As this month’s Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals drag racing weekend nears, the local chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities is getting ready for the 12th annual Eric Medlen Nitro Night Charity Dinner, to be held Thursday, July 26.

Promising “a new spin on a fan-favorite event,” Sonoma Raceway announced that this year, the event will focus on honoring someone within the drag racing community who embodies Medlen’s best qualities and has shown support of charitable efforts.

The pre-NHRA drag event has honored the memory of the late Eric Medlen since 2007. The 33-year-old competitor from Oakdale died four days after a driving accident at the Gainesville Raceway that year. He won the Funny Car Championship in Sonoma in 2006. He is fondly remembered by friends and family for his joyous spirit and outgoing personality, as well as his love for fun and supporting children.

The inaugural recipient of the SCC Eric Medlen Award is Ron Capps, the 2016 NHRA Funny Car Champion. Capps, a California native, is a long-time supporter of the Sonoma Chapter of SCC, attending almost every NHRA Tour de Charity karting event and Eric Medlen Nitro Night event since their inceptions. Capps has also donated generous ticket and experience packages to support SCC’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s an unbelievable honor,” said Capps. “Not just the fact that it’s the inaugural Eric Medlen Spirit Award, but the fact that it came from Steve Page and his group in Sonoma – I consider them family.” Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parks Dodge Charger Funny Car, recalled, “My dad took me there as a kid, and whenever someone asks me what my favorite race track is, it doesn’t take long for me to say Sonoma.”

Nitro Night will feature a reception, wine-country dinner, a charity drawing and special tributes to Medlen and Capps, as well as a Q&A hosted by emcee and 2012 NHRA Funny Car Champion Jack Beckman.

It will be held at Viansa Sonoma, less than five miles from the raceway, which offers unparalleled 270-degree views of the Sonoma Valley. The event serves as a kick-off to the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, to be held July 27-29. This year’s event marks the series’ 31st annual visit to the Sonoma Valley, and will feature professional competition in the Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes.

Tickets for the evening are $150 per person or $1,500 per table, and include wine/beer and dinner. All proceeds benefit qualified youth groups in Sonoma County in Medlen’s name through Speedway Children’s Charities.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Eric Medlen Nitro Night Dinner, visit https://bit.ly/2KVucZJ or contact Cheri Plattner at 933-3950, cplattner@sonomaraceway.com.