Thun­der In Wine Coun­try For Mello Yello Se­ries

Riverbank News - - SPORTS - By JEFF BURGHARDT

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Rac­ing Se­ries cruised into Sonoma Race­way for the Toy­ota NHRA Sonoma Na­tion­als the fi­nal week­end in July. The Fire Breath­ing Ni­tro Top Fuel Drag­sters and Funny Cars lit up the night sky dur­ing Fri­day night qual­i­fy­ing. Clay Mil­li­can and his Parts Plus/Great Clips team thun­dered to the num­ber one qual­i­fy­ing spot with a 3.700 @ 327 mph. Court­ney Force and her Ad­vance Auto Parts Chevy mo­tored their way to the top spot in Funny Car with a 3.910 @ 326 mph.

Top Fuel new­comer Blake Alexan­der cap­tured his sec­ond ca­reer vic­tory and sec­ond on the sea­son. Alexan­der took down Mike Salinas in the open­ing round but not with­out some ex­cite- ment. Salinas’s drag­ster got loose around 600 feet down the track and crossed over the cen­ter line into Alexan­der’s lane nearly col­lid­ing with him. In round two Alexan­der would take down three-time Top Fuel champ An­tron Brown. Brown put a solid 3.822 @ 317 mph on the score­board but it would not be enough to beat Alexan­der’s 3.791 @ 330 mph. He would then take on Scott Palmer and the Cat Spot Kitty Lit­ter team. Palmer left first but lost trac­tion and could only watch as Alexan­der thun­dered by with a 3.878 @ 313 mph. In the fi­nal round he would take on seven-time cham­pion Tony Schu­macher and the US Army team. Schu­macher got out to a big lead at the start with a .081 re­ac­tion time to a .157. Schu­macher be­gan to lose trac­tion around 400 feet and Alexan­der slid by and started haz­ing the tires as well but was able to hang on for the win.

Robert Hight scored in the funny car class. Hight grabbed his 43rd ca­reer win. Hight took down Tim Wilk­er­son in the open­ing round with a 3.974 @ 322 mph to a 4.010 @ 321 mph. Hight then mowed Bob Tasca down with a solid 4.010 @ 317 mph to a tire smok­ing 12.467 @ 67 mph. In the semi­fi­nal round he would square off against the Make-A-Wish Dodge of Tommy John­son. Hight laid down a 3.956 @ 322 mph to John­son’s 3.990 @ 323 mph to score the win. Hight then took on the 2016 se­ries cham­pion Ron Capps and the NAPA Dodge. Capps got off the start­ing line first but Hight made up the dif­fer­ence by 300 feet and pow­ered his Auto Club Chevy past Capps to score the vic­tory with a 3.984 @ 319 mph to a 4.077 @ 296 mph.

In Pro Stock, Jeg Cough­lin scored his 61st ca­reer win by de­feat­ing Deric Kramer in the fi­nal round with a 6.532 @ 212 mph to 6.534 @ 210 mph.

LE Ton­glet took home the Pro Stock Mo­tor­cy­cle tro­phy by tak­ing down An­drew Hines. Ton­glet ran a 6.771 @ 198 mph to best Hines’s 6.802 @ 197 mph. This was Ton­glet’s 18th ca­reer vic­tory.

Lo­cal racer Richard Townsend of Oak­dale put on a show for the Sonoma Race­way crowd with some stel­lar num­bers but also with a scary mo­ment Fri­day night un­der the lights. Townsend laid down a near ca­reer best run with a 4.055 @ 307 mph as he passed the fin­ish line into the shut own area but the para­chutes failed to de­ploy to help slow his Nitro­holic Toy­ota down. Townsend im­me­di­ately got on the brakes and was try­ing slow his hot rod down, the car be­gan to bounce on its tires and the car made a quick move to the left hit­ting the open­ing in the re­tain­ing wall and then slid­ing off into the sand pit. Townsend was un­in­jured as he climbed from his car. In true team spirit the team worked hard and well into the night to check ev­ery inch of the car to make sure it was safe and ready to run. Townsend and com­pany made it out for ses­sion three of qual­i­fy­ing and ran a solid 4.116 @ 306 mph. Townsend qual­i­fied in the num­ber 12 spot and squared off against Ron Capps in the open­ing round. Townsend’s day came to a quick end on Sun­day as the car lost trac­tion right at the hit of the throt­tle.

PHOTO BY JEFF BURGHARDT

Earn­ing his sec­ond win of the sea­son in Top Fuel, driver Blake Alexan­der, right, out­du­eled seven-time cham­pion Tony Schu­macher in the fi­nal round at the Mello Yello event at Sonoma Race­way.

PHOTO BY JEFF BURGHARDT

Lo­cal racer Richard Townsend qual­i­fied in the num­ber 12 spot for the week­end’s Mello Yello se­ries in Funny Car ac­tion and squared off against Ron Capps in the open­ing round.

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