SONOMA, Calif. – The Pro Stock category is one of the hardest fought classes in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with the difference between success and failure razor thin. The slightest adjustments to these factory hot rods can propel a racer to the top of the charts or have them putting the car on the trailer early in eliminations. Mike Edwards in his K&N Filters/I Am Second Chevy Camaro is on the right side of success so far in 2013 as the veteran driver pursues his second Pro Stock world championship.
Edwards leads the Pro Stock category by 79 points over defending world champion Allen Johnson on the strength of four wins this season. Edwards and crew chief Adam Hornberger are very methodical in their approach and don’t focus on their competition, but rather what elements they are presented with at each event.
“We are just trying to be consistent and race the race track,” Edwards said. “Make the right adjustments for the racetrack and the conditions that we’re racing in. That has been our main goal all year long, is try to be consistent. Make the car go up and down the track. If you can go up and down the track you have a chance to win and that is what we are trying to do.”
Edwards along with defending event winners Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car), Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will look to take home wins during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, second of three consecutive weekends of racing known as the Western Swing. The race will be televised on ESPN (qualifying Saturday, 7 p.m. ET) and ESPN2 HD (eliminations, Sunday, 8 p.m. ET).
In his 2009 championship season, Edwards was the No. 1 qualifier at 16 of 24 national events. That tied Greg Anderson with the most No. 1 qualifying positions from Anderson’s 2004 championship season. Edwards has 10 No. 1 qualifying positions this year along with an impressive 109 qualifying bonus points. With 10 races remaining, there are plenty of chances to break the record.
“It has been a phenomenal year as far as qualifying number one,” he continued. “It is way beyond what we had anticipated or even dreamed about doing. We just hope we can maintain and keep running well. If the number ones come that is good, but we want to keep running good and stay towards the top so that is what we are shooting for.”
Edwards became the first racer in any category to make the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship when he secured his berth following the event in Norwalk. Earning a position in the NHRA playoff system was a must for the team and now allows them to battle during the course of the event as well as test equipment for the six-race championship run which begins at zMAX Dragway, Sept. 13-15.
“That was our goal, first and foremost to get into the Countdown and we have done that,” Edwards continued. “We still want to maintain what we are trying to do. But now we are going to be trying some stuff that will hopefully help us when it comes down to that last six.”
Sonoma Raceway is a mere 15 feet above sea level, which is a large difference between the most recent event at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado which is located at 5,860 feet above sea level. Sonoma Raceway is also a track where Edwards hasn’t won, but does have three runner-up finishes.
“You are going from very extreme to a very extreme the other way,” he said. “The facilities there are top notch. The track is normally pretty good there. I always look forward to going there, going to the wine country there in Sonoma. It is usually a little bit warm, but I tell you that is summer time.”
If Edwards is to win his second championship he will have to outrun a field full of championship contenders including recent winner and champion Johnson. Johnson and his teammate Jeg Coughlin joined Edwards by clinching a Countdown to the Championship berth in Denver, and will continue to fight the battle for the top spot during the final races of the regular season.
In Top Fuel, Al-Anabi Racing driver Shawn Langdon is currently in the No. 1 position in points, but has seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, a two-time Sonoma winner, lurking in second place only 19 points behind. Other challengers include defending world champ Brown, track record holder and recent event winner Spencer Massey and five-time event winner Doug Kalitta, among others.
The 2011 Funny Car world champion Hagan is back in top form as the series points leader, but the Virginia cattle rancher has yet to visit Wine Country’s winner’s circle. Other pre-race favorites include seven-time Sonoma winner John Force, two-time season winner Courtney Force, 2008 winner Robert Hight, three-time winner Ron Capps, and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon, who is fresh off his win at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.
Set amid the beautiful rolling hills and vineyards just north of San Francisco, Sonoma Raceway is already one of the most popular ‘destination’ races for NHRA fans from around the country so this year’s race – featuring family-fun festivities throughout the weekend, and the annual Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social on Sunday – will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Sonoma Raceway will also host the fan-favorite Sunday morning Starting Line Party featuring many of NHRA’s leading ladies. Fans with Starting Line Party passes will have the opportunity to meet some of their favorite drivers, get autographs and celebrate during pre-race festivities down on the starting line. Party packages start at $77 and include a reserved seat, VIP track access pass for pre-race Q&A, track walk and all-day access to Thunder Alley. For more details, contact Sonoma Raceway.
Another unique experience offered to fans during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals is the Don Schumacher Racing Fan Hospitality Package. The DSR Hospitality Package includes a seat in the Main Grandstand for Friday, July 26th, access to DSR hospitality area Friday, a chef prepared meal, DSR driver appearances and autograph opportunities as well as the chance to see how the crew of a Top Fuel dragster or nitro Funny Car tune and rebuild their machines between rounds. Packages are available while supplies last.
As always, every ticket purchased for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals is a pit pass, which offers an extraordinary look behind the scenes in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series as race teams service their high-horsepower machines between rounds. Fans also will want to check out NHRA Nitro Alley and the popular NHRA Manufacturers Midway. In addition, fans should definitely plan to visit the Blast on the Grass, a celebration of American muscle cars, which features many classic machines in the popular car show set in turn 11 of the facility. There will also be some exhibition racing featured during the NHRA Sonoma Nationals with two Jet Dragsters and eight Pro Mod cars scheduled to make runs.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, July 26 with the first session at 4:15 p.m., followed by another session at 7:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 27, at 12:15 and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.
Adult tickets start as low as $39 and fans are encouraged to buy early and save. Make it a family-fun weekend when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series arrives in Sonoma and take advantage of a special ticket promotion: Children 12 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult on Saturday. Fans can also bring an empty 20-oz. Mello Yello® bottle to the Sonoma Raceway box office and SAVE $8 on one adult single day NHRA race ticket, Friday – Sunday.
To purchase tickets for the 26th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, please call Sonoma Raceway Box Office at (800) 870-RACE (7223) or visit www.racesonoma.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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NHRA SONOMA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 26th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 26-28.
FRIDAY, July 26 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:15 and 6:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:15 and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 28 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 27, ESPN and ESPNHD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 28, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, July 26, 11:30 p.m. - Midnight (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
Saturday, July 27, 9:30 - 10 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
Sunday, July 28, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 24C
(4180 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Johnny Gray, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Ron Capps, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.777 seconds by Spencer Massey, July ‘12; 328.62 mph by Massey, July ‘12
Funny Car – 4.028 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, July ’12; 317.57 mph by Ron Capps, July ’12.
Pro Stock – 6.512 seconds by Erica Enders-Stevens, July ’12; 212.46 mph by Allen Johnson, July ’12.
PS Motorcycle – 6.785 seconds by Eddie Krawiec, July ’12; 198.35 mph by Krawiec, July ’12.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at http://www.racesonoma.com/tickets.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 1,093; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,074; 3. Spencer Massey, 1,034; 4. Doug Kalitta, 867; 5. Antron Brown, 831; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 809; 7. Clay Millican, 735; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 692; 9. Morgan Lucas, 670; 10. Steve Torrence, 647.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 991; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 951; 3. Johnny Gray, 893; 4. Ron Capps, 887; 5. John Force, 860; 6. Jack Beckman, 851; 7. Courtney Force, 837; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 770; 9. Del Worsham, 768; 10. Bob Tasca III, 743.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 1,271; 2. Allen Johnson, 1,192; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 1,054; 4. Shane Gray, 883; 5.Jason Line, 870; 6. Vincent Nobile, 804; 7. Greg Anderson, 746; 8. Erica Enders-Stevens, 743; 9. V. Gaines, 688; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 628.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.Hector Arana Jr, 671; 2. Michael Ray, 559; 3. Matt Smith, 543; 4. John Hall, 503; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 492; 6. Hector Arana, 473; 7. Adam Arana, 427; 8. Eddie Krawiec, 412; 9. Shawn Gann, 397; 10. Steve Johnson, 392.