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NHRA’s Tour de Charity on Sonoma Raceway horizon

Ron Capps, seen winning the Funny Car division at last year’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, along with former Funny Car champion Jack Beckman, will participate in the 12th annual NHRA Tour de Charity, hosted by Speedway Children’s Charities, on Saturday, March 22, at the raceway’s kart track. David Bolling/Index-Tribune

Ron Capps, seen winning the Funny Car division at last year’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, along with former Funny Car champion Jack Beckman, will participate in the 12th annual NHRA Tour de Charity, hosted by Speedway Children’s Charities, on Saturday, March 22, at the raceway’s kart track. David Bolling/Index-Tribune

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Leading up to the return of the NHRA Sonoma Nationals weekend to the Valley in July, Sonoma Raceway, with its popular Wednesday Night Drags program currently underway, is offering drag-racing fans the chance to go head-to-head against racers from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

The 12th annual NHRA Tour de Charity, hosted by Speedway Children’s Charities, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, will be held on raceway’s kart track on Saturday, March 22, with all proceeds benefiting Sonoma County youth groups.

Funny Car stars Ron Capps and Jack Beckman will return as the featured NHRA competitors at this year’s event. Among the most recognizable stars in the sport, Beckman is the 2012 NHRA Funny Car Champion, while Capps is fresh off his 2013 Sonoma Nationals victory. Capps and Beckman have been regular Tour de Charity participants since its inception, and look forward to returning each year.

Limited to 40 fans, the event cost is $325 and includes a full day of karting with the drivers, autographs, lunch, prizes given throughout the day, and the chance to compete in a 10-lap timed qualifying event for a grand prize, the NHRA Experience, which includes two tickets to the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. All karting levels are welcome.

The Simraceway Performance Driving Center, which operates the karting center, provides the karts, race suits, classroom instruction and on-track pointers for all competitors.

To reserve your seat in the NHRA Tour de Charity, visit sonoma.speedwaycharities.org/events/nhra_tour_de_charity_karting.  For more information, contact Cheri Plattner at 933-3950 or cplattner@racesonoma.com.

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Sonoma Raceway’s 2014 Big O Tires major events schedule will open with the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival on May 17 and 18, and will close with the Classic Sports Racing Group Charity Challenge on Oct. 4 and 5.

In between will be the popular NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend – the Valley’s largest attended motorsports event – taking place Friday through Sunday, June 20 to 22.

Then the annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals weekend will be held July 25 through 27, preceded by the NHRA Division 7 Drag Races, July 18 through 20.

Following the IndyCar Series weekend (Aug. 22 through 24) will be the FIA World Touring Car Championship being held from Sept. 20 to 21.

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The 26th season of the popular Wednesday Night Drags, packaged with the motorsport of drifting for a “Drag and Drift” program, will run at Sonoma Raceway through Nov. 12.

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, the gates open for Wednesday’s “Drag and Drift” at 3:30 p.m., with time runs beginning at 4, and drag racing taking place from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Drifting runs  from 4 to 10 p.m.

Cost for the Wednesday Night Drags cost is $25 for competitors, $15 for students with a high school ID, and $10 for spectators. Season-long passes are also available, and children ages 12-years-old-and-under, and parking, are free. The drifting costs are $40 for pre-registration, with no on-site registration.

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A special American Federation of Motorcyclists event will take place at Sonoma Raceway the weekend of May 3 and 4, featuring the return to the Valley of professional motorcycle road racing, which will be held alongside amateur and semi-pro racers.

Tickets will be available at the gate for $25; children ages 12-and-under, along with parking, are free. For more information, visit afmracing.org.

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To purchase 2014 major-event tickets and ticket packages, including the all-encompassing Track Pass, for more details on the Wednesday Night Drags or for general Sonoma Raceway information, call 800-870-RACE (7223), or visit racesonoma.com or ticketmaster.com.