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Tonglet Back In The White Gator Saddle Again

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 25 2018

Pro Stock Biker LE Tonglet will reunite with Jerry Savoie this weekend in North Carolina. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Call it a reunion of Louisiana Lightnin’.

LE Tonglet, the 2010 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, will return to Jerry Savoie’s White Alligator Racing beginning with this weekend’s ninth annual NKG Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals at  zMAX Dragway.

Tonglet, a native and resident of Metairie, La., will race the KPK/Nitrofish Suzuki as teammate to WAR team-owner/rider Savoie in the remaining 15 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events. The championship duo combined for eight wins in 2017, with Tonglet winning six races and finishing third in the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings.

“I’m thrilled to have a rider the caliber of LE as my teammate,” said Savoie, the 2016 world champion also known for his day job as an alligator farmer in Cut Off, La. “It’s humbling to have sponsors believe in what we’re doing enough to support this program. I very much look forward to this weekend and all the other races ahead with LE.”

The race in Concord, N.C., near Charlotte, is Round 2 of 16 for Pro Stock Bikes on the 2018 schedule, which began at the 49th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Florida in mid-March.

“We’re super-excited to be back with White Alligator Racing,” said Tonglet, 28. “It’s going to be another great year. We had an awesome season in 2017, and we should be able to build on that.”

Tonglet won the 2010 championship as a rookie, becoming only the third first-year competitor to do so. He won six national events en route to earning the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as NHRA’s top rookie.

Savoie, 59, compiled two victories and four runnerup results during his run to the 2016 championship. Savoie did not lead the point standings until clinching the championship.

Tim Kulungian, who led Savoie to the 2016 PSM championship, will tune both Suzukis.

“LE is a great rider, a great person and a tremendous asset to this race team,” Kulungian said. “He was fast with the team last year, and we expect him to be fast with us again. Having LE on a second bike will help us acquire more data as we work to keep both bikes at the front of the pack. We’re happy to have him back with us.”

Dean Underwood, an engine-builder who currently works with General Motors on its COPO program, will serve as an assistant crew chief for the team. In the past, Underwood has worked with several Pro Stock champions, including Allen Johnson Racing and Elite Motorsports.

“The bike’s going to be set up just like it was last year,” Tonglet said. “We got it all straight towards the end of the season and were running really well. Charlotte should be a great race for us. We came out and won the Four-Wides last year, so I’m looking to do a repeat of that.”

Tonglet and Savoie combined for a 64-23 round-win record a season ago.

“It’s a huge relief having Tim as a crew chief and Jerry as a teammate,” Tonglet said. “We all push each other to be better riders. Tim sets up the bike, and it’s always fast. We don’t have anything to worry about besides riding and it’s going to be a lot of fun. My dad will be there like last year when he was lining me up, and (brother) G.T. will be coming to a lot of the races also.”

Veteran PSM rider Steve Johnson, who started the season with WAR, is pursuing other opportunities.

Joining Tonglet as defending event winners are Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock). The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including the finals on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EDT). The race is the sixth of 24 events for professional categories other than PSM.

Tonglet will compete against a field led by Gainesville winner Eddie Krawiec. The four-time reigning world champion, Krawiec rode to victory in the season-opener in Gainesville with a quarter-mile pass in 6.824-seconds at 198.44 mph aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod. The New Jersey native scored his sixth event victory and third consecutive at Gainesville.

“Right now, I’m riding with the confidence that no one can beat me,” said Krawiec, who defeated H-D teammate and five-time world champ Andrew Hines in the final. “I have a great motorcycle underneath me and a great team behind me. Any time a rider or a driver has confidence it just makes them that much better.”

The No. 2 qualifier, Krawiec defeated Tonglet, Johnson and 2009 world champ Hector Arana before meeting No. 1 qualifier Hines in the final.

Additionally, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service will make the third of 12 stops in 2018 at zMAX Dragway. Mike Castellana is the defending Pro Mod winner, which made its four-wide racing debut last year. The event also features competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing future stars of the sport.

Fans will have an opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. Legends scheduled to attend and be available for meet-and-greets, autograph sessions and other activities during the Four-Wide Nationals include Shirley Muldowney, Buddy Martin and Bobby Warren. Fans also can interact with their favorite drivers via an exclusive pit pass.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying is set for 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday, with the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday.

To purchase general admission or reserved seats, please visit www.zMAXDragway.com or call the box office at (800) 455-FANS (3267). Tickets for children 13-and-under are free with any paid adult ticket.

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Point standings (top-10) heading into the ninth annual NKG Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals at 
zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.:

Top Fuel _1. (tie) Tony Schumacher, 385; Steve Torrence, 385; 3. Antron Brown, 324; 4. Clay Millican, 309; 5. Doug Kalitta, 304; 6. Leah Pritchett, 284; 7. Brittany Force, 270; 8. Richie Crampton, 247; 9. Terry McMillen, 240; 10. Scott Palmer, 214.

Funny Car _1. Jack Beckman, 415; 2. Matt Hagan, 363; 3. J.R. Todd, 347; 4. Courtney Force, 342; 5. Robert Hight, 326; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 298; 7. Ron Capps, 289; 8. Shawn Langdon, 237; 9. Jonnie Lindberg, 221; 10. Del Worsham, 219.

Pro Stock_1. Bo Butner, 374; 2. Greg Anderson, 337; 3. Chris McGaha, 330; 4. Deric Kramer, 322; 5. Vincent Nobile, 319; 6. Jason Line, 303; 7. Erica Enders, 292; 8. Tanner Gray, 287; 9. Drew Skillman, 277; 10. Alex Laughlin, 264.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Eddie Krawiec, 123; 2. Andrew Hines, 107; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 76; 4. Hector Arana, 71; 5. (tie) Steve Johnson, 53; Angelle Sampey, 53; 7. Karen Stoffer, 52; 8. Cory Reed, 51; 9. Joey Gladstone, 39; 10. Hector Arana Jr., 38.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 25 2018
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