Nearly 40 race fans mingled with stars from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Saturday and helped support a great cause at the 13th annual NHRA Tour de Charity at the Sonoma Raceway Karting Center.
The charity event, which pitted race fans against NHRA racers for a day of karting on the raceway’s challenging course, raised $11,050 for Speedway Children’s Charities, bringing the 13-year total for the event to more than $141,000.
"This is my first time out here and I’m hoping to at least beat my husband or else it's going to be a long ride home," said Jenny Hamilton of Livermore. "I grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club in Sonoma and I wanted to support Speedway Children’s Charities because of their continued support of the Boys and Girls Club all these years."
Speedway Children’s Charities, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, raises funds for distribution to qualified youth organizations in Sonoma County. The charity has distributed more than $4.8 million since 2001.
NHRA Funny Car drivers Jack Beckman (Infinite Hero Dodge Charger) and Ron Capps (NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger) as well as Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Scotty Pollacheck (Petrolhead Buell) traded paint and rubbed elbows with fans.
"Often, when you're doing some productive it's not fun, and when you're doing something fun, it's not productive," said Beckman. "That's not the case here. This is a time, where we as drivers get to take time out to interact with fans and race these amazing go karts. The best thing is it all goes to charity."
For the second consecutive year, Capps took King of the Track honors among the NHRA racers, turning the best lap over the 16-turn, three-quarter mile circuit at 1 minute, 6.565 seconds. Capps holds the record for most King of the Track honors, taking the title eight times (2003, 2005-2007, 2010-2011, 2014-2015). Other winners have included Top Fuel drivers Cory McClenathan (2004), David Baca (2009), Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Matt Guidera (2008), Beckman (2012) and Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Adam Arana (2013).
Race fans also competed in a 12-lap race at the end of the day, with Elk Grove’s Milas Mills taking top honors for the third year in a row with a time of 1 minute, 3.205 seconds.
The Simraceway Performance Driving Center provided the karts, race suits, classroom instruction and on-track pointers for all competitors. The NHRA racers also signed autographs and donated memorabilia for gifts bags for each participant.
From left, Brittany Force, Forrest Lucas, Randy Frye, and John Force.
Lucas Oil founder a Forrest Lucas and his son Morgan Lucas hosted a group of Indiana legislators, track operators, and Town of Brownsburg officials earlier this week at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis to talk about motorsports and the impact the sport has on the state of Indiana.
The group, which included Representative Randy Frye (Indiana District 67), toured the city of Brownsburg, which has become a hub for NHRA teams housing several race team shops and relevant racing vendors that have created hundreds of jobs in the industry. The group wrapped up the evening at the race track with a delicious dinner and where the group had the chance to get up close look at a variety of race cars as well as a tour of Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The group also was treated to a display of a variety of race cars including Lucas’ Protect the Harvest Top Fuel dragster and nostalgia Funny Car and two of John Force Racing’s Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Cars, John Force’s Peak Anti-freeze Funny Car and Courtney Force’s Traxxas Funny Car.
“We were honored to be invited by Forrest Lucas to talk with these important decision-makers about the impact motorsports has on Indiana,” said 16-time Funny Car champion John Force. “We want to grow NHRA and all of motorsports. We didn’t just talk about all the money motorsports events bring into the state we also talked about jobs and how we represent the state when we travel all across the country when we are on the road with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.”
Former Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Adam Arana recently graduated from the United States Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, N.J., and will begin his full-time service later this week.
Seaman Apprentice (E-2) Arana, 23, will serve on the USCGC Cheyenne, a river-buoy tender, based in St. Louis. He is due to report there March 6.
"Boot camp was intense but the experience was worth it," Arana said. "The days were long, very long, for about a month. I was averaging four hours of sleep and waking up at 5-5:30 in the morning -- and getting woken up by a whistle. Getting woken up by a whistle is the worst way to get woken up.
"They yelled at all times and we had to yell at all times. There is no talking normal to them. Every time you talk, it was yelling. And it wasn't talking loudly: They would watch your face, and if they didn't see veins popping out of your neck and you straining every single muscle in your face, you weren't talking to them loud enough. I lost my voice."
But Arana fought through and was one of a class of 49 who graduated. Eighty-five started in Arana's company.
"I never thought I wanted to quit because I knew this was what I wanted to do," Arana said. "If there was any doubt in your mind, there would be a good chance you would end up quitting. If you weren't mentally committed to doing this, they would break you and you would want to quit because it wasn't easy."
Arana was joined by his family -- father Hector Arana Sr., mother Grace Arana, brother Hector Arana Jr., and sister Abigail Arana -- and girlfriend Jessica Outten at graduation last Friday.
"Going into it, I thought it would be like every other graduation," Arana said. "But it was not like anything I had ever gone through, so it meant a lot."
USCGC Cheyenne serves the Mississippi, Missouri, and Kaskaskia rivers in Illinois and Missouri, servicing buoys and other navigation aids, as well as tendering some law-enforcement search and rescue activities.
Arana will serve aboard the Cheyenne for an undetermined amount of time before moving to Coast Guard "A" School, where he will learn a specific trade.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season starts for Pro Stock Motorcycle next weekend in Gainesville, Fla., and Arana admitted he's missing the rush to get ready, but he's also excited about his new position.
"It has hit me a little bit that I won't be racing," Arana said. "It kinda stinks, to be honest. I was looking at some pictures and thought, 'Man, I'm going to miss this more than I thought I was.' But I'll be going from one exciting profession to another, so it'll be good."
Drag racing fans can go head to head against stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on the Sonoma Raceway kart track at the 13th annual NHRA Tour de Charity.
Speedway Children’s Charities, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, will host the fundraising event Saturday, March 21, with all proceeds benefiting Sonoma County youth groups. The event has generated more than $130,000 since 2003.
Funny Car drivers and Don Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps and Jack Beckman as well as Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Scotty Pollacheck will return to participate in this year's event. While this will be Pollacheck's second year participating in the event, his high-speed brethren Capps and Beckman have been regular Tour de Charity participants since its inception and look forward to returning each year.
"It's a great event for charity, and it's so much fun to interact directly with the fans," said Capps. "This is all for charity, but after lunch, the competitive juices start to flow, and that's what really makes this fun."
The cost of the event is $325 per person, and only a limited number of slots still are available. Participants will receive a full-day go-kart rental, race suit, helmet, professional driving instruction, catered lunch, and meet-and-greets and autographs with the NHRA racers.
The Simraceway Performance Driving Center, which operates the karting center, provides the karts, race suits, classroom instruction, and on-track pointers for all competitors. There will be giveaways during the day, and the top-10 qualifiers (race fans) will compete in a 10-lap timed race at the end of day for the NHRA Experience, which includes two tickets to the NHRA Sonoma Nationals (July 31-Aug. 2). Participants with all levels of karting experience are welcome.
To reserve your spot, log on to sonoma.speedwaycharities.org/events/tour_de_charity/, click on the Register Now button, and complete the online form. For more information, contact Cheri Plattner, 707-933-3950 or firstname.lastname@example.org.