Jimmy DeFrank will return to national event competition at this weekend's 25th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals. The three-time Super Stock world champion has had his nose to the grindstone at the family business, California Car Cover Co. (www.calcarcover.com), but back-to-back weekends of racing in the lovely landscape of Sonoma, including the Lucas Oil Series divisional event held just prior to the national event, are something that the youthful Stock and Super Stock pilot cannot resist.
"Sonoma is just such a great facility and town, and we enjoy being there," said DeFrank. "That makes it more fun and sets the tone for the entire race. We'll have some great Italian food nearby at our friend Joe Murdaca's family restaurant, Pietros #1 in Vacaville, and we'll visit with our friends at the racetrack and enjoy that time together. Then we get to race."
DeFrank will tell you that Sonoma holds some of the greatest racing memories for his family and the team, and returning is always a time to reflect and appreciate, and hopefully, the previous successes will spark new achievements.
It was just two years ago at the Northern California facility when DeFrank, driving his B/SA Camaro, won his first Stock Eliminator national event, and he nearly doubled when he finished in the final round in the Super Stock category in his SS/BS Cobalt. In 2005, DeFrank had the honor of racing brother Tony in the Super Stock final in Sonoma (Jimmy got the win light), and page a little deeper into the family history books and one will find that Tony won the Super Stock title there in 1998.
Fast forward to present day and the most recent results show DeFrank picking up a couple of valuable round wins in each of the two categories at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event held at the Sonoma facility just one week ago. The experience and data gained should provide the foundation for a strong weekend ahead.
"The divisional event was really important for helping us prepare for the national," said DeFrank. "We were able to get a closer set-up on the tune-up of the cars, the track, the weather and the wind conditions, as well as on the chassis set-up of the cars so they're comfortable."
The preparation of his DeFrank & Sons California Car Cover Co. entries is one part of the equation; racing at the divisional event also gave DeFrank himself the opportunity to regain a little ease behind the wheel after being away for a while. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., resident hasn't been completely off the radar: he had a blast driving a car owned by fellow sportsman racer Bo Butner in the Super Car Showdown recently, and he enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Butner's crew chiefs, Darrell Heron and Greg Esarey and experience the fresh setting.
Prior to that, DeFrank last joined the NHRA tour three and a half months ago in Las Vegas at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, where he swept the Super Stock category and claimed the 13th national event trophy of his career.
"Believe it or not, when I got back in the car this past weekend in Sonoma, I was very nervous and a bit rusty, so it was good to make some runs and get comfortable again," admitted DeFrank. "I feel better prepared, and it was great to make it to the third round in both cars, but I surely messed up in Super Stock – I gave the finish line up and misjudged the gap. I also didn't feel that my reaction times were as consistent as they should have been.
"Hopefully, I'll be more comfortable and use better judgment this weekend, and as a team we'll feel more comfortable with our decisions, dialing, and setting up the cars each round. With more runs will come more confidence, and it starts by just having fun and enjoying the terrific facility in Sonoma and the great people like [Track Operations Manager] Georgia Seipel."
As per the norm for the sociable driver, DeFrank intends to take the time to appreciate the family atmosphere at the racetrack and the close friends that he has made since he first began racing in 1995. The friends that he has made along the way have become trusted advisors as well.
"Georgia's son, Kyle, is so much help to us, and we will get to watch him race in Top Dragster. We'll also be watching our pal Jeg Coughlin race in Pro Stock this weekend, so it should really be fun. My dad Jim will be guiding us, and our crew chiefs Dave Allison and Tom Kerr will be hard at work as well. Jeff Taylor will be competing at a Division 3 race, but he is my mentor, and he'll be available over the cell phone. With all of their support and the prayer power of my mom Loraine and brother Tony from back home, we already feel very encouraged."
Qualifying for the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman competitors begins at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, with eliminations kicking off at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday.
"I'm nervous, but I'm also very excited," said DeFrank. "Business has been on my mind so much, and we have been so focused there at California Car Cover Co., but when we dial the cars and go down the track, we need to block everything else out and concentrate on the tasks at hand. That can be tough for me, but I know what I need to do.
"I would be so appreciative to just get that comfortable feeling back that we had in Vegas. Racing is so difficult, and you never know what's going to happen – but being comfortable is a good start."
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