The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series thundered into the “Wine Country” for the second event of the three-race Western Swing from July 26 through 28. They arrived in California from Bandimere Raceway in Denver, Colorado. This season represents the 50th anniversary of Sonoma (Sears Point) Raceway. The track sits about 14 feet above sea-level and has produced many of NHRA’s greatest performance records. Most notable is the 339.87 mph record set by Robert Hight in 2017.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence and his CAPCO Construction team has dominated the category with nine straight final round appearances. He qualified second with a strong 3.717 a 325.85 mph. Only Clay Millican in the Parts Plus dragster was quicker with a 3.698 at 330.96 mph. Torrence had just won the event in Denver over Millican the week before. A win here could give him a chance at the rare “Western Swing Sweep” if he could then win in Seattle next weekend. Recently, he has been almost unstoppable. But, his dad, Billy Torrence would take care of that in their semi-final round match-up with a 3.779 at 324.75 mph to 3.822 at 311.92 mph thrashing, to claim the Torrence family “bragging rights” for the week. Then Billy Torrence went on to take out Millican (3.804 at 320.20 mph to 3.842 at 321.65mph) for his third career event title. Brittany Force, who was defeated by Millican in round two, set the top speed of the event at 335.15 mph.
In Funny Car, John Force has been trying to collect his 150th career event win since he won the Denver event last season and Robert Hight was shooting for his 50th career event win. For Hight, who grew up in the Sacramento area, Sonoma is his home track. He had been going to races at this track since its opening He first went as a fan, then a race crew member and finally as a driver. Force’s chances for “150” ended in the semi-final round against Matt Hagan, when his car became stuck in reverse, following his burnout. Hagan then advanced to the final on a single with a strong 3.962 at 322.42 mph effort, where he would take on Hight. In the final it was Hight collecting his career 50th event win at the Sonoma Raceway 50th anniversary event with a 3.973 at 325.43 mph to 4.030 at 316.60 mph performance, for his fifth win of the season.
In Pro Stock Greg Anderson and his Summit Chevrolet team came in, fresh off a strong win in Denver, following an extended one year dry spell from the winner’s circle. That was soon to change, as he decisively took out the number one qualifier, Alex Laughlin, in the final round with a 6.602 at 208.71 mph to 7.203 at 175.68 mph. With this win, it leaves Anderson with a chance to sweep all three Western Swing Races if he goes on to win in Seattle. This was his sixth event win at the Sonoma track.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle category also had a special $25,000 Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle contested Saturday during the qualifying rounds. Andrew Hines collected the reward over seven other racers, defeating Harley Davidson teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final. He would then go on to win the entire event by defeating number one qualifier, Matt Smith, in the final round with a 6.790 at 198.00 mph to 6.822 at 197.36 mph effort. Hines has now won seven times in seven final round appearances.
Next up is the Magic Dry Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals in Kent, Washington (just outside Seattle). The track is located inside an area surrounded by evergreens, providing some of the best atmospheric conditions available for some great performances due to the oxygen enriched air.