SONOMA — The Force wasn’t quite strong enough in Sonoma.
John Force, in his 220th career NHRA final, ran a faster time in the finals than Ron Capps, but Capps’ quicker reaction time propelled him to the Funny Car title during the 26th version of the Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, Sunday.
It was the 40th career victory for Capps, and second of the season after winning earlier this year in Phoenix.
“This track has a lot of great moments for me,” Capps said. “To have your family here, to grow up near here (San Luis Obispo), and I met my wife and got married in the Bay Area.
“I didn’t want (team owner) Don (Schumacher) to get on an airplane and go home without a car in the winner’s circle. That was a huge relief.”
This was Don Schumacher Racing’s 16th win of the season and 213th of his storied career as an owner.
Having Force sitting next to him in a final round, Capps said he has a secret about racing the 15-time NHRA champion.
“I picture him in his underwear,” Capps said, laughing. “And unfortunately I’ve seen him in his underwear, so that’s not a good thought.
“(Force) was a big part of my career early on,” Capps said. “He taught me a lot. It’s big to look and see that you’re racing him.”
Shawn Langdon, the Top Fuel points leader, extended his season lead, racing to a victory over former Riverside Community College roommate Morgan Lucas in the Wine Country.
The victory was Langdon’s fourth of the season in seven finals appearances and fifth victory of his Top Fuel career, which only started at the beginning of last season for the Al-Anabi Racing Team.
“Having four wins, just over halfway through the year . . . I almost went four years without having a win,” Langdon said. “Just to get one win, it’s gratifying.
“To get four wins at this point in the season, we feel that we have the car to beat right now, a strong running car. If I can keep my head on straight, I think we’ll be alright.”
Langdon now has 1,210 points on the season, with Spencer Massey second (1,108) second and Tony Schumacher third (1,106).
Vincent Nobile, only the No. 8 qualifier in Pro Stock, put away all four of his competitors in Sunday’s action to claim his seventh career win. Nobile, a 22-year-old college student at Adelphi University in New York, won the season-opener in Pomona, but fell into a rut until Sunday’s win.
“I definitely don’t like these dry spells, that’s for sure,” Nobile said. “To get this win and hopefully keep the momentum going, that’s our game plan (for the rest of the season).”
Nobile also can’t wait to put an end to being labeled a school boy.
“I have one more year and I won’t be considered the college student anymore and I’ll be proud of it,” he said. “I can’t wait to be done, to be honest. I’ll be able to stay more focused on racing.”
The Arana family ran well all weekend in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, but Hector Jr. was the last one standing after defeating Matt Smith, the No. 1 qualifier, in the final.
Arana Jr.’s time of 6.878 was slower than Smith’s 6.877, but a better reaction time lit up his win light first.
He was a three-time runner-up in 2012 with no victories, but Sunday’s win was the fourth of the season for the 24-year-old.
“I had the motivation to get back on top and hoist one of these (winner’s trophies),” Arana Jr. said. “And knowing that Vincent was in the finals, I knew I had to get the win because I thought he could get the win.”
NOTES: Langdon set a new Top Fuel track record of 3.743 seconds when he defeated Bob Vandergriff (3.786) in the first round. . . . Matt Hagan, the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car, lost to No. 16 qualifier Alexis DeJoria in the opening round when DeJoria was able to get her car to the line first after both cars spun their tires midway through the run. . . . Lucas put away No. 1 qualifier David Grubnic in the second round. . . . Johnny Gray’s car blew up in Funny Car quarterfinals. Half of the body stayed on the car and Gray couldn’t see, eventually ending up running into the wall. He was noticeably upset after being opposed to the new tether system implemented last week in Denver. . . . Mike Edwards, the top Pro Stock qualifier, fell to Nobile in the second round after having a first-round bye due to the field only being 15 cars. . . . Hector Arana Sr. lost to Smith in the semifinals. . . . Hector Sr.’s other son, Adam, lost in first round to Jerry Sovoie.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.