The 26th Annual NHRA Sonoma Nations, at the Sonoma Raceway, entered final eliminations with track records being set in each of the top two professional categories on Sunday, July 28. In Top Fuel, David Grubnic and the Optima/Advanced team led the way, following his blistering 3.756 at 324.26 mph qualifying effort during the Friday evening qualifying session. All in all, six Top Fuel cars ran in the 3.7 second zone during the optimal Friday night qualifying session.
While the top Fuel category was blistering the track elapse time records, the Funny Car category really had the fans on their feet. Whereas 4.0 second elapse times are becoming fairly regular at many of the quicker tracks in this category, 3-second times are not. The Funny Car category had only produced this feat at about three different track, but that would change at Sonoma. During the Friday night qualifying session, Matt Hagan launched to an amazing 3.986 at 320.51 mph, resetting the elapse time and track records for Sonoma. Hagan’s Don Schumacher Racing team mate and reigning Funny Car Champion. “Fast” Jack Beckman also ran in the 3-second zone with a strong 3.994 at 319.67 mph. 15-time Funny Car Champion, John Force came up just short of achieving his first ever 3-second pass, posting a strong 4.02 at 316.60 mph. More importantly for Force was the fact that he had the quickest car in each of the Saturday sessions (3rd and 4th qualifying rounds). Saturday often presents weather at track conditions that are much closer to those that will be seen during the Sunday elimination rounds, making Force a “true force to be reckoned with” this weekend in the Funny Car class. In a local note, Josh Crawford from Oakdale, California made many improvements in his performance efforts, but his Kevin Poynter led Daniel O. Davis Demolition/ Central Valley Recycling dodge missed the 4.188-second bump spot required to make the show.
In Pro Stock, it will be Mike Edwards leading the way in his “I Am Second” Camaro, as he posted a 6.52 at 212.56 mph during the prime Friday 2nd qualifying session. Edward looks to be very strong at this event, running consistent low 6.5 – second elapse times and had the quickest car in all but the very first qualifying session.
In the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, Mat Smith put his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell on top of the field with a 6.83 at 195.73 mph qualifying effort. Of note for Harley fans, the Vance and Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec qualified 8th and 9th and will square off in the first round of eliminations. After winning all the events during the 2012 season (they finished 1 and 2 at most of the events and finished 1 and 2 in the season championship), the Screamin’ Eagle Harley team has struggled this season following class rule changes made during the off-season to bring parity to the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.
Final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 at 5-8 PM (PST) or live on the internet via ESPN3.COM. Final elimination rounds start at 11 AM Sunday morning.
Oakdale Leader correspondents Mike and Jeff Burghardt contributed to this report.