NHRA Heads to Sonoma for Second Stop of Western Swing This Weekend
The two winningest drivers in their respective classes in NHRA history, John Force and Tony Schumacher, head to Sonoma Raceway on a roll after scoring historic victories on Sunday. It marked the first win of the season for both legendary drivers, who have earned the most world championships and victories in Funny Car and Top Fuel, respectively.
This weekend's Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals marks the second stop on the NHRA's famed Western Swing, which kicked off last weekend at Bandimere Speedway near Denver. Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners at the first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series finals in history to be televised live on a national broadcast network.
Force defeated his daughter Courtney in a close Funny Car final. He finished in 3.965 seconds at 319.45 mph in his Realtree Peak Antifreeze Camaro to her 3.963 at 314.75. It was the elder Force's first win of the season, seventh at Denver and 144th of his career. Force hadn't won a race since June 2015 in Epping, N.H.
"I didn't have a monkey on my back, it was a gorilla," said Force, the 16-time world champ who at age 67 becomes the oldest driver in NHRA history to win a Funny Car race. "Let's face it, the competition is the best I've ever seen. It's tough to race my little girl there and it was a close one. I can do this game. I love it. I don't have anywhere to go. I am going to keep doing this. I want to keep building this sport."
California native Ron Capps enters the weekend as the points leader in Funny Car with four wins so far this season. Capps is a four-time winner in Sonoma and will look to extend his points lead with another wine country win.
Schumacher, an eight-time world champ, also ended a lengthy winless streak and claimed his first win of the season and 82nd of his career. He outran the defending world champion and current Top Fuel points leader, Antron Brown, in the final round with a run of 3.802 at 324.28 in the U.S. Army dragster.
"To win one of these trophies you have to beat some bad dudes, and we beat a bunch of them today from Doug Kalitta to Antron Brown," said Schumacher, who outran Kalitta in round one, top qualifier Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals and Clay Millican in the semis to advance to the titan final round meeting with Brown. "I've enjoyed great moments in racing during my career, but coming back from a huge deficit when people have counted you out like we have done this weekend is the most satisfying to me."
With the runner-up finish, his sixth final round of the season, Brown maintained the points lead, 57 over second place Kalitta.
In Pro Stock, Johnson continued his long run of success at Bandimere Speedway as he won the event for a record seventh time in his 10th consecutive final round appearance here, also a record in his category. He powered his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart to a 6.982 at 197.34 to hold off the Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro of Vincent Nobile, which trailed with a 7.037 at 196.82.
He said his semifinal win over Anderson was especially sweet. Anderson and points leader Jason Line, who lost in the semis to Nobile, combined to win the first 13 races of the season.
"I am sure I am speaking for everyone in the pits, but to break that juggernaut is big," Johnson said. "We might have got a break or two along the way, but I guess that was that mountain magic."
Hines became the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in history, capturing his 45th career win by outrunning teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round. Hines took his third win of the season and fourth at this event by posting a track record time of 7.134 at 188.33 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to hold off Krawiec's Screamin' Eagle Harley, which trailed with a 7.148 at 187.21.
"It doesn't get much better racing up here in the mountain with the thin air requires a different setup," said Hines, who trimmed Krawiec's points lead to 109. "Coming back to win on the mountain, it means a lot. My team has my motorcycle really dialed in right now. It is our third final in a row and I am just riding the wave. I don't think I've ever put eight runs like that together in a weekend. The bike is such a joy to ride right now."
Action gets under way in Sonoma on Friday with two rounds of pro qualifying at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Final qualifying takes place on Saturday (1:10 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.), with final eliminations set for Sunday at 11 a.m. (all times Pacific). For the second consecutive weekend, race-day action will be broadcast live on FOX beginning at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT.
For tickets to this weekend's Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, visit www.sonomaraceway.com or call 800-870-7223.