2017 NHRA Sonoma Nationals: Thank You, May I Have Another.
TLP made it down to Sonoma Raceway this past weekend to check out the 2017 NHRA Toyota Sonoma Nationals. This was only our 2nd trip to the big league drag races, and as before, it was a feast for the senses. Actually, that's a bit too poetic...frankly, it is almost like this event was trying to kill us, or at least teach us a lesson. Lets go to NHRA races again we said...Lets get chewed up and spit out fully abused from another trip to the strip we said....
Because we'd experienced the show last year, we foolishly assumed we were immune to the shock and awe that is the NHRA experience (oh silly us). Other than some relative calm in the morning, before the crews pulled the cars out of the transporters, the rest of the weekend was a bombardment of nitromethane fumes, ear shattering exhaust (punishing even at idle) and the chest punching and all encompassing shock and awe of 10,000+ horsepower beasts launching down the quarter mile runway.
The sheer fury of watching a NHRA drag race event cannot be understated. Add up the cumulative mental and physical effects of the scores nitromethane powered funny cars, and other classes of drag cars and motorcycles, and one will leave the weekend a bit dazed (and maybe a little confused) about the show. We know that many of our readers stick to what they know (we were just like you). Whether it be sports/stock car racing, vintage events, dirt/street/formula bikes or the stuffiness of a concours event, many of our gear head brethren stay in their lane. Consider this a call to action. If you haven't seen a funny car at 300 plus MPH you owe it to yourself to see it in person at least once...and after your recovery, you'll thank us.
This wasn't a normal weekend. While much of California experienced triple digit heat, Sonoma Raceway was an oasis of perfect temperature and a slight breeze all afternoon. The combination of this ideal weather and the fact that Sonoma Raceway is situated roughly at sea level, creates what many consider the perfect conditions for a drag race. Friday night saw a record breaking run by Robert Hight in the California Highway Patrol/Auto Club entry. Hight put in a 339.87 mph run, the fastest qualifying run in NHRA history, as he jumped to the top of the qualifying order after day one. Not to be left out of the record breaking, Brittany Force, on Sunday, set the Sonoma Raceway speed record with a 331.61 mph run!
This event isn't just about the Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters...the weekend is packed with two and four wheeled racing. There were another 12 classes of cars and bikes competing at the event. Honestly, there would be no way for the two of us to be able to report on all of the weekend action. Starting from the time the first run in the morning, there is a fairly constant queue of cars and motorcycles being called to stage and run, one after another. For a list winners, by class, see below our picture gallery.
Because of the relentless pace and frequency of the action, we have to acknowledge that the NHRA/Mello Yello staging crew are simply remarkable. We get fatigued just watching a hand full of runs, but the folks who make the show go, operate in the thick of all the heat and exhaust for hours upon hours over the 3-day event. We don't quite know how they do it, but they do, and our hats are off to them for making the event work and in a controlled and safe manner.
In quasi-dragracing news: While roaming the paddock looking to get our next fix (gassing) of nitromethane aftermath, we found the car world's totem, none other than The Stig himself (or herself..we just don't know)! The Stig was hanging with his new buddy, three time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown. Brown is one of the new co-host of Top Gear America which premiered Sunday night. While drafting this article we actually watched a little of the new Top Gear America on BBC America....not bad.
In closing, we'll simply let the article's title summarize things. Though we still have a lot to learn about the women, men, machines and culture of the NHRA, this event left us wanting more....more noise, more speed, more sensory pain and more drag racing in general. We look forward to watching the rest of the NHRA season on the small screen. If the folks at NHRA have us back in 2018, we will indeed have another!
As usual, we'll point out that we feel that our photographs do a much better job of giving the feel of the events we attend. Please take a look at the gallery below for a better idea of what this weekend was all about.
Lastly, we must also give a shout out to the staff of Sonoma Raceway. An event that brings tens of thousands of amped-up gear heads together can't be easy to manage, but the staff of Sonoma Raceway make it look effortless while managing a constant flow of people and traffic.
- Steve Torrence; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Terry McMillen; 5. Scott Palmer; 6. Leah Pritchett; 7. Shawn Langdon; 8. Doug Kalitta; 9. Troy Buff; 10. Terry Haddock; 11. Steven Chrisman; 12. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 13. Tony Schumacher; 14. Shawn Reed; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Mike Salinas.
- J.R. Todd; 2. Tim Wilkerson; 3. Courtney Force; 4. Jack Beckman; 5. John Force; 6. Del Worsham; 7. Robert Hight; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9. Ron Capps; 10. Alexis DeJoria; 11. Cruz Pedregon; 12. Jim Campbell; 13. Jeff Diehl; 14. Jonnie Lindberg; 15. Matt Hagan; 16. Tim Gibbons.
- Tanner Gray; 2. Bo Butner; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Drew Skillman; 5. Chris McGaha; 6. Jason Line; 7. Jeg Coughlin; 8. Vincent Nobile; 9. Erica Enders; 10. Matt Hartford; 11. Steve Graham; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. Tom Huggins; 14. Deric Kramer; 15. Allen Johnson.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
- LE Tonglet; 2. Matt Smith; 3. Hector Arana Jr; 4. Jerry Savoie; 5. Karen Stoffer; 6. Andrew Hines; 7. Angie Smith; 8. Eddie Krawiec; 9. Scotty Pollacheck; 10. Chip Ellis; 11. Angelle Sampey; 12. Joey Gladstone; 13. Steve Johnson; 14. Freddie Camarena; 15. Cory Reed; 16. Melissa Surber.
Super Stock -- Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, 10.688, 123.20 def. Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.622, 155.52.
Stock Eliminator -- Brian McClanahan, Chevy Camaro, 9.871, 129.54 def. Dwayne Scheitlin, Dodge Challenger, 10.116, 129.27.
Super Comp -- Val Torres Jr., Dragster, 8.919, 176.84 def. Ryan McClanahan, Dragster, 8.920, 182.85.
Super Gas -- Evan Kowalski, Chevy Corvette, 9.941, 160.14 def. Chris Cannon, Corvette, 9.903, 160.44.
Super Street -- Chris Borges, Chevy Chevelle, 10.921, 137.06 def. Matt Blodgett, Chevy Vega, 10.898, 133.03.
Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com -- Paul Nero, Dragster, 6.708, 199.32 def. Jeff Havens, Dragster, 6.736, 197.68.
Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com -- Bart Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 8.240, 124.11 def. Keith White, Ford Ranger, Foul - Red Light.