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2016 NHRA Toyota/Sonoma Nationals Brings Back Memories
OAK Celebration
Winners hoist their trophies after a busy weekend at Sonoma Raceway in the NHRA West Coast swing, including Funny Car, Top Fuel, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock. Photo By Mike Burghardt

It was 10 years ago when a young, local driver from Oakdale claimed the Funny Car title at the Toyota/Sonoma Nationals event. His name was Eric Medlen and he drove a team car for John Force Racing. That same weekend, a friend of his won the event title in Top Fuel. That friend was J.R. Todd. A year later (2007), Medlen lost his life in a testing accident, prior to this event. John Force was able to win the event in 2007, thus defending Medlen’s title and helped to raise the spirits of all the fans and friends of the young racer. The 2016 event had a sense of deja vu, as both Todd and Force won their respective classes, again, and celebrated their wins in memory of their fallen friend and racer.

Todd marched to the final round from his seventh qualifying position in Top Fuel, taking out some strong cars along the way. Clay Milligan in the Great Clips dragster, Antron Brown in the Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster and Doug Kalitta in the Mac Tools dragster were all victims during his charge into a final round match up against Richie Crampton in the Lucas Oil dragster. Crampton had yet to lose in a final round, but Todd put an end to that streak with a 3.745 at 324.83 mph to 3.806 at 313.07 mph thumping. He carried with him a poster of his car, drawn and inscribed by legendary racing artist, Kenny Youngblood, with the words “This Win is for Eric.” Medlen’s mom, Mimi Medlen, gave the poster to Todd before the final round.

In Funny Car, John Force qualified his Peak Chevrolet in the sixth position, to start his march to the final round. First up was Alexis DeJoria in her Tequila Petron Toyota Camry. On that run, DeJoria lost traction and contacted the outside wall with severe force, as Force raced to a 3.936 at 326.24 mph win. Force then had to take out his teammate, Robert Hight and his AAA of Southern California Chevy Camaro, taking the win with a strong 3.927 at 324.36 mph to 3.939 at 317.64 mph. Force was on a mission that even his youngest daughter, Courtney Force-Rahal and her Traxxas Chevy, could not stop. He defeated her with a 3.933 at 326.56 mph to 4.073 at 314.97 mph to head into a final round matchup with the season points leader, Ron Capps and his NAPA/Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger. In the final round, Force left first (0.056 to 0.070) and drove away to a 3.948 at 324.59 mph to 3.960 at 320.13 mph victory. Force’s fan popularity was clearly seen, as the sold out crowd cheered their approval.

In the Pro Stock category, it was the same old song and dance, as the Summit Racing Team once again dominated and won the category title. This team has won 14 of the 15 events run this year, with Greg Anderson claiming his seventh season win at this event. His teammate, Jason Line has also won seven events. Anderson defeated Bo Butner (a Summit teammate) in the final round, 6.580 at 210.54 mph to 6.622 at 210.70 mph. Butner had qualified number one and Anderson had qualified number two.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, it looked to be the Vance and Hines Harley show as Eddie Krawiec qualified number one and Andrew Hines number two. But, LE Tonglet had other plans with his Nitro Fish Suzuki GSXR. He qualified fourth and marched into a final round matchup against Hines, after taking out Krawiec in the semi-final round. In the final, he left first (0.034 to 0.037) and rode away to his first victory in five years, 6.813 at 196.73 mph to 6.864 at 194.52 mph.

Alexis DeJoria suffered a broken pelvis from her collision with the wall.