Bo Butner, the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champion and current points leader, made his Super Gas debut in Sonoma and won for the 27th time in his career. Driving a ’63 Corvette he recently purchased from Aaron Kinard, Butner won in his sixth different class when he defeated first-time finalist Linzi Meserve. Butner shared the spotlight in Sonoma with a trio of first-time winners: Mark Kirby (Stock), Steve Galileo (Top Sportsman), and George Prather (Top Dragster). Veterans Kyle Rizzoli (Super Stock), Justin Morgan (Super Comp), and Ryan Herem (Super Street) also left Sonoma with a coveted Wally.
Butner red-lighted in the semifinals in Pro Stock but finished the job in Super Gas by beating Meserve, 9.949 to 9.963. Butner made it to the final after fellow world champ Steve Williams fouled in the semifinals. [video]
Rizzoli made a deep run in both Stock and Super Stock in Sonoma and cashed in Super Stock when he drove Jim Whiteley’s Camaro to a final-round win against Jon Irving. Rizzoli, a past division champion and now seven-time national event winner, won the final with a 9.592 on his 9.57 dial after Irving broke out by four-thousandths. Rizzoli also survived a close battle with Chuck Stubeck in round two and topped Rodger Comstock’s quick Cobra Jet Mustang in the quarterfinals. [video]
There was a first-time winner in Stock after Kirby turned on the win light in the final round against Jeff Jerome, who fouled. Kirby, in his F/SA ’73 Duster, had to feel good about his chances after opening eliminations with a .001 light against round-one opponent Cliff Hanson and then winning a tough round-two battle against five-time world champion Justin Lamb. Kirby also kept Super Stock champ Rizzoli from a possible double in the quarterfinals. A week before scoring his first national event victory, Kirby was a runner-up at the Division 7 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series doubleheader in Sonoma. [video]
Morgan, who won the Super Comp title in Las Vegas in 2011 and 2013, added a third national event to his total by winning in Sonoma. Morgan used a .011 light and an 8.918 to seal the win against Kevin Motter, who broke out by two-thousandths. Morgan’s path to the final round included wins against both Travis and Tanner Theobald and a semifinal victory against Lori Warden. Motter also did not have an easy time getting to the final, including a tough double-breakout battle against multitime national event winner Ken Mostowich in the semifinals. [video]
Over the last decade, Herem has won five national events in Super Comp and Super Gas, and he has now added a Super Street title to his résumé after defeating Mark Simonian in the final. Herem saved his best performance for last with a .006 light and a 10.909 that forced Simonian into a 10.882 breakout. Herem also overcame John Bycroft’s perfect .000 light in round two with a solid package that included a .009 light and a 10.913. Herem competed in the Division 7 doubleheader a week before the Sonoma national event but lost early in both races. [video]
The final in Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs between Prather and Phil Unruh was shaping up to be a great battle after both drivers left the starting line within a few thousandths of each other, but Unruh’s Corvette slowed at half-track, and Prather, a runner-up in Sonoma in 2013, was able to secure his first national event title. Prather’s driving was solid throughout eliminations, especially the first two rounds, where he defeated John Richardson and Paul Gladden. Unruh, looking for his seventh national event title, reached his 12th national event final by beating Bobby Ray McMahan.[video]
Galileo earned his second win in 10 days in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs following a double-breakout win against Rich Okerman in the final. Galileo won the first event in the Division 7 doubleheader and then finished off his memorable two-week stay in Sonoma with a double-breakout win against Okerman. Galileo turned on the win light with a 6.959 on his 6.96 dial while Okerman broke out by four-thousandths. On his way to the final, Galileo, who also beat world champ Mike Ferderer and Don Meziere in eliminations, was extremely consistent with four reaction times between .014 and .019. Okerman raced to his fifth national event final following a tough semifinal win over Monte Green. [video]