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Tonglet Rides To Mickey Thompson Win; Field Set At Sonoma

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 30 2017

Pro Stock Biker LE Tonglet rode to a cash bonus at Sonoma on Saturday. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

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LE Tonglet raced to victory in his first career NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle during the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals on Saturday. Tonglet bagged a $7,500 payday in the all-star race featuring the top eight Pro Stock Motorcycle riders during the last 12 months. 

Tonglet and his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki defeated three-time world champion Angelle Sampey and five-time world champ Andrew Hines before facing Eddie Krawiec, another three-time world champ, in the final. Tonglet’s quarter-mile pass of 6.827-seconds at 196.07 mph secured the victory.

“This is the first time I’ve been in the battle,” said Tonglet, the 2010 world champ and teammate to reigning champion Jerry Savoie. “To be able to win it on the first go-around is pretty amazing. My brother (GT Tonglet) won it back in 2005 and to be able to follow in his footsteps just means a lot to me.” 

In other professional qualifying at Sonoma Raceway, Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned pole positions and will lead their respective classes into Sunday’s eliminations during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. 

The race in Northern California’s wine country is the second stop of NHRA’s annual summertime three-event Western Swing that began at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., last weekend.

Smith powered his Polaris Victory Magnum to a run of 6.771-seconds at 198.70 mph during the final qualifying session. Smith posted his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 26th of his career. He will face Steve Johnson and his Suzuki in the first round of eliminations. 

“I feel good _ very good _ heading into tomorrow,” said Smith, a two-time world champion. “We struggled all weekend with blowing the (rear) tire. We were running big speeds but just couldn’t get off the line. Ended up being a tire problem, but we’re excited for tomorrow.”

Hector Arana Jr. secured second on the ladder after a pass in 6.773-seconds at 197.91 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell, while Tonglet sits third at 6.783/196.73. Arana Jr., who lost the pole to Smith by 0.002-seconds, qualified second for the fourth time in the last five races.

“I like this race a lot,” said Arana Jr., son of 2009 world champion Hector Sr. “I’ve won here before in 2013 so I know first-hand it’s a nice race to win. We’re going to do our best to go out there, take it one round at a time and see what happens. The first thing you need to do to win is put yourself in a position to win, and we’ve done that yet again.

“For a minute or two we were upset over here about No.2. I think maybe we were being a little greedy because being No. 2 is something most people would take in a heartbeat if it was offered. After thinking about it and taking a few deep breaths, we’re obviously super happy to have such a consistent bike over the past five races. We’ve been No. 2 qualifier four times and we were No. 3 the other time so we’re right where we want to be. Maybe not getting No. 1 here will motivate us to work even harder and push ourselves harder to be better. If you look at it that way it’s really a good thing. We’ll get there.”

Arana Jr.’s run of record came during a first-round loss in the Pro Bike Battle. Hector Jr.’s elapsed time over Savoie was negated by an 0.006-second red-light start. Despite the foul, the elapsed time still counted towards qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations. Arana Jr. will enjoy lane choice when he takes on No. 15 qualifier Cory Reed, who had a best pass of 6.889-seconds at 191.46 mph aboard his Victory. Arana Jr. and Reed will be meeting for the first time this season.

“We have a fast bike that’s right there where we want it to be,” Arana Jr. said. “I said before the race I wanted to double-up and win the Battle and the race itself. Then I was asked if I had to pick one or the other, which one would I choose. I said the race, so my primary goal is still attainable.”

In Top Fuel, no one was able to best the track record E.T. Pritchett posted on Friday. Pritchett earned her fifth pole of the season and sixth of her career with a 1,000-foot run of 3.669-seconds at 304.80 mph in her Don Schumacher Racing dragster. She will face Terry Haddock in Round One. 

“This is the highest confidence we can have heading into a Sunday,” Pritchett said. “Keeping in mind that anything can happen on Sunday _no matter who you’re racing. Today we took this track extremely serious trying to get down it in similar conditions for tomorrow.” 

Brittany Force of John Force Racing wheeled her Monster Energy dragster into the No. 2 spot after a pass of 3.689-seconds at 330.63 mph. She is paired against Steve Chrisman in Sunday’s opener.

Hight’s Funny Car national record speed of 339.87 mph via a 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.807-seconds from Friday earned himself and crew chief Jimmy Prock back-to-back pole positions. Hight, who recorded his third pole of the season and 52nd of his career, will line up against Tim Gibbons to open eliminations. 

“Things are definitely going in the right direction for us,” said Hight, driver of the Auto Club of Southern California/California Highway Patrol Chevrolet Camaro SS. “It’s a big deal. Everyone wants to talk about sweeping ‘The Swing.’ We’ve got one leg down and coming here to make the quickest run in history is pretty awesome.” Hight won the Funny Car portion of the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Morrison, Colo., last Sunday.

John Force, Hight’s team-owner and 16-time world champion, powered his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Camaro SS to a pass of 3.848-seconds at 337.16 mph to secure the No. 2 slot. “Brute Force” will face Jeff Diehl and his Toyota Solara in the first round of eliminations. 

Force added another line to his resume Saturday during the fourth round of time trials, when he exceed the 337 mph barrier for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. “I was so excited,” Force said. “It was trucking, and the front end stayed down. (But) it ain’t about speed. I’m about E.T. I leave speed to the Highway Patrol. We don’t look too shabby. We’re getting better. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Skillman earned the top spot in Pro Stock with his quarter-mile run of 6.538-seconds at 211.36 mph during the third qualifying session. Skillman logged his second pole of the season and fifth of his career. 

“Momentum is the word of the weekend for us,” said Skillman, driver of the Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro. “Our team is really positive, momentum is moving forward and our engine is really strong right now.” Skillman, who won the Factory Hot Rod class at Bandimere Speedway, will be racing to secure a third consecutive victory Sunday.

FOX Sports 1 will re-air one hour of Saturday’s time trials at 3 p.m. (EDT) Sunday as a lead-in to three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m.

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _1. Leah Pritchett, 3.669-seconds, 328.38 mph  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, 8.133, 86.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.689, 330.63  vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 5.152, 141.82; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.694, 331.28  vs. 14. Shawn Reed, 4.116, 234.33; 4. Antron Brown, 3.705, 329.42  vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.860, 314.02; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.709, 328.30  vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.828, 324.59; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.718, 328.78  vs. 11. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.824, 296.18; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.722, 327.59 vs. 10. Mike Salinas, 3.779, 324.67; 8. Clay Millican, 3.744, 328.54  vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.757, 315.12.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.807, 339.87  vs. 16. Tim Gibbons, Chevy Impala, 7.251, 101.51; 2. John Force, Camaro, 3.848, 337.16  vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.093, 310.48; 3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.854, 328.70  vs. 14. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.079, 311.77; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.889, 329.91  vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.019, 310.84; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.896, 327.43  vs. 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.000, 321.96; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.904, 330.39  vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.959, 328.94; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.926, 331.20  vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.947, 329.50; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.935, 325.30  vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.935, 319.60.

Pro Stock _ 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.538, 211.73  vs. Bye; 2. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.546, 211.66  vs. 15. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.949, 211.89; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.553, 212.46  vs. 14. Tom Huggins, Dodge Dart, 6.709, 206.80; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.553, 212.13  vs. 13. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.679, 209.26; 5. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.570, 211.20  vs. 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.625, 209.14; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.571, 211.89  vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.614, 209.20; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.576, 211.63  vs. 10. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.610, 209.17; 8. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.578, 211.03  vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.598, 210.97.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.771, 198.70  vs. 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.890, 196.56; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.773, 197.91  vs. 15. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.889, 191.46; 3. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.783, 197.02  vs. 14. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.888, 197.10; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.784, 197.33  vs. 13. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.874, 195.14; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.791, 196.99  vs. 12. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.844, 199.55; 6. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.811, 195.96  vs. 11. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.841, 194.94; 7. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.811, 196.30  vs. 10. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.839, 196.33; 8. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.835, 195.62  vs. 9. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 198.88.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Scott Bottorff, 6.992, 191.08; 18. Charles Sullivan, 7.140, 187.36; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.237, 184.83; 20. James Surber, 7.353, 185.23; 21. Andie Rawlings, 7.618, 170.17.

Saturday’s final round-by-round results from the fourth annual Mickey Thompson NHRA Pro Bike Battle at Sonoma Raceway. The event is a race-within-a-race based upon qualifying throughout the last year:

ROUND ONE _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.784-seconds, 195.05 mph def. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, Foul/Red Light; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.830, 196.96 def. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 10.261, 69.39; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.851, 198.88 def. Chip Ellis, 6.950, 195.62; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.866, 199.55 def. Matt Smith, 6.879, 198.00; 

SEMIFINALS _ Krawiec, 6.840, 196.67 def. Savoie, Foul /Red Light; Tonglet, 6.783, 197.02 def. Hines, 6.844, 197.42;

FINAL _ Tonglet, 6.827, 196.07 def. Krawiec, Foul/Center line. 

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 30 2017
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