assigned to create prototypes planned for manufacturing new aftermarket turbo charger components.
“We have customers that have requested specific components from us, and the Stratasys Fortus 450 gives us the chance to develop and test new ideas before we go to full scale production,” added Hruska.
Stratasys isn’t a new comer to motorsports. The company has been involved with Joe Gibbs Racing and its NASCAR program for several seasons. Eric Bert, Senior Vice President of Sales for Stratasys, has seen the effect of 3D printing technology in NASCAR and is excited to watch the growth into NHRA through the Precision Turbo & Engine team.
Bert noted “Our team at Stratasys along with Computer Aided Technology Inc. (CATI) have been very impressed working with engineers at Precision Turbo & Engine, and we look forward to seeing them develop products using Stratasys 3D printing products and technologies to make the team’s Pro Mod Camaro run quicker and faster on the dragstrip, as well as enhancing their aftermarket turbos for street and performance customers around the world.”
Funny Car veteran Roger Garten passed away June 28 due to injuries sustained in an on-track incident at Auto Club Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield Saturday night, June 27. He was 69.
The Fallbrook, Calif., resident drove a series of popular War Horse entries during two distinct periods of growth in the Funny Car class – the match racing heyday of the 1970s and the more recent Nostalgia Funny Car revolution that hearkens back to the cars of the same era.
Garten began his racing career during the height of the Gasser Wars in Southern California with blown and unblown entries that he fielded with partner Dave Braskett. He then teamed with Mike Tocco and Harry Harper to race a blown, nitro-burning big-block Chevy AA/Fuel Altered until building his first Funny Car, the War Horse Mustang, in 1973. Garten had success on the match race trail and at NHRA events, most notably winning the 1975 Division 7 championship. The partners parked the entry in 1976 to concentrate on their businesses and families.
Having discovered their original AA/Fuel Altered in the 1990s, Garten and Tocco decided to restore it and take it to Cacklefest events. This led to the decision to field another competitive entry, so in 2008, they began building another War Horse Funny Car to compete in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series. Notably, Garten won the 2010 event at Sacramento Raceway in his first season back, 35 years after winning a divisional event at the same facility.
Garten was competitive on the racetrack, reaching the final round at the NAPA Ignitor event at Firebird Raceway this season, and universally well-liked among his peers. His excitement about returning to the sport after a 35-year hiatus, which coincided with his retirement from construction work, was reflected in the endless exuberance he displayed at the track.
Garten is survived by wife Carlene, children Rhonda and Dan, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
NHRA extends its condolences to his family and friends.
Update: A celebration of life in honor of Garten will be held at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Aug. 1, from 3-7 p.m.
The Eric Medlen Memorial Golf Tournament has grown into one of the top charity events in drag racing, attracting the sport's top stars and raising over $250,000 for children.
The seventh annual tournament, which benefits the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent, is slated for Thursday, Sept. 3, this year, just before the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. Hosted by Morgan Lucas Racing, the tournament returns to Eagle Creek Golf Course in Indianapolis.
Medlen was a very popular NHRA racer before he passed away in an accident during testing in 2007 in Gainesville, Fla. Medlen loved spending time with children, so in his honor Morgan and Katie Lucas founded the tournament in 2009.
"Eric not only was a great racer but a truly great man," Morgan Lucas said. "He loved people and had a passion for helping kids. Katie and I and everyone at Morgan Lucas Racing consider it an honor to hold this tournament and raise money for a truly special place in honor of a truly special man."
An MRI room in the hospital was dedicated in Medlen's honor last year because of the generous sponsors and supporters of the tournament. All of this year's proceeds will go to the St. Vincent House, which supports families whose children are receiving treatment from Peyton Manning Children's Hospital.
The Eric Medlen Memorial Golf Tournament, which benefits the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent, is hosted by Morgan Lucas Racing at Eagle Creek Golf Course in Indianapolis.