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Thunder In Wine Country For Mello Yello Series
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Earning his second win of the season in Top Fuel, driver Blake Alexander, foreground, outdueled seven-time champion Tony Schumacher in the final round at the Mello Yello event at Sonoma Raceway. Photo By Jeff Burghardt

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series cruised into Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals the final weekend in July. The Fire Breathing Nitro Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars lit up the night sky during Friday night qualifying. Clay Millican and his Parts Plus/Great Clips team thundered to the number one qualifying spot with a 3.700 @ 327 mph. Courtney Force and her Advance Auto Parts Chevy motored their way to the top spot in Funny Car with a 3.910 @ 326 mph.

Top Fuel newcomer Blake Alexander captured his second career victory and second on the season. Alexander took down Mike Salinas in the opening round but not without some excitement. Salinas’s dragster got loose around 600 feet down the track and crossed over the center line into Alexander’s lane nearly colliding with him. In round two Alexander would take down three-time Top Fuel champ Antron Brown. Brown put a solid 3.822 @ 317 mph on the scoreboard but it would not be enough to beat Alexander’s 3.791 @ 330 mph. He would then take on Scott Palmer and the Cat Spot Kitty Litter team. Palmer left first but lost traction and could only watch as Alexander thundered by with a 3.878 @ 313 mph. In the final round he would take on seven-time champion Tony Schumacher and the US Army team. Schumacher got out to a big lead at the start with a .081 reaction time to a .157. Schumacher began to lose traction around 400 feet and Alexander slid by and started hazing the tires as well but was able to hang on for the win.

Robert Hight scored in the funny car class. Hight grabbed his 43rd career win. Hight took down Tim Wilkerson in the opening round with a 3.974 @ 322 mph to a 4.010 @ 321 mph. Hight then mowed Bob Tasca down with a solid 4.010 @ 317 mph to a tire smoking 12.467 @ 67 mph. In the semifinal round he would square off against the Make-A-Wish Dodge of Tommy Johnson. Hight laid down a 3.956 @ 322 mph to Johnson’s 3.990 @ 323 mph to score the win. Hight then took on the 2016 series champion Ron Capps and the NAPA Dodge. Capps got off the starting line first but Hight made up the difference by 300 feet and powered his Auto Club Chevy past Capps to score the victory with a 3.984 @ 319 mph to a 4.077 @ 296 mph.

In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin scored his 61st career win by defeating Deric Kramer in the final round with a 6.532 @ 212 mph to 6.534 @ 210 mph.

LE Tonglet took home the Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy by taking down Andrew Hines. Tonglet ran a 6.771 @ 198 mph to best Hines’s 6.802 @ 197 mph. This was Tonglet’s 18th career victory.

Local racer Richard Townsend of Oakdale put on a show for the Sonoma Raceway crowd with some stellar numbers but also with a scary moment Friday night under the lights. Townsend laid down a near career best run with a 4.055 @ 307 mph as he passed the finish line into the shut own area but the parachutes failed to deploy to help slow his Nitroholic Toyota down. Townsend immediately got on the brakes and was trying slow his hot rod down, the car began to bounce on its tires and the car made a quick move to the left hitting the opening in the retaining wall and then sliding off into the sand pit. Townsend was uninjured as he climbed from his car. In true team spirit the team worked hard and well into the night to check every inch of the car to make sure it was safe and ready to run. Townsend and company made it out for session three of qualifying and ran a solid 4.116 @ 306 mph. Townsend qualified in the number 12 spot and squared off against Ron Capps in the opening round. Townsend’s day came to a quick end on Sunday as the car lost traction right at the hit of the throttle.