The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rolled in to California’s Wine Country over the weekend for the 30th annual NHRA Toyota Sonoma Nationals. The event featured a national record for speed, while some racers continued their dominance in their respective classes.
In Top Fuel Steve Torrence took home the hardware for the fifth time this season and his first at Sonoma Raceway. Torrence began his march through eliminations against Troy Coughlin Jr. in round one. Torrence put a 3.750 @327 mph to a tire smoking 4.401@ 208 mph. In round two he would take on Doug Kalitta and the Mac tools dragster. Torrence ran a 3.760 @327 mph to another tire smoking 7.030 @106 mph. In the semifinal round, he would pair up against the Monster Energy dragster of Brittany Force. Force gave him a run for his money but came up short with a 3.882 @315 mph to a 3.753 @329 mph. This would match him up against three-time world champion Antron Brown and the Mac Tools team. Brown was fresh off his win one week ago in Denver. Torrence again flexed his muscles with a 3.783 @329 mph to Brown’s 3.974 @281 mph. This was Torrence’s 14th career victory.
Funny Car newbie JR Todd put the DHL Toyota in the winner’s circle for his first career Funny Car victory. Todd has nine Top Fuel wins in his career and becomes the 16th driver to have a victory in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Todd, in the opening round, would take on teammate Alexis Dejoria and the Tequila Patron team. Todd picked up the round win with a whole shot win. His reaction time was .083 to Dejoria .137. Todd put up a 3.953 @326mph to a quicker but losing 3.950 @309 mph. His round two match up would be 16-time world champion John Force and the Peak team. Todd laid down a 3.973 @324 mph to a 4.030 @323 mph. In the semifinal round Todd picked up the most bizarre win of the day against Fast Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero team. Todd’s DHL Camry lost traction as soon as he put his foot on the throttle while Beckman’s Dodge Charger broke around 200 to 300 feet down track. With Beckman coasting with a substantial lead Todd got back on the throttle and was just able to run Beckman down to capture the round win with a 5.741 @283 mph to a 5.920 @118 mph. His final round opponent would be Tim Wilkerson. Wilkerson was fresh off a catastrophic weekend in Denver in which both his primary and backup car were damaged due to power wheel stands. The team made a detour from Denver back to Indiana to pick up another chassis that was being refurbished. The team arrived at 10 a.m. Thursday and worked all day to prepare the car for the weekend. Todd put up a 4.049 @323 mph to a 6.823 @100 mph.
In Pro Stock, rookie Tanner Gray marched his Gray Motorsports Camaro to the victory. He picked up his third win of the year by taking down Bo Buntner in the final round with a 6.572 @210 mph to a 6.577 @210 mph.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle 2010 World Champion LE Tonglet scored his 15th career win and fifth this season. He also scored a victory in the specialty Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle which took place on Saturday. Tonglet’s final round match up on Sunday with Matt Smith was decided by .0002 second at the finish line. Tonglet put a .044 reaction time to a .037 and ran a 6.783@ 197 mph to a 6.790 @196 mph.
On Friday, Funny Car racer Tommy Johnson escaped injury when his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger had an axle issue, causing the right rear wheel to come off the race car at over 250 mph and turned his car into a tricycle and forcing the car to make a hard right hand turn. With Johnson’s skill and experience, he was able to just lightly brush the wall and then bring the car to a safe stop and climb out.
Robert Hight, supporting the California Highway Patrol colors, set a new national speed record at 339.87 mph.