Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals Sportsman Champion Highlights
Former world champion Don Keen and Leo Glasbrenner were two of the six NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champions crowned during the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals. They were joined in the winner’s circle by Robert Naber (Super Comp), Matt Blodgett (Super Gas), John Richardson (Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs), and Ken Ratzloff (Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs).
Keen won the Stock world championship in 1990, and 28 years later, he’s still going strong. Keen has also been racing the same ’65 Mustang for decades, and in Sonoma, he claimed his first national event win since the 2014 Winternationals when he stopped Mark Kirby’s SS/JA Duster in the final. Keen’s driving was consistent throughout eliminations, and in the Super Stock final, he put together a nearly unbeatable combination with a .021 light and a perfect 10.315 on his 10.31 dial. Kirby broke out by eight-thousandths with a 10.242. [Video]
Glasbrenner is now a seven-time national event champion after wheeling his D/SA Firebird to a dramatic final-round win over Jody Lang in Stock. Glasbrenner actually trailed by .03-second off the starting line but made up for it with a 10.595 on his 10.59 dial. Lang missed his 12.16 dial with a 12.224 in his N/SA Malibu. Earlier in eliminations, Glasbrenner defeated world champ Justin Lamb, multitime national event winner Doug Lambeck, and recent Epping winner Randi Lyn Shipp. Of Glasbrenner’s seven wins, six have come in Stock and the other in Super Stock. [Video]
Super Comp champ Naber has five wins, and three of them have come at Sonoma Raceway. Naber, a former professional motocross rider, picked up his latest Wally after a narrow 8.911 to 8.920 victory against Matt Woodard. Naber began eliminations with an impressive run that included a .002 light and an 8.904 against Thomas Bayer. He later scored wins against Val Torres, Trey Vetter, and Eric Reyes. Naber defeated Reyes with a perfect .000 light and an 8.932. Woodard was the low qualifier thanks to an 8.901 pass and went on to score a huge semifinal win over seven-time world champ Peter Biondo. [Video]
Blodgett became the third member of the Blodgett family to score a win in Sonoma when he drove his family’s ’72 Vega to a final-round victory in Super Gas against Ron MacKenzie, who fouled by .12-thousandths. Blodgett, whose only other national event win came at the 2008 JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals in Fontana, Calif., cut a perfect .000 light on his quarterfinal bye run and then took out former world champ Rick Beckstrom in the semi’s with another great run that included a .010 light and an index-matching 9.902. Blodgett broke out by eight-thousandths. Super Comp winner Naber also had a solid outing in Super Gas, reaching the quarterfinal round. [Video]
Richardson admittedly had some luck en route to his first win in the Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs class. Richardson was set to race Andy Spiegel in the final round, but his dragster didn’t leave the starting line due to an air bottle that was not activated. Richardson sat on the starting line for nearly four-tenths of a second but won the race after Spiegel fouled by four-thousandths of a second. Driving one of the quickest cars in the field, Richardson worked his way to the final with wins against Dan Provost, Mark Yeager, Chris Thode, and Mark Colton. Against Thode, Richardson paired a .014 light with a 6.007 on his 6.00 dial, the quickest allowable dial in the Top Dragster class. [Video]
Ratzloff wasn’t kidding when he noted that his driving has been sharp, particularly in the late rounds. After a .040 reaction time in his quarterfinal win over Keith White, Ratzloff got serious with a .014 light in the semifinals against No. 3 qualifier Joe Roubicek, and he won the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs final with a .004 light against Ted Kellner, who was seeking his third Sonoma win after back-to-back Top Sportsman titles in 2014-2015. Ratzloff sealed the deal with a 7.230 on his 7.20 dial while Kellner was just four-thousandths behind with a 7.314 on his 7.29 dial. Ratzloff has previously spent time in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series, where he has run in the 7.60 index A/Gas class. He built his ’53 Studebaker by himself in his shop in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The car is equipped with a 632-cid engine but does not use nitrous oxide, a supercharger, or a turbocharger. [Video]