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J.R. Todd powered to his first career Funny Car victory Sunday at the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious in their respective categories at the 15th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Todd clinched the victory with a 4.049-second pass at 323.27 mph in his DHL Toyota Camry against Tim Wilkerson, who went up in smoke in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, during the final round.
The victory makes Todd the first African-American to win in the NHRA Funny Car category. He also becomes the second driver in NHRA history to win at Sonoma Raceway in both nitro categories; the first was Don Prudhomme.
“Our car showed us a lot of promise in Denver, which gave us hope coming into here,” Todd said. “We’ve been struggling so bad this season; I’m just happy to win in a Funny Car. I was able to win here last year in Top Fuel, and to be able to come back and do it again in Funny Car is pretty special.”
Todd powered past teammate Alexis DeJoria, 16-time world champion John Force, and Jack Beckman before entering the final. Wilkerson took down Cruz Pedregon, No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight, and Courtney Force en route to his second final-round appearance this season.
Todd sits ninths in the standings, while Ron Capps stays in first despite his first-round exit. Matt Hagan and Beckman round out the top three in the points standings.
Torrence piloted his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster past Antron Brown’s Matco Tools dragster in the final with a pass of 3.784 at 329.42. He now has six victories on the season and 14 in his career.
“It’s basically been just a dream season,” Torrence said. “At the end of the day, it’s just a testament to my guys. We will continue to do what we’re doing, and we will do what we’ve done to get here.”
Points leader Torrence defeated Troy Coughlin Jr., Doug Kalitta, and Brittany Force before the final round. Brown piloted his dragster past Troy Buff, Scott Palmer, and Terry McMillen before facing Torrence and moving ahead of teammate Leah Pritchett for the No. 2 spot in the points standings.
In Pro Stock, rookie Gray drove to victory with a 6.572 run at 210.05 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to defeat points leader Bo Butner in the final. This is his third victory of the season and fourth final-round appearance.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Gray said. “This is the best I’ve seen them run the car. We’ve got to go back and keep working, though. If I can go into the Countdown [to the Championship] in the top three, then you have a legitimate chance of winning the championship. That’s what my focus is now.”
Gray qualified in the fifth position and battled past Alan Prusiensky, defending world champion Jason Line, and No. 1 qualifier Drew Skillman. Butner qualified second and took down two-time world champion Erica Enders, Chris McGaha, and teammate Greg Anderson.
Gray remains third in the standings, while Butner stays in first following his runner-up showing.
Tonglet finished atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a 6.783 pass at 197.02 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to narrowly defeat Matt Smith in the final round. After securing his first Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle title on Saturday, he notched his fifth national event victory of the season and 15th of his career.
Prior to entering the final, Tonglet defeated Fred Camarena, Angie Smith, and Hector Arana Jr. Matt Smith powered past Steve Johnson, Eddie Krawiec, and defending world champion Jerry Savoie before facing Tonglet.
“It’s a big benefit to win the Battle the day before, which builds your confidence going into Sunday,” Tonglet said. “I could hear him [Smith] the whole way and knew it was close. I wanted to look over very badly, but I just stayed tucked in and just stared at the win light, and it lit, which was exciting.”
Tonglet remains the points leader, while Krawiec continues to hold on to the second position.
The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues next weekend with the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, Aug. 4-6.