LE Tonglet won for the second straight season at Sonoma Raceway a year ago, but the Pro Stock Motorcycle standout’s memorable weekend in 2017 had an added bonus as well. Tonglet also won the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, an exciting race-within-a-race that pits eight of the top riders in the class against each other. It’s a double-up Tonglet is aiming to repeat in 2018, especially as the purse has grown to $25,000 to the winner this year.
The Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle takes place as part of this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, adding extra incentive for eight competitors at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series stop. That includes Tonglet, who hopes his Sonoma success continues in 2018.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great sponsor like Mickey Thompson giving us a battle like this,” Tonglet said. “You can’t thank them enough. It gives you a little extra confidence when you have had good success last year, and we’re really confident going back down to sea level with our bike. We seem to run well at Sonoma every year and the bike is running great so far this year.”
Defending world champion Eddie Krawiec secured the top spot heading into the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, and he will take on No. 8 Angie Smith, who is making her first appearance in the event. The rest of the first-round matchups include Tonglet facing off with Hector Arana Jr., 2016 winner Andrew Hines taking on Matt Smith, and Jerry Savoie racing Scotty Pollacheck.
Arana enters the event with plenty of momentum after winning on Sunday in Denver to kick off the NHRA’s famed Western Swing on his Lucas Oil Buell. It gave Arana his first victory in almost three years and after a number of standout performances throughout the course of the weekend, Arana is confident that win will translate well as the bikes move from the high altitudes of racing at Bandimere Speedway to the sea-level conditions at the fan favorite event in Sonoma.
“The bike is running great and we’ve got a great setup when we come back to sea level,” Arana said. “I’m looking forward to running some really fast runs and hopefully some career best runs. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve just got to stay consistent and ride it like we did (in Denver).”
The first round of the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m., with the final round slated for 5:30 p.m. On a day normally reserved for qualifying, Tonglet said it’s crucial to have a raceday mindset to be successful during a race-within-a-race scenario, something that worked perfectly for him a year ago.
“It’s basically just staying calm and trying to make the perfect run three more times on Saturday,” said Tonglet, the Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion in 2010. “You have to be perfect. That’s the only way you can double up. You have to go up there like it’s raceday and hopefully we can put ourselves in position to do it again.”
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.