Hot-rod fans can do a lot more than watch the fastest cars on wheels blast off at Infineon Raceway this week.
With the NHRA Nationals' annual return to Sonoma, fans will have several chances to do the usual interactions: mingle with racers, ask questions, get autographs and take pictures.
But fans also are invited to wine and dine with racing legends, eat ice cream dished by their favorite race teams, walk on the Infineon dragstrip and watch a movie with the racing legends who inspired it.
In addition, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme will be inducted into Infineon's Wall of Fame during a special pre-finals ceremony Sunday.
The 24th annual FRAM/Autolite NHRA Nationals start Friday with qualifying and culminate with Sunday's final eliminations. Pro divisions start their first rounds Friday at 3:15 p.m., second rounds at 6:15 p.m.
But fan festivities kick off this evening with the fifth annual Eric Medlen Nitro Night Dinner at Stone Tree Golf Club in Novato. A popular Northern California driver, Medlen died in a testing accident in 2007 at a Florida racetrack. Winner of Sonoma's 2006 NHRA Nationals, Medlen is memorialized at the track each July.
Nitro Night features NHRA drivers Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon and Melanie Troxel. All proceeds from the evening benefit Speedway Children's Charities. To purchase tickets ($125), contact Denise Silver at (707) 933-3950.
Here are other fan events:
1 and 2 p.m. Friday: Track Talk, Q&A sessions with top NHRA racers, including Larry Dixon, Del Worsham and Antron Brown in the Wine Country Winner's Circle.
5:30 p.m. Friday: "Legends in Sonoma" autograph session with Shirley Muldowney in the Wine Country Winner's Circle.
10 a.m. Saturday: "Kick-off to the Countdown Party" with NHRA drivers contending for the championship available for a Q&A and autographs in the Wine Country Winner's Circle.
12:45 p.m. Saturday: "Legends in Sonoma" Muldowney and Don Garlits will answer questions and sign autographs in the Wine Country Winner's Circle.
6 p.m. Saturday: Special benefit screening of hot-rod classic "Heart Like a Wheel," with Muldowney and Garlits at the Sebastiani Theater, 476 First St. East on Sonoma's downtown plaza. Tickets ($50) available at the Sebastiani or call (800) 870-7223.
8:30 a.m. Sunday: "Legends in Sonoma" track walk with Muldowney, Garlits and Prudhomme leading fans around the dragstrip before the finals. This special upgrade ($20) is available at the track ticket windows; start time may change.
9 a.m. Sunday: Wall of Fame induction with Prudhomme at the Wine Country Winner's Circle.
After finals Sunday: Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social with teams scooping free ice cream for fans on the dragstrip, compliments of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream.
Throughout the three-day weekend, fans can tour a collection of vintage front-engine Top Fuel dragsters, nostalgia Funny Car floppers, Alcohol Fuel dragsters, gassers at a nostalgia car show. A second car show - "Blast on the Grass," on the lawn next to Gate 1 - showcases hot rods, muscle cars, exotics and rat rods.