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Charity Challenge ends Sonoma Raceway season

This weekend’s CSRG Charity Challenge is Sonoma Raceway’s 2013 major event season finale and will feature Approximately 200 vintage racecars gracing the Valley’s 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, with the proceeds benefiting the Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, which is the charitable arm of the raceway. David Bolling/Index-Tribune

This weekend’s CSRG Charity Challenge is Sonoma Raceway’s 2013 major event season finale and will feature Approximately 200 vintage racecars gracing the Valley’s 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, with the proceeds benefiting the Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, which is the charitable arm of the raceway. David Bolling/Index-Tribune

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The 2013 Big O Tires major event season finale weekend at Sonoma Raceway is the Classic Sports Racing Group’s 10th straight Charity Challenge taking place this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6, with approximately 200 vintage racecars gracing the Valley’s twisting 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, and the fundraiser includes charity track rides and a race-themed raffle.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Sonoma Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities, which is the charitable arm of the raceway. Since 2002, Speedway Children’s Charities has contributed more than $500,000 to Sonoma County youth organizations.

One of the weekend highlights is the Charity Track Rides at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. For a $75 to $450 donation, depending upon the car chosen, fans can take a thrilling, three-lap ride around the road course in one of some 30 different participating racecars. The hot laps always sell out quickly, so early track arrival to reserve a spot is recommended. Pace car rides and checkered flag waving opportunities are also available.

Also included in the race weekend will be a charity raffle – proceeds benefiting SCC – with tickets costing $10 each, $25 for three, and $50 for a “stretch.” Prizes include a GoPro camera and 2014 Sonoma Raceway season passes and driver-autographed paraphernalia. Raffle tickets can be purchased in the garages, adjacent to the Panasonic Technology Center.

Highlighting the Charity Challenge will be the 1950s sports cars and marques such as Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus and will include several well-known American “Specials” from the golden era of U.S. sports car racing, as well as a full array of formula cars, Trans-Am and production sports cars.

The featured drivers racing in the Charity Challenge are veteran open-wheel racer Lyn St. James – one of just seven women to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 and the first woman to be named the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year (1992) – hitting the track in an ex-factory Trans-Am Boss 302 Mustang, which won the 1970 Trans-Am Series championship; four-time Grand Prix motorcycle World Champion Eddie Lawson piloting an Osella PA 3/5; Francois Castaing, a 27-year veteran automotive executive with Renault, American Motors and Chrysler; Sausalito’s John Hildebrand, father of INDYCAR driver and Formula Drift competitor JR Hildebrand, in his 1968 Chevy Camaro; and Drew Alcazar, chief executive officer of Russo and Steele Collectible Auto Auctioneers, driving a Ford Shelby Mustang GT350.

Eight race groups with qualifying and races will be held on both Saturday (Oct. 5) and Sunday (Oct. 6). Tickets, which can be purchased at the gate, cost $25 each day or $40 for a two-day pass. High school and college students as well as military and veterans are admitted free with appropriate identification.

The Raceway Café will be open each day and there will also be a selection of Northern California craft beers, including Scrimshaw, Racer 5, North Coast 101, Moylan’s, Ace Hard Cider and a sampling of Sonoma Valley wines.

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While the major event season ends this weekend, Sonoma Raceway’s popular Wednesday Night Drags program continues every Wednesday evening through Nov. 13, and includes the motorsport of drifting and the featured “Top the Cops.”

Designed to help take illegal racing off the streets and bring it to a safe, legal and controlled environment, the “Top the Cops” program allows high school students the opportunity to drag race against law enforcement officers, who will be driving their squad cars.

The Wednesday Night Drags are open to anyone with a driver’s license, who can race any vehicle or motorcycle they bring to the world-famous quarter-mile drag strip, provided it passes a simple tech inspection.

Gates open for “Drag and Drift” at 3:30, time runs begin at 4, and the racing takes place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. – drifting from 4 to 10 p.m. – with the Wednesday Night Drags cost being $25 for competitors, $15 for students with a high school ID and $10 for spectators. The drifting costs are $40 with pre-registration and $50 at the gate.

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For more details on the CSRG Charity Challenge, the Wednesday Night Drags or for general Sonoma Raceway information, call 800-870-RACE (7223) or visit csrgracing.org, racesonoma.com or ticketmaster.com. Camping is also available for all major events.