VOLUME XII,  ISSUE 3 - JULY - SEPTEMBER,  2018

EVENT COVERAGE

NHRA at Sonoma, California

 

For the first time in a decade, Robert Hight participated in a Sonoma Raceway winner’s circle tradition that quenched his competitive thirst and satisfied his spirit.

 

The reigning Funny Car champion, driving the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, recorded a pass of 3.984 seconds at 319.75 mph to win the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at sold out Sonoma Raceway on July 29, the second leg of the annual National Hot Rod Association Western Swing.

 

Jeg Coughlin Jr., who produced the 15th Chevrolet victory this season in Pro Stock competition, joined Hight in the winner’s circle to enjoy hearty sips of wine from the California wine country.

 

Hight’s victory, coupled with the win by John Force a week earlier at Bandimere Speedway, gave John Force Racing momentum to capture the three-race Western Swing to Denver, Northern California and Seattle for the second time. In 2014, the team shared a sweep with Hight winning in Denver and Courtney Force winning in Sonoma, both with final-round victories over John Force, who went on to win in Seattle.

 

John Force is the only Funny Car driver to accomplish the sweep (1994).

 

Last year, Hight won at Denver and Seattle and looked strong entering eliminations at Sonoma Raceway as the No. 1 qualifier who set the NHRA Funny Car speed record with a blazing 339.87 mph run. On race day, he fell in the second round. This year he made it all the way.

 

“Sonoma Raceway, they really know how to do it right,” said the 43-time tour winner.  “The weather we had this weekend made for three great days of racing. Then when you put a night session here where it cools down, well, you saw what we did last year. We ran 339.87 mph on Friday night last year (the NHRA national record). It cools down and this is a fast race track where anything can happen. But, we missed it this year on Friday night. We blew it up at about 200 feet. When you do that, it puts you behind the rest of the weekend.

 

“Then we go out there and we test a little bit on Saturday because (crew chiefs) Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham have not been happy with our set up. So, they tried some things yesterday…and they will both tell you, what they tried, did not work,” Hight said. “They go into race day still testing things, but they have a good feel for what these cars need and they gave me a lot of confidence going into first round. Normally, as the 11th qualifier, you aren’t real confident. They told me this thing was going to be just fine, it will run good, and it did. We ran in the threes all day and I think we had low E.T. in the semis with a 3.95. Matt Hagan ran a 3.95 first round. In the semis we ran a quicker 3.95 in tougher conditions. That to me was the run of the day in Funny Car and that was kind of what set us up to win this thing.”

John Force, who marked his 750th career NHRA Funny Car race, advanced to the semifinals in the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS. In a rematch of the final round at Bandimere Speedway, in which Force earned his NHRA record-extending 149th victory, the 16-time Funny Car champion lost to Ron Capps. It was the 96th time the racers had faced off.

 

Courtney Force, who recorded her 10th low qualifier honor of the season and 27th of her career with a pass of 3.910 seconds, fell in the first round of eliminations. She tied for the fourth-most low qualifiers in a season in Funny Car history. The record is 13, set by John Force in 1996.

It was an uncharacteristically short race day for Funny Car points leader Courtney Force. After qualifying No. 1 off a stout 3.910-second pass at 326.16 mph on Friday night, which remained quickest and fastest of the weekend, Force and her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS ran 4.091 seconds at 300.00 mph with a hole out in the first round. They were outperformed by veteran Del Worsham who had a 3.983-second pass at 325.22 mph. 

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

 

Coughlin, driving the JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS, earned his third victory of the season, the 61st in Pro Stock and 80th overall in seven classes by defeating Deric Kramer (American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro SS).

 

“We’ve been thrashing for a couple years. We had a little spell (teammate) Erica (Enders) and I. She was coming off two Pro Stock championships and we felt a little sting,” said Coughlin, the No. 5 qualifier who posted a final-round pass of 6.532 seconds at 212.16 mph. “Now we have a great group of people, have great chemistry and enjoy racing together. We got a breakthrough win at Chicago and have been rolling since.”

Greg Anderson

 

Coughlin’s previous event wins this season came against Greg Anderson at Chicago and Bristol. In the semifinals at Sonoma Raceway, Coughlin defeated No. 1 qualifier Anderson (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS) in their 95th career matchup. Last week at Denver, Anderson won the matchup and went on to earn his first victory of the season and 91st of his Pro Stock career.

Deric Kramer

 

Kramer eliminated No. 2 qualifier Jason Line (Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS), the runner-up at Denver. Erica Enders (Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS), Tanner Gray (Valvoline/Gray Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS), Alex Laughlin (Havoline Chevrolet Camaro SS), and Drew Skillman (Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro SS) were first-round winners.

 

SPORTSMAN CLASSES

Driving a 1980 Malibur wagon, Ryan Smith, Chandler, AZ, ran under his dial-in and lost in his first round of Stock.

Joe Sorensen, Woodburn, OR, also lost in the first round in his H/Stock ’69 Camaro.

In the Stock class, Jody Lang (Puyallup, WA) drove his Malibu to the runner-up spot with a final-round time of 12.224 seconds at 967.68 mph.

Matt Blodgett (Signal Hill, CA) was the winner in the Super Gas class. His Nova ran 9.908 seconds at 141.50 mph. 

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